Guides to mystery genres are often published--listing many categories from puzzle-solving and satisfactory endings to horror/violence/sadism that leave you shaking and depressed.
Goodness knows, there is enough in the last description in real life today. Maybe someone can explain to me why readers punish themselves by choosing fiction echoing the worst humans can inflict on each other. Is it so those readers can experience this vicariously, and hence avoid practicing it in real life? Or do these novels (plus, it is said, violent video games) present guidelines and impetus to action for some unstable/miserable minds who then act out their misery--as psychologists and others have suggested? Or is it read only because readers find it "exciting?"
Well, that's a deep question, but, for whatever reason, for reading (and my own writing) I choose stories in a category popularly named Cozy. These books intrigue and entertain me. They present characters I enjoy getting to know. They often give a window on human life that, subtly, increases my understanding of others, though a learning experience is not the first reason I choose them. Most of all I want to be entertained--with perhaps a few shivers, but without danger to my general equanimity.
Dictionaries define "cozy" as "snugly, warm, and comfortable" (Random House) and, in repetition, "snug, warm, comfortable" (Webster). Ooooo! snugly! Love that, especially on this cold winter day in my office!
On Writing World.com, Stephen D. Rogers defines the "Cozy" as being "typified by Agatha Christie, containing bloodless crime, and a victim who won't be missed. The solution can be determined by using emotional (Miss Marple) or logical (Poirot) reasoning." Well, maybe, though today I think cozy goes beyond that, or at least it does in my own writing. For example, my characters can be subjected to dangerous and sometimes vile criminal activity by "bad guys," and the criminal action can be in full view of the reader--so to speak. But strength and (as Rogers says) both logic and caring emotion, will always lead to solutions, justice, and, usually, redemption or a character change in some form.
An inquirer recently asked me if I wrote "Cozy Noir." That stumped me for a while, especially since Rogers defines "Noir" as "...a mood: gritty, bleak, and unforgiving. The usual brutality is about as far from Cozy as you can get." So, looking at it that way, I do not write anything near "Noir," and for that matter would generally stop reading a novel that fit such a description.
I believe that all of us--yes, every one of us--need more cozy in our lives. Not just in books, but in real hugs, understanding, thoughtfulness, support, stability, and, yes, love. And, how about the long-time advice to walk a mile in our brother's shoes? Seems to me these things, more than anything else, in both small and larger ways, could begin to address the issue of violence in our real world.
I was recently shown something Barbara Vining, a writer I admire, wrote: "...human affections need a tender touch--to awaken desires and aspirations that stabilize the emotions (and) satisfy the deepest longings . . ." ("Bread for the affections" in the Dec. 7 issue of Christian Science Sentinel.) To that I say, "Amen!"