How to write suspense.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

Red Herrings

One of the tools in a Mystery/Suspense writer's tool box is the red herring. A red herring is some form of false lead that fools the audience into expecting an incorrect outcome. I implemented this tool in my novel, TRAPPED, as I tried to hide my bad guy, and then again in my third, not-yet-published novel for the same purpose.That's all I want to say about those red herrings because I don't want to spoil the endings for you, so instead of using my own examples, I've included this excerpt and link from another blog at "Fiction Flurry," posted by Michele Buchholz.

"Secondary characters are often used as red herrings. Though they might have a legitimate goal in the plot, they can also be set up to mislead the reader to link they have a part in the criminal action. Remember, a Red-Herring must always have some kind of motivation and opportunity. Suspense has to do with anticipation and expectation which helps create anxiety and tension.

"Examples of Red Herring Uses
  • Distracting the main character
  • Appearance of lending support but tendency to send momentum awry
  • Get in the way of resolution intentionally or not
  • Cause of new events though not always helpful towards solution"    More


  1. I found that the more the reader knows about the villain, the trickier it is to create red herrings (for instance, in one of my book, you know the villain is a man within a certain age range, so that automatically lets out all the women characters)!

  2. Hmmm. I guess that's when we have to look to red herrings that aren't people. Like maybe motives? I don't know. This is definitely something for us to think about?