Friday, April 20, 2012

R Is For Red Herring, Ruse, Raven and...

R Is For Red Herring, Ruse and Raven as in Watch Forthe Raven

Red Herring is to mystery like frosting is to cake. It's just not the same if either goes missing. Mystery readers don't consciously think red herring while they're reading. The groan, or the aha! usually, comes later. Like the little boy in the spelling bee commercial for Yoplait Yogurt.

 "Swapportunity" says the judge. 

"That's not a real word," says the disgruntled child. His frustration and angst tugs at our hearts. The audience roots for him—he's right—but nonetheless, wrong. It's the same with a red herring. It fits, but it's not a real clue.

We've created a ruse, and eventually the reader knows it. The title Watch For The Raven provides the red herring. A raven is a big black, scavenger-type bird, cleaning up the bones of road kill and dead animals. It is also a Native American animal spirit guide so we could think the helper is in the title—but is he? Read Watch For The Raven and you will know. 

In mystery as in life, don't be in any hurry to jump to conclusions. You may be leaping into an abyss of muddy, gator-filled swamp. Watch overhead, but also look around you for that raven that might not be flying at all, or that Red Herring that is as it's original smell fish trying to cover the tracks of the real with the stench of the fake.

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