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Encyclopedia > Red herring (plot device)

In literature, a red herring is a plot device intended to distract the reader from a more important event in the plot, usually a twist ending. Old book bindings at the Merton College library. ... A plot device is a person or an object introduced to a story to affect or advance the plot. ... A twist ending or surprise ending is an unexpected conclusion or climax to a work of fiction, which may contain an irony, or cause the audience to reevaluate the rest of the story. ...


The term "red herring" originates from the tradition whereby young hunting dogs in Britain were trained to follow a scent with the use of a "red" (salted and smoked) herring (see kipper). This pungent fish would be dragged across a trail until the puppy learned to follow the scent. Later, when the dog was being trained to follow the faint odor of a fox or a badger, the trainer would drag a red herring (which has a much stronger odor) across the animal's trail at right angles. The dog would eventually learn to follow the original scent rather than the stronger scent. Kippered herring. ...


In literature, the most commonplace use of a "red herring" is in mystery fiction. One particular character is described or emphasized in a way that seems to throw suspicion upon that character as the person who committed the crime: later, it develops that someone else is the guilty party. Mystery fiction is a distinct subgenre of detective fiction that entails the occurrence of an unknown event which requires the protagonist to make known (or solve). ...

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Examples in film

In film, the "red herring" device is usually conveyed visually. An excellent example of this occurs in the 1947 suspense film The Spiral Staircase. The audience is aware that someone in the house is a serial murderer. Early in the film there is a thunderstorm: the pantry door abruptly opens to reveal the hulking figure of the caretaker Mr. Oates (actor Rhys Williams) framed in a flash of lightning as he bursts into the room. This is the first time the audience has seen this character; his distinctive entrance makes him seem sinister and aberrant, and therefore he is the obvious suspect in the murder mystery. But Oates is not the murderer, therefore this scene establishes him as a red herring. Film is a term that encompasses individual motion pictures, the field of film as an art form, and the motion picture industry. ... 1947 (MCMXLVII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (the link is to a full 1947 calendar). ... Dorothy McGuire and Kent Smith in The Spiral Staircase The Spiral Staircase is a Hollywood thriller from 1946 directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Dorothy McGuire, Kent Smith, George Brent, Rhonda Fleming, Elsa Lanchester, and Ethel Barrymore. ... Rhys Williams may be: Rhys Williams (1897 - 1969) actor. ...


A modern example of a "red herring" is in the movie Saw. Determining the identity of the psychopathic serial killer is one of the goals of his trapped victims (Dr. Lawrence Gordon and Adam). Suspicion is thrown first on Dr. Gordon, one of the kidnapped players in the psychopath's sick game, and later on Zep, an orderly at Dr. Gordon's hospital. At the end of the movie, Zep, who was earlier revealed as the kidnapper of Dr. Gordon's family, approaches the two kidnapped victims. Adam, who was earlier shot by Dr. Gordon and appears to be dead, gains consciousness and beats Zep to death. While Dr. Gordon attempts to escape before bleeding to death, Adam searches Zep's body for a key to his chain. He instead finds a tape recorder, describing the rules that the orderly must play the game by. Finally, the killer is revealed as the thought-to-be-dead cellmate of the victims. Such plot twists are shown to be foundational to the use of the red herring. Saw is a 2004 horror movie, and the first installment of the Saw film series. ...


Another example is the 1999 film What Lies Beneath, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer's character knows that her house is haunted, and suspects that the ghost is that of a woman next door, who at first seems to have been murdered by her husband. Halfway into the movie, it is revealed that the wife is very much alive and that the husband didn't really kill her. It is later revealed that the ghost is that of a college student who had an affair with Pfeiffer's character's husband (a professor) and that he murdered the student when she threatened to expose their relationship to the university dean. Year 1999 (MCMXCIX) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display full 1999 Gregorian calendar). ... What Lies Beneath is a 2000 motion picture that tells the story of a housewife who finds her home is haunted. ... Michelle Pfeiffer (born April 29, 1958) is an American actress. ...


