red herrings

Guest Editor Barrie Summy re: Red Herrings in MG Mysteries?


Dear Editor…

Do you think red herrings and foreshadowing are important in middle grade novels? I’m working on a spooky mystery and am wondering if I need to pay more attention to adding red herrings. It seems like a tough element to learn. Thanks for any input you can give me.


Dear Lynn…

Yes and yes. I say go for both red herrings and foreshadowing in middle-grade novels.

A few red herrings tossed into the mix add to the fun and complexity and give your mystery those delightful twists and turns. You definitely don’t want a straight road leading directly from the problem to the solution. Sure, by the end of the mystery, you want your readers to feel that even if they didn’t crack the case, they could’ve. And, of course, some readers will actually solve it. Red herrings ensure that not every reader solves it. 🙂

I’m a huge fan of foreshadowing because it enriches the book and makes it hang together better. Will your average middle-grade reader notice foreshadowing? Perhaps not. But it will still make your story that much better.

Hope this helps. Good luck with your writing, Lynn. Middle-grade mysteries are great! (Not that I’m biased…)

-Guest Editor Barrie Summy

Barrie Summy is the author of the popular young adult mystery series I So Don’t Do: I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky, and I So Don’t Do Makeup. The fourth mystery in the series, I So Don’t Do Famous, pubs May 10, 2011. In it, Sherry goes to Hollywood and figures out who’s breaking into celebrities’ homes. For more about Barrie and Sherry, go to