Copyright 2010 by Gary L. Pullman
I learned this trick from my sister, although, I suppose, other mothers and grandmothers may also know and use it. Certainly, mystery writers employ it. Authors of horror fiction may find the method useful, too.
I call it redirection.
Elsewhere, I’ve written about both misdirection (the use of red herrings and irony, dramatic, situational, or verbal, to frustrate readers’ expectations and keep them guessing) and indirection (the use of nonverbal, often figurative, means of communication to establish mood and intensify suspense). Redirection is different.
Here’s how a mother or a grandmother might use redirection. Little Johnny or Susie is angry or sad. To refocus his or her attention off of him- or herself or his or her predicament, mom or grandma refocuses the child’s attention, redirecting him or her to something else. “Why don’t we bake some cookies?” she might ask or suggest, “Let’s see what SpongeBob is up to!”
In mysteries, writers, especially when they are dropping clues or red herrings, often redirect their readers’ attention by focusing it upon a glamorous female character, having another character engage the protagonist in an offbeat or otherwise interesting conversation, creating a disturbance, or otherwise engaging the readers’ attention.
Horror story writers can benefit from employing redirection, too. For example, suppose one is offering a scientific explanation for a monster whose very nature or existence is of a paranormal or a supernatural character. Obviously, as such, its nature is beyond scientific explanation. The writer is caught between the rock of plausibility and unbelievably, so, soon after the scientific explanation begins (or ends), the writer could redirect the readers’ attention, perhaps by the arrival of the monster itself, a hysterical character who rushes in to announce that the monster has attacked and killed again, or an emergency communiqué from a government official.
Redirection works for mom. It works for grandma. It works for mystery writers. It will also work for authors of horror stories, including you.