S7E2 – Chekhov’s Red Herring and the Shaggy Dog

Across all forms of story, you can find similarities and themes. Plots have recognizable structures, main characters almost always fight for good in some way, and there is usually a change in status quo. Sometimes, though, those themes transform into tropes, whether good or bad. Tropes are devices or elements used in story-telling that become recognizable through their consistent use. Like any other literary device, tropes are tools. They are not inherently bad, nor inherently good. We are taking this month to talk about some of the more common tropes, what they are, how they can be used correctly, and why you should be aware they exist.

A Red Herring can be a wonderful tool, especially in mystery and suspense, to help you engage the reader. It opens opportunities for plot twists and unexpected endings. But it can also lead to the Shaggy Dog trope. That’s where a story leads the reader down a pointless road that ends in a lack of satisfaction. This episode is all about finding the balance to having the perfect Red Herring.

First aired February 6, 2020.

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