Friday, July 14, 2017

A Different Kettle of Fish

I haven't worked on the story all week. That's my confession for today. It's my weekend, and so I'll write another chunk and catch right back up. It's fine.

I didn't know what today's post was going to be about until I started to try to outline what happens next. One of my upcoming plot points (the next one, actually) is "Discovery of the green herring." Now, that's a play on words, but it's also not.

See, they've just come across an underground river, inhabited by some bioluminescent creature. They think perhaps this vast animal is some kind of amphibian and the source of all their problems. Spoiler alert: it's not. It's not an it. It's a they. From where they are (rather, from where I unceremoniously left them), they are a good distance above the river. So they can't tell that "it" is in fact a whole school of bioluminescent fish, who move as one entity. The green herring. (Side note: worst superhero name ever.)

Obviously, this is a reference to a red herring, that false clue that throws you off the trail. This is kind of like plots twists in that I think it's a thing I don't use enough. Everything is so straight forward with me. I'm just too honest; I never lead people astray. But I should start.

If you don't have false leads, everything just progresses so… expectedly. Find a clue? Well, that must be the answer to everything. That's boring, isn't it? You've got to pad your runtime a little bit, make it seem like a struggle to get to the goal.

If a plot is a curvy road and plot twists are hairpin mountain turns, then red herrings are dead end roads that were totally marked as the highway but just took us on a detour half an hour out of our way. I feel like I need to make a map of this. I don't think my visual artistic skills are up to snuff. There's a reason I'm a writer. Although I did used to make maps all the time. Maps of mysterious islands with hidden secrets, on artificially aged paper. I was a strange child. Now I'm a strange adult.

So the red herring is kind of like the plot twist, in that you don’t want to overdo it, or you'll piss off the reader. If you set up clue after clue that leads nowhere, they're going to get tired of it and throw your stupid book across the room. And I don't blame them. No one likes being lied to. So you have to limit yourself. Deceive them… just a little bit. Make them intrigued. Don't make them hate you. It's a fine line, I know.

I'm going to try what is probably my first attempt at a red herring in a story. In the form of… green herring. I'm done with being predictable. I'm trying to step outside my comfort zone and try to new things. That's why I'm writing romance (or attempting it). It's why I'm trying to use all these tricks-of-the-trade that I've somehow avoided up until now. I'm trying to grow as a writer and maybe become something better.

I'll see you Tuesday, when maybe I'll be better.

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