Today’s Writing Tip: Red Herrings

Today’s Writing Tip: “Red Herrings”

Red herrings are false leads. In storytelling, red herrings are used to make something appear more connected than it really is. Several good examples of this technique can be found in the motion picture The Fugitive about a man, Dr. Richard Kimble, who is convicted of a murder he did not commit, and then escapes custody.

In one scene a police car flashes its lights and siren at Dr. Kimble as he is walking down the street, giving the impression he is about to be recaptured. But, in fact, the cops only want to tell him to move along as he is blocking the sidewalk.

In another scene, Kimble is in his apartment when an entire battalion of police show up with sirens blazing and guns drawn. It turns out they were really after the son of his landlord and had no interest in him at all.

In summary, red herrings can inject interest, suspense, and tension without altering the course of the story itself.

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