Friday, April 18, 2008

Red Herring

My research question for the week: What is a red herring?

A red herring is a misleading clue, usually used in mystery novels. The author is pointing the finger at an innocent party to keep the reader in the dark about who the real villain is until the end. After all, who wants to read an entire book if everything is explained by the middle of the story?

In the first Harry Potter book, the character of Snape is the red herring, pointing us away from the true villain, Professor Quirrell.

The Nancy Drew mystery series (some of my childhood favorites) are classic red herring stories.

I am working on a red herring for my Work In Progress, a middle grade mystery. A friend recommended an Agatha Christie mystery, “And Then There Were None” as a great example of the red herring device. Agatha Christie must be a good writer to emulate. There are two billion copies of her books in print and her play, “Mousetrap”, is the longest continuously running play in the world. It premiered on the London stage in 1952 and is still going strong.

Just for fun, a quote by the author:

“The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”--Agatha Christie.
(I like this one because no house elves have shown up to clean my kitchen yet.)

Do you have any favorite books or movies that use the red herring device?

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