With that said, I'd like to talk about one of my favorite tropes that I will probably never stop using in my own work... the Red Right Hand.
What Is a Red Right Hand?
The phrase Red Right Hand is generally traced back to Milton's infamous work Paradise Lost, where it refers to the vengeance of god. As the phrase has grown in popularity, it's generally come to refer to physical manifestations of a character's monstrous nature.
Note that the phrase is monstrous, and not villainous... not inherently, anyway. Because while there are plenty of Red Right Hand characters who are villains (Dr. Doom, the Phantom of The Opera, Blofeld, Two-Face, and the list goes on) there are heroic characters with this trait as well. The most obvious is Hellboy (given that the Right Hand of Doom is a literal red right hand), but he has some company on the roster. This trope is most commonly seen in folklore, where creatures who try to hide themselves using shapeshifting and glamours will always have some kind of tell. African myths of vampires who never smile to hide their metal teeth, or Japanese legends of kitsune whose heterochromia, fox tails, or unusual feet would give them away, etc. There's even the South American myths of the pink dolphins who change into men, always wearing white clothes and a white hat to hide their blowholes.
This trope's been around a long time, is what I'm saying.
Why I Love It
What appeals to me so much about the Red Right Hand is that it gives your audience a clue that something isn't right... and the more subtle you make it, the more fun it can be to look for.
|Since you ask, I do have an example...|
In my short story "The Price of Admission" in Noir Carnival, we're introduced to a harried young man who appears to be on death's door. He's desperately searching for the Crone's Carnival, and he needs something that lurks inside. He seems normal enough, until an overeager palm reader takes him by the wrist. He has a double set of palm lines, with one set far deeper than the other, and a lifeline that doesn't end. We also learn in that moment that even those in a place as secluded as the Carnival have heard of the Gemini, and they want no part of the dark road he's walking.
Since short stories only have so many words to make their point, readers quickly find out just what the Gemini is, and why he's come to the Carnival, but that one revelation gets the brain churning. What does it mean that his palm lines are so strange? Why are they so deep? Why do they call him the Gemini, like it's a title instead of a name?
This is the major advantage of the Red Right Hand as a trope. Whether you're using it for heroes or villains, anti-heroes, supporting cast, or anyone in between, it immediately engages the reader and has them wondering why. Why does the Phantom wear a mask? Why does a warlock having a single blue eye make people afraid of him? Why is that handsome man in the business suit always wearing one leather glove on his right hand?
It's a cheap way to immediately hook your audience, sure, but it gets the job done. Provided, of course, that you don't overuse it in any particular story. The Red Right Hand loses its potency if you're sprinkling it around all that often... make it special, and it will maintain its power to intrigue while keeping your reader turning the pages.
Like, Follow, and Come Back Again!
That's all for this week's Craft of Writing! For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife!