Friday, April 22, 2011

Surprise! In which I am oblivious to red herrings in life.

I pride myself in guessing the end of things. Whether it's a novel, a TV show episode, or a movie, I am a Red Herring* Finder Extraordinaire.

Last weekend I discovered that my Red Herring Finder abilities do NOT translate to real life. Which is a good thing, because I LOVE surprises. And surprised I was.

Because I'm a writing nerd, I'll tell you the methods everyone used to successfully trick a Red Herring Finder Extraordinaire into being super oblivious to her own bridal shower. Then take these lovely methods and use them in your writing to keep your readers guessing til the end!

My bridesmaids knew I wanted to be surprised for my bridal shower, if possible. And it's tough, considering:
(1) How many people have to be in on it, plus
(2) There's a limited number of Sunday afternoons pre-wedding, so any "plans" are automatically suspicious! and
(3) I tend to be very observant in life. (Note I said "tend to.")

(1) Misdirection.
I thought I was attending a surprise birthday party for Tony, a longtime friend of my fiance's family. A month or so before the "party," we received an invitation. My fiance's mother ALSO received an invitation, so that when I came over, I saw it posted on her fridge. The bases were covered!

(2) Details, details, details.
- The invitation RSVP was Regrets Only, so no need to call anyone. (Though the "hostess" was in on it, if I did!)
- The party was at a banquet place where the couple was married, so it made sense it would be held there.
- My sister texted me the morning of, telling me she was shopping for tile and wanted to bring something over my house later that afternoon.
- Frankie stayed over Friday night, and when she left Saturday she said, "See you on Thursday!" (Our Vampire Diaries date, of course!)

(3) Pointing out the obvious.
I was worried I'd figure out my bridesmaids' plan to surprise me. (They were working so hard, after all!)
I asked my fiance, "Is it a good plan? Do you think I'll really be surprised?"
He's like, "Oh, yeah. They have a great plan." Then he laughed. "My mom was saying how, it's a shame Tony's party is so early [before the wedding] because that would've been a perfect cover story. But then we'd buy a gift and everything, which would suck." 
Risky gamble, but it worked like a charm! (And yes, I did buy a gift and card!)

(4) Unexpected co-conspirators.
The week prior to the "party," my fiance's parents had an argument in front of me about how, since his father would be away and couldn't attend his friend's party, his mother didn't want to go without him. Yes, an argument about attending the fake party from my future in-laws!

(5) Trust and reasonable doubt.
I trust all these people, so despite that I KNEW some deception was going on, it was easy for me to believe them because everything was so darn normal-sounding! And it's not as though I didn't think it MIGHT be the party --- there was just so much evidence to the contrary that I dismissed the thought!

But there's a second part of successfully tricking your readers --- pulling off the Big Reveal. I mean, if you're deceiving your reader for a longggg time, it had better be worth it!

* Great blog post on Fiction Flurry -- Writing Suspense: Use of Red Herrings

Of course, for me it was! (Hello, a room full of awesome ladies, a pile of presents, and wine?!)

And because a picture is worth 1,000 words...

Walking in with a smile, still thinking it was someone else's party...
With my fiance and mom, after the OH MY GOD! moment of realization.
Still flabbergasted.
PS - Love the old lady hair in the foreground!
And just for fun...

If they're gonna make you wear a hat made of bows, you gotta flaunt it!

With my favorite writing ladies!!!
Your turn! Any of you consider yourselves Red Herring Finder Extraordinaires? Anyone ever surprised someone or been surprised via epic deception? Leave it in the comments!


  1. My family threw a surprise party for my 16th birthday. Their deception was extreme, and it paid off.

    Several weeks prior to the party, the music director at church asked me to play in the orchestra for Easter. I thought that was cool--we never had an orchestra at church before--and agreed. He gave me the flute part, and I started practicing.

    When the first rehearsal came along a few weeks later, my dad was going to drop me off at the church. He gave me a hard time about wearing old jeans and a t-shirt but I insisted it was fine. Just a rehearsal, after all.

    He had to stop at a community center on the way in order to drop off a fussball table for a friend who was having a party there. I helped him carry the table into the center where I was met with a round of "Surprise" from all my friends.

    When I got over the shock, I turned to my dad, concerned about missing that rehearsal. That's when the depth of their deception was revealed.

    There was no rehearsal. In fact, there was no Easter orchestra. It was all a part of their plan--and even the music director at church was in on it.

    I took a moment or two to get over the fact that I had practiced all that music for nothing. After all, As my music teachers would say, no practice time is ever a waste of time.

  2. That's so awesome. My sister surprised me with a surprise 50th (okay I'm admitting how much older than you I am) party when we were at a family reunion. She even gave me my present to hold in the cab--it was a laptop for writing. She said it was a book for my uncle's whose birthday was a few days earlier. I totally believed her.

  3. Janine and Natalie - Awesome stories! We know some clever people!


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