Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tipoff by Morgan Mandel

When my dog, Rascal, sees me brushing my teeth at night, that's the tipoff to her that it's time to go to bed. She heads for the hallway to watch me go upstairs, where she's not allowed.

Once in a while, I brush my teeth early, try get a few things done on the computer or watch TV, instead of going to bed right away. That bothers her to no end. She already has the mindset it's time to go to bed. To show her displeasure, she'll whine, tug at my sleeve, sometimes even grab objects in the room like a piece of paper, or anything to grab my attention. Sometimes her efforts work and I decide I really would prefer to go to bed after all. Other times, I'm not ready for it and I stick to my guns. She usually settles down then and rests on her cushion.

When you're writing a book, it's fun to insert little tipoffs or hints to show the character of the person you're writing about. These tipoffs can be real or red herrings to throw the reader off.

In my debut mystery, Two Wrongs, the boyfriend of a murdered girl is on the witness stand testifying against the person accused of the murder. The boyfriend sits on the edge of his seat, steals glances at the door, acts as if he's the one on trial. Is this a tipoff as to his true character or a red herring?  That's for the reader to discover.

What tipoffs have you used, or plan to use in a book? Or maybe you particularly liked one someone else used. Please share with us.

Morgan Mandel


Debra St. John said...

I do love those little hints authors throw in along the way. I'm a pretty good predictor, and can usually guess the ending long before it happens, so when an author can surprise me...I tend to really enjoy his/her books.

In J.K. Rowling's "The Prisoner of Azkaban", she spends nearly the entire book setting a certain character up to be the bad guy. In the end, turns out he isn't. Heck, she did it throughout the entire series with a different character. (I won't name names...don't want to be a spoiler!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Morgan, great topic. I've heard of people having a Release Party. Since I'm having a re-edit of my book, I'll have a Re-release Party.

It will last about a month and I am going to promote through my blog, social networks, book signings at Borders and Barnes and Noble, Blog Radio, hopefully AM radio, word of mouth, family and friends, Starbucks, you name it, I'm doing it.

It will be one big blast, like a hundred shotguns going off at the same time in all directions.

Stephen Tremp

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Did I miss something in the post about release parties????

Morgan, so mean to tease Rascal like that! Our cats know the tipoffs as well, mostly the morning routine. Rocko will pitch a fit if I don't get up right away once she smells that coffee perking!

Cheryl said...

I agree Diane, how can she tease poor Rascal like that? LOL! One of our cats follows us around like a dog, and when it's bedtime he comes running down the stairs and plops right on my hubby's chest.

I'm horrible at remembering tipoffs after I've read a book, but I usually find if the author is setting up someone to be the bad guy, it's usually not him.


Helen Ginger said...

Poor Rascal. You should always do what Rascal wants!

Tipoffs can be difficult to handle. Like you said, you don't want them to be so obvious the reader guesses their meaning. And if the tipoff is a trick, then you don't want the reader to feel cheated, either, so the tipoff has to feel "right" once the reader learns its meaning.

This was a fun topic!

Straight From Hel

Deb Larson said...

My cat waits for me at the top of the stairs like a mama waiting for her daughter to come home from a date. She's half asleep, but meows and finally settles down outside our door once we get to bed.
Tipoffs are tricky creatures. Can't just insert them, they need to slide into position like a part of a puzzle or they stand out and feel awkward. They are always fun though!
DL Larson