writing

Mulling Over Mysteries

A number of years ago, I noticed that many of the “people who bought this also bought” books on the listings for my Enchanted, Inc. books were cozy paranormal mysteries. That made me curious, so since I love mysteries, I tried reading a bunch of these.

I could definitely see the comparison. Like my books, these had a sassy first-person narrator who had to deal with some kind of crisis, and there was a slow-burn romantic relationship over the course of the series. The only real difference was that in my books the crisis involved magical mayhem while in the mysteries it was usually a dead body, and in the mysteries it seemed that the romance was usually with some law enforcement officer.

This made me think that I should look into writing this sort of thing. It really seems to be right up my alley, a mix of fantasy, mystery, and romance. I even came up with a setting/scenario for who my sleuth would be and why she was there. Oddly enough, the hard part was coming up with the paranormal element. The main difference between the paranormal mysteries and urban fantasy seems to be in the world. In the mysteries, the world is more “normal” and the sleuth is the paranormal part, so there’s some conflict between her and the world. She has some kind of ability that’s what gets her involved in the mystery — she can talk to ghosts who complain to her about their murder, she can touch an object and learn something about its owner, she can enter a space and tell what happened there — but because it’s paranormal and she’s in a world where that’s not commonly accepted, she can’t exactly tell the cops how she knows who was murdered and how, and her evidence isn’t the sort of thing they can use to get an arrest warrant or even a search warrant. Sometimes, knowing what she does can even make her a suspect. In fantasy, on the other hand, usually more of the world is magical. There’s some kind of magical subculture, so if the heroine has powers, she’s not the only one. She still might clash with the normal cops, but there’s a network of magical beings around her.

I’m more used to doing the fantasy kind of thing, so my first stab involved inverting the usual setup and having my heroine be the normal one who’s trying to use evidence while the rest of the town is all going, “Yep, a wizard did it,” but then I realized that would be difficult to sustain for long. It was hard coming up with some sort of ability that only the heroine might have and that would be considered odd in the world and that hasn’t been done to death. I also love the “strange little town” story, so I wanted the heroine to be a semi-normal outsider trying to fit into the strange little town, but then how is she going to solve mysteries?

I think I may finally have an idea that could work, so I guess I’ll be adding that to my list of things to try to write. It just shows you how long it can take to go from “I should write this” to having something even remotely viable. It was 2012 when I did all that mystery reading and first started thinking of this. It hasn’t usually been front-burner, but still, that’s a long time to gestate an idea before even getting to the point of developing it.

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