1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Should I have a 'red herring' character in this case?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ryan Elder, Dec 13, 2015.

    For my story I wanted to hide a twist so the reader will not see it coming. The way some thrillers do it, is by using a red herring character to make the reader think he is the villain when it is actually someone else. However, there is only so much I can do to misdirect the reader. A lot of people are going to think the villain is the prime suspect naturally, so there is only so much you can to do to hide that.

    I could bring in a red herring to make it easier, but I am not sure how to do it without it coming off as forced. The only reason such a character is there, is to be a red herring, so how do you structure it so that he is naturally part of the story, and people will think it's him who is likely the villain, even though there is no reason for anything to point towards him naturally?
     
  2. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    If you want to go the red herring route, then you need to give the RH character some significant part in the story, something that the story could not do without because if you don't, people will see him/her as the red herring and completely dismiss him/her from the start.

    If you can't add another believable character, is there a way you can subtly alter the story line or the reason why the villain does what he does, so that those reasons are not obvious?

    Like, off the top of my head, perhaps the story points towards the villain being villainous because he was raised by a very strict father who believed in corporal punishment but that's only a story he tells because he was actually raised in the jungles of Borneo by cannibals ... (told you it was off the top of my head ...)

    Basically, only add if it adds to the story.

    Take the film Single White Female. You knew from the start who the villain was, the suspense came from not knowing what she was going to actually do, and who (right up to the last minute) was going to survive!
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Yes at this point it seems that the story holds together, plot wise, without an additional character. I guess this is the problem then. I will either have to change part of the plot to suit another character, and perhaps figure out how it could work, or I could just forget an additional character and keep trying to misdirect the reader some other way.
     
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  4. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    If there's an investigation going on in the story, you could have it focus on your RH, at least for a while. I know a lot of TV cop shows do that.
     
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  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    I could do that. It's just it was said before that the red herring must play an important part in the story, so important that the story needs it. Where as I do not have such a part yet and the story can still make sense without one, so I need to figure out a why to stick one in, if that's the case.
     
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  6. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    He (the RH) could simply be a person in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he would still need a place somewhere otherwise the reader will be bothered by the incompetence of the investigating officer. So his story (the RH) would need some part somewhere, in the story. These are just my opinions, they are not set in stone. xx
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well one thing is, is that I could have the villain go to the police and say he saw this man (the RH), committing the villain's crimes, in order for the villain to misdirect police. But this might come off as illogical cause why would the villain go to the police as a fake witness, having to go through all the questions and putting himself on the cop's radar, as oppose to... not going to the police at all, and remain a mystery man?
     
  8. Sack-a-Doo!
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    The role doesn't actually need to be important, just seem so until the truth comes out. I have to admit, though, it's not easy to set all that up.

    But if you watch a few cop shows (Bones, for instance) to see how they do it, it might give you some ideas.

    For instance, let's say the victim (assuming it's a murder):
    • has a wife who just bought life insurance and a business partner who wants to sell out to a third party but the victim refused, or...
    • A mother-in-law who's always hated him and a high school nemesis who's finally caught up seeking revenge.
    As long as both the perp and the RH have what looks like a motive, you can play that into the investigation. If you wanna go all Agatha Christie, you could have a whole school of red herring(s).
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2015
  9. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    He could send someone to do that.
     
  10. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Or, he could do it to try and find out what the police actually know ...
     
  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    He could send someone to do that... But the villain is just an average joe though. He is a serial killer type but, do you think it would come off as far fetched or as a deux ex machina, if he were to be able to hire someone off the street that was willing to do that task, and risk becoming a skapegoat for him, if he was caught?
     

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