Literary Devices – part 3

by juliusmsanz

I feel like this is going to be a short post because these 2 techniques are so common and so often seen, that they barely need an explanation. I’ll write about them however, and I’m glad to write about them, because this will be a short post.

What are these two techniques? The Red Herring and the Cliffhanger.

Let’s start with the Red Herring. A Red Herring is, simply put, a distraction. It exists to throw you off track as you are reading the story and to suspect one thing that is not the solution to the problem. Red Herrings are very common in mystery novels, but can also be used in other genres, so long as you know what you are doing. I feel silly giving out examples, but let’s try: imagine someone committed a crime. The detective finds several key elements that serve as evidence, it leads him to a character that is acting suspiciously. He goes after the character but finds out that this character was only acting suspiciously because he is in love with the dead person’s sister. The piece of evidence he went after lead him nowhere. Meanwhile the true culprit remains at large. I hope this was clear enough. It’s all about leading the character and/or the reader astray to a wrong conclusion.

I like Red Herrings, but they have to be well thought out, otherwise it’s going to be pretty obvious for everybody that the person you are trying to make guilty is actually innocent. If you want to create something good I recommend you to read as many mystery novels as you can, and to write as much as you can. When it comes to writing it all depends on experience and knowledge.

Let’s move on to Cliffhangers. A Cliffhanger is basically a climatic and nerve wrecking ending, leading to a conclusion that will come in the next episode, chapter, book. (don’t do this with books. Seriously, don’t.) This little device is vital as you are writing your story. No matter what you write you need to generate interest and curiosity, that’s how your readers will continue to read your story. If you end everything well and don’t create some tension as you end a chapter, then answer me this: what’s the motivation for the reader to turn the page?

If you create good Cliffhangers then your readers will want to know what happens next. It’s as simple as that. You still need to keep in mind a couple of things: your Cliffhanger will depend on what leads to it, you don’t want to create some tension out of nowhere, that’s not how it happens. And of course you will want to make sure that the stakes are high when they need to be high. What I mean by this is: putting your characters in constant peril is not bad, but the main character doesn’t need to be on the verge of death at all times, sometimes he may be opening a secret door and something will come out, another time he might be stealing something and somebody opens the door, things like that are good too.

Well, this is it for now, see you again tomorrow!

Have a nice day!