In the movie Donnie Darko, a silent, overweight man dressed entirely in a bright red tracksuit makes several appearances throughout the film, usually behaving like he's eavesdropping or stalking the main characters, yet he never directly interacts with them. He has no other role in the plot. The author obviously wrote him as a very literal red herring, complete with the appropriate color, shady, distracting qualities and ultimate uselessness to the plot. Donnie Darko is a 2001 psychological thriller written and directed by Richard Kelly. ...


In the film Clue, characters are led to believe that their communist ties led to the blackmail they had paid for years.


Examples in video games

In the MMORPG RuneScape, one of the particular quests the character must solve is a puzzle, which is performed as part of a series of trials. In the room there are several items and among them is an actual red herring. But it has a use: using a combination of items the player must get the red sticky paste (which they will need) off the item and they are left with a herring which has no use except to eat. RuneScape is a Java-based MMORPG operated by Jagex Ltd. ...


Also, in the game The Secret of Monkey Island, an actual red herring is obtained and later used in a puzzle, where a troll guarding a bridge demands an item in order to pass. The hint he gives is that he wants an item that attracts attention, but has no actual use, thereby providing an in-joke about the red herring, as well as effectively negating the red herring's use as a red herring, as it is actually necessary in order to progress. The Secret of Monkey Island (SMI) is a well known adventure game that spawned a series of famous and classic comedy adventure games, known as the Monkey Island series as well as making a name for LucasArts (then Lucasfilm Games) as a producer of adventure games, thus the largest competitor...


The Infocom murder mystery text adventure Deadline had the victim's son (who acted suspiciously but was not the culprit) eating a plate of red herrings. Zork universe Zork games Zork Anthology Zork trilogy Zork I   Zork II   Zork III Beyond Zork   Zork Zero Enchanter trilogy Enchanter   Sorcerer   Spellbreaker Other games Wishbringer   Return to Zork Zork: Nemesis   Zork Grand Inquisitor Zork: The Undiscovered Underground Topics in Zork Encyclopedia Frobozzica Characters   Kings   Creatures Timeline   Magic   Calendar Zorkmid... Sherlock Holmes, pipe-puffing hero of crime fiction, confers with his colleague Dr. Watson; together these characters popularized the genre. ... Zork, an early work of interactive fiction, running on a modern interpreter Interactive fiction, often abbreviated as IF, is a simulated environment in which players use text commands to control characters. ... Deadline is an interactive fiction computer game published by Infocom in 1982. ...


An old game for the Atari called Spellbound featured an item called the Red Herring, which, fittingly, had no purpose. This article is about a corporate game company. ...


The game Wizkid for the Atari ST and Amiga featured a Red Herring as a purchasable item near the end of the game. Naturally, it had no purpose. Wizkid is a computer game for the Amiga and Atari ST computers, developed by Sensible Software and released by Ocean Software in the early 1990s. ... The Atari ST is a home/personal computer that was commercially popular from 1985 to the early 1990s. ... The original Amiga 1000 (1985) with various peripherals The Amiga is a family of personal computers originally developed by Amiga Corporation. ...


In the video game Nightshade, there's a box lying on a random street corner that is addressed to a red herring. It cannot be picked up or open, and otherwise serves no purpose to the actual game. Nightshade is a video game released in 1991 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. ...


In Chapter 6 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the Shadow Sirens beat Mario to the Poshley Sanctum, where the sixth Crystal Star is held. However, Pennington, the sanctum keeper, anticipated that many people would steal it and thus set up a fake one as a red herring. The real Crystal Star is in a hidden room behind the main hall. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the sequel to the Nintendo 64 video game Paper Mario, and is the fourth in the series of Mario role-playing game titles that includes Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. ... Mario ) is a video game character created by Japanese game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and is the official mascot of Nintendo. ... The Crystal Stars are 7 magical gems that, when gathered together, would open the Thousand-Year Door. ...


