I had heard about the Red Herring many times. And for once a Literary Device/Technique did not confuse me. After I read about it, I easily understood the Red Herring and its meaning and significance.
As we all know, a Red Herring is an idiomatic term/expression that refers to the technique in fiction, of diverting attention away from an item of significance. It’s also called a smoke screen or a wild goose chase.
My personal belief is that the technique of a Red Herring is more effective in mystery fiction, where to take away attention from the real criminal, an innocent person may be deliberately cast in a guilty light by the author, through the cunning use of false emphasis, deceptive clues that completely mislead a reader, and also through the usage of loaded words, or over emphasis of certain objects or people. Its like laying a false trail of bread crumbs.
This is done to misguide the reader, so that the real culprit enjoys freedom from suspicion. And ultimately when the real culprit is caught, the reader is taken completely unaware and is shocked beyond expectation. It’s said that some writers even create a false protagonist to misguide readers.
For me Snape in the Potter series was a great example of a Red Herring. I always thought Snape was on Voldemort’s side, but the last book revealed that Snape was Dumbledore’s man and was secretly on Harry’s side.
As for me, though I have adopted the Red Herring as a tool in my story, I am not sure how successful I have been or how effective it is. Have any of you used the Red Herring in your stories? Does any example of a Red Herring come to mind?