Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Opinions needed: first impressions

At first, I was like, that's a weird looking loaf of raisin bread.
I'll come back to the freaky bread in a minute. It ties in to my point for the day.

For me, one of the greatest payoffs for investing time in a novel or series is when there's a discovery in character. Like when you find out Mr. Rogers isn't just a nice old man in a cardigan (Ok, maybe he is . . .bad example). But, think of Snape. Not such a bad guy. Or Noah (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. If you haven't read this yet, drop what you're doing and get to it.)
Of course this isn't something new. Writers have been doing it for ages, creating red herrings to lead the MC (and the reader) astray.

Now back to the bread. If you haven't stared at the picture long enough to figure out why it looks freaky, try again. What do you see now?

It's not a loaf of raisin bread at all. It's a pug (dog).

The point is, first impressions can and sometimes should give false impressions. (Like the bread dog).
As a writer, I do this often. I lead my main character astray by allowing her to believe other characters follow hard and fast rules. When really they don't.

Question of the Day: How often do you use red-herrings. Or characters that are like the bread-dog? When do you reveal their true identity?


Abby Fowers said...

OOOH! I love this. I have some of this going on in my book right now, but I should add more! I love stuff that leads you astray. I usually catch on before the author lets the bomb fall, but the ones who truly catch me off guard are my favorite!

PS - love the dog bread! lol

Stacy Henrie said...

That picture is hilarious! I tend to have one or more characters pretending to be something they aren't or hiding their real selves from each other.

Emily R. King said...

Is it weird that I saw the dog first? I love pug dogs!
Anyhoo, your post is dead on. I think it's about writing in layers and uncovering the truth of our characters bit by bit. No one is ALL bad.

Patti said...

I had to do a double take on that photo. You're totally right. I love red herrings, they make books so much more interesting.

Jenny S. Morris said...

Oh God, the bread-dog is creepy. In the 2nd book to my series, it will be all about the bread-dog. It's a delicate balance between knowing what the character really is, and showing the MC what you want them to see. All the while giving the reader clues.

Oh, and Snape is the best example. Mr. Rogers, not so much. LOL.

Taffy said...

I love misleading the MC & reader than POW! reveal the trueness. I love the "no way!" then you have to reread the whole book with the new info. Would love to read the HP series again with my new view of Snape.

I thought the pic was someone trying to make their bread look like a pug. Weird.

Lillie McFerrin said...

You're absolutely right! This is such an important part when I'm planning out a book. I love catching readers off gaurd. Awesome picture!!

Jessie Humphries said...

That picture will never ever leave my consciousness! I am scarred for life, and will no longer allow raisin bread in my house!
I love a good red herring. I use them for sure. Its a great tool for discovery and character evolution. I love the ah-hah moments.

Annalise Green said...

Yeah, my first thought that it was a pug. But such a strange, square pug...

I'm not sure of Mr. Rogers, by the way.

Will need to check out The Unbecoming of Mara Dryer.

Faith E. Hough said...

I call it "prestidigitation," and I love using it in books. You make the reader look another way, point out the wrong details, and voila, you've added a layer of intrigue. All my mss so far have it, and probably all will...

Charlie N. Holmberg said...

I think only one in my current book, but a lot in the next.

<3 the picture. And I'm glad you agree with me on the pie thing. ;)

Jennie Bennett said...

I guess I'm weird in a way that I just write what my characters are doing and sometimes they turn into red herrings. Then I'm like "why did you do that to me?" Anyway, funny picture, is it real?

i'm erin. said...

JA Bennett, I have no clue! i just came across it on pinterest and I couldn't stop staring.

Melissa said...

Erin, speaking on Pinterest...I would love to pin your photography on my board as photographers that I love. Do you have any absolute favorite capture from your vast portfolio? Shoot me an email at mtspalmer@ if this is a- ok with you.

Iain said...

So that's where my dog went! I've been dragging a load of bread around on a lead for the past week!
On the subject of characters, I have the seeds of a surprise being set up that won't reveal itself until the 3rd book.

DEZMOND said...

wonderful illustration for the post, Erin!

Peggy Eddleman said...

I heart red herrings. And bread dogs. Sadly, I have neither.

Shallee said...

Love the picture comparison. :)

I love leading characters (and readers) astray. I had to do quite a bit of that in my current wip, because it's sort of a mystery. I had a lot of fun leaving clues and having characters say things that can be interpreted more than one way. Hopefully I pulled it off!

David P. King said...

There's a red-herring in all my stories. Maybe even more than one. Including some false endings.

Rad find on that photo. :)

Carterista said...

I just wish I knew!!! Did someone stuff that poor thing in a bread pan???

Dr. Mohamed said...

The real fun starts when the characters reveal THEIR true identity and surprise YOU as their writer.

Erin Writes said...

Well said Mohamed!

Precy Larkins said...

Oh my word. That pic totally freaked me out (plus I was viewing this on my phone so small screen = creepier).

Red herrings are great. Makes for a great "whoa, I didn't see that coming" factor. you're giving me ideas for my Nano WIP. ;)


Chantele Sedgwick said...

So ... that picture scarred me for life. lol I totally saw the dog first. Is that weird? Maybe I'm weird... And I agree with your post. I like having characters pretending to be who they're not. It makes things more interesting! ;)

SummShine said...

That shape shifting pug better watch out, someone is bound to be fooled and cut off a fury little slice.

I think fooling a reader is perfect because I hate when the story turns out the way you figure it will from the start.

Alexis Bass said...

Ah! Love that picture! I love the 'hidden' characters! Love to read them, love to write them!

Karen said...

When it provides just the right twist at just the right moment. Though I like to leave subtle clues here and there.

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