In the town of Termi, Motavia in Phantasy Star IV, there is a souvenir shop. Two items, a Termi pennant and a wooden sandworm sculpture, are completely useless except as decorations in Chaz and Alys's home in Aiedo. Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium is a traditional-style console role-playing game released in 1994 for the Mega Drive/Genesis. ...


Examples in television

In the animated series A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, every episode Freddy accuses the wrong person, the same person every time, a Red Herring (the character's actual name). Commonly, Red is a bully in the series and threatens Freddy every time he is accused and gives an alibi, thus giving some reason to suspect him despite the fact that the clues don't target him as the fugitive. Only twice is Freddy right about Red, once in a flashback on the Scooby-Doo Detective Agency's first case about a spook in the preschool playground when the cast was only in diapers and again in the only episode Freddy doesn't verbally accuse Red due to a bet/dare that he wouldn't accuse Red when Red's aunt's motorcycle is stolen but Red only stole it to have it repaired as a birthday present. Scooby-doo is also British naval divers slang for civilian sport scuba diver. Scooby-Doo is an important character in animation up to this day Scooby-Doo is a long-running animated series produced for television by Hanna_Barbera Productions from 1969 to 1986, 1988 to 1991, and from 2002 to...



Soap operas often use the "red herring" device, specifically in murder mystery storylines. In most soap opera murders, the victim is usually a villain, who during his run on the show, has antagonized most of the main cast. A prominent example of the "red herring" in soap operas is the murder of Paul Cramer on One Life To Live. Paul was a primary character in the infamous "baby switch" storyline on One Life To Live and All My Children. When he was murdered, the killer was revealed to be Daniel Colson, who was being blackmailed by Paul because he was gay. Prior to the reveal, the two characters had no interaction with each other at all.


Examples in books

The Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events is filled with red herrings, both physically and metaphorical. In The Ersatz Elevator, the Very Fancy Doilies are sold off as a red herring in the auction. At the same auction, there is a giant statue of a red herring that turns out to be the actual hiding place of the Quagmires. Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: The Ersatz Elevator The Ersatz Elevator is the sixth novel in the book series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket. ...


In Nelson DeMille's Plum Island, the presence of a biological research facility on the island seems to be the cause of several murders, but the facility is merely a red herring to distract from the actual cause, a buried treasure believed to be on the island. Nelson Richard DeMille (born August 23, 1943) is an American author. ... Plum Island is the name given to at least two of the islands located off the northeastern Atlantic Ocean coast of the United States: Plum Island, Massachusetts Plum Island, New York Plum Island is also the title of a novel by Long Island author Nelson DeMille, who uses the island...


In The Da Vinci Code there is a character called Aringarosa, which translates to "Red Herring". This article is about the novel. ...


Probably the best known case of the Red Herring occurs in Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, where the characters (and the reader) are subtly led away from the true murderer. Agatha Mary Clarissa, Lady Mallowan, DBE (15 September 1890—12 January 1976), also known as Dame Agatha Christie, was an English crime fiction writer. ... For the video game, see Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None. ...


See also


  Results from FactBites:
 
Red herring (plot device) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (669 words)
In literature, a red herring is a plot device intended to distract the reader from a more important event in the plot, usually a twist ending.
The term "red herring" originates from the tradition whereby young hunting dogs in Britain were trained to follow a scent with the use of a "red" (salted) herring.
Such plot twists are shown to be foundational to the use of the red herring.
Plot device - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (135 words)
A plot device is a person or an object introduced to a story to affect or advance the plot.
In the hands of a skilled writer, the reader or viewer will not notice that the device is a construction of the author—it will seem to follow naturally from the setting or characters in the story.
A poorly-written story, on the other hand, may have such awkward or contrived plot devices that the reader has serious trouble maintaining suspension of disbelief; indeed, the devices may even leave plot holes.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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