Celia Kinsey's Cozy Mystery Short Story Outlining Template

A One Hour Cozy Mystery Short Story Template

8,000-12,000 words divided into 6 chapters

Chapter One

Introduce the sleuth. Include a small amount of her backstory scattered throughout the remainder of the story. Showcase upfront the sleuth’s personality, quirks, and cleverness.

Describe your sleuth 

Give your sleuth a brief backstory


Introduce the setting of the story and emphasize what makes the setting unique. Drop in details about the setting in bits and pieces throughout the rest of the story. Use more descriptions at the beginning of the series and back off on descriptions in later installments.

Describe your setting

Decide on one or two key locations within the larger setting (usually a small town) where most of the action takes place, such as a bakery, bookstore, farm, bed and breakfast, etc.

Describe your key location(s)

Introduce the crime and the victim within the first page or two. Insert at least three clues at the crime scene or in other characters’ reactions to the crime.

Describe the crime

Describe the victim

Describe the clues left at the scene

Have the sleuth identify the suspects with the help of her sidekick who gets his or her own introduction.

Describe the sleuth’s sidekick

Give each of your suspects a brief bio plus the means, motive, and opportunity to have committed the crime. Give them each a secret that will motivate them to lie during their interviews with the sleuth. Give each of the suspects an alibi (which may or may not also be a lie).

Suspect One





Suspect Two





Suspect Three





Have the sleuth begin interviewing suspects.

Suspect One interview (when and where and what the suspect reveals)

Conclude chapter one with the sleuth making a discovery which indicates that the crime is more complicated than it initially appeared.

What is this discovery?


Chapter Two

The sleuth interviews the remaining suspects and gleans additional information.

Suspect Two interview (when and where and what the suspect reveals)

Suspect Three interviews (when and where and what the suspect reveals) 

At the end of chapter two, one of the suspects disappears, and there is a development that lends additional urgency to solving the crime.

Who disappears?

What is the new development that ups the urgency of solving the crime?

Chapter Three

The sleuth second-guesses herself and wonders if someone needs to added to her list of suspects. She interviews witnesses, associates of suspects, and/or the victim and may tail or reinterview some suspects. She revisits the crime scene and finds a clue she missed the first time around. She then follows the bread crumb trail for each of the clues she gathered so far.

Additional Interview One (when and where and what the interview reveals) 

Additional Interview Two (when and where and what the interview reveals) 

Additional Interview Three (when and where and what the interview reveals) 

Any additional investigation (tailing suspects, revisiting crime scene, etc.) 

Something happens at the end of chapter three to emphasize the personal stakes if the sleuth fails to track down the culprit.

What are the personal stakes for the sleuth? What is the event that emphasizes those stakes?


Chapter Four

The sleuth discovers the secrets and hidden relationships of two or more of her suspects. She finds deeper meaning in some of the clues she has already collected.

Secret One

Secret Two

Hidden Meanings

The sleuth reviews everything she knows so far and discusses possible solutions to the crime with her side-kick. None of the scenarios she suggests seem plausible to her, however. Something is missing.


Chapter Five

The sleuth reviews what she knows of the chain of events leading up to the crime. She notices a crucial piece of evidence she has overlooked and viewed in light of everything else she knows, takes on new meaning.

What does she know about the chain of events leading up to the crime?

What is the piece of evidence she has overlooked?

She looks for proof to back up her hypothesis. You may choose not to fully reveal the sleuth’s hypothesis to the reader just yet.

What is the sleuth’s hypothesis?

Where and how does the sleuth look for proof that her theory about who-dun-it is correct?

Chapter Six

There is a confrontation between the sleuth and the perpetrator, often resulting in temporary peril to the sleuth.

Describe the final confrontation between the sleuth and the perp

The criminal is arrested or otherwise brought to justice.

Briefly describe the arrest and how justice will be served


The sleuth lays out for the supporting cast how she solved the crime.

Justice is served. Peace is restored.

What is the concluding scene?

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