Tuesday, November 30, 2010

About Spoilers

I was dissatisfied with yesterday's post. The thing about tropes is that you really have to talk about examples. I want to talk about the choices I'm making. And that brings me to a different subject:


If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of writing, you have to talk about the whole story. You can't get too cagey or the meaning is lost.

At the same time, you don't want to spoil stories for people. Also most writers don't like to talk about ideas before they are finished. Some are afraid someone will steal an idea, or that an imperfect or rough idea will hurt their reputation. I don't really suffer from that problem. Everyone handles ideas differently, and frankly, people who steal ideas are not creative enough to pull it off.

As for being shy of unfinished work: there are things I don't want to reveal. Sometimes an idea is like the mycellium of a mushroom - if it's interrupted at the wrong time, it will stop growing. I keep those things private. I also don't like to post anything that will spoil a reader's later enjoyment of a story later on. However, I think one of the appeals of a novel dare blog is to see the process in action, and how can you see the process in action if I keep drawing a veil?

Sometimes the creative process works better if you display it. Talk it out, explore it. While I sometimes use examples from books I've already written, the fact is I don't always remember the details that make it interesting. If I have a bunch of options, I may only remember the reason I chose the one I kept, and not anything about the ones I abandoned.

The other thing about spoilers is that it can be hard to analyze other stories without talking about the endings. This is especially true of mysteries, thrillers and twist stories. You can't talk about the artistry involved without talking about the secret.

Some people like spoilers. My sister often has to remind me, when I'm telling her about some movie or book, that I should not be cagey about the ending. She may never get a chance to read it or watch it. Plus she found she likes hearing about whole stories. Sometimes she likes hearing about them more than she likes reading them.

This reminded me of when I was young, before home video, when it was actually a challenge to see many great and classic movies - especially esoteric or foreign ones. Movie buffs like myself often only got to see clips and hear descriptions. Heck, even today, many old movies are completely lost, and we only know them from what people wrote about them.

There actually is a lot of pleasure in reading and writing and talking about a story. Sometimes more pleasure than in reading or seeing the story itself. There is a lot to be learned from talking about bad stories that aren't worth actually reading or seeing, too.

And sometimes a story is enhanced by knowing the ending already. (IMHO, the movies Identity and The Others are much more interesting if you know the secret. Other movies, such as Diabolique, must be seen without spoilers first - but are then are fascinating to watch again and again after you know.)

For a long time now, I've been thinking about starting another blog just for spoilers. It would be set up so that a reader would have to click the "read more" button to get to the spoiler parts, and I could use it for two things. One would be so I could keep spoilers out of discussions here - but make them available at a single click from a post here. The other would be for deep analysis of films where I want to talk about the whole plot.

I'm not ready for the work of the film story analysis, but I think I am ready to start writing occasional spoilers for my own and other works here - and that would be a solution.

The stuff I want to write about tropes, though, aren't spoilers. They reveal things about upcoming stories, but not things I particularly want to keep secret. (In at least one case, I want to talk about ways to prevent the audience from assuming certain things will happen. Ways to telegraph certain truths without dampening the story.)

So I'm not starting the spoiler blog yet. I would like to hear from the audience about how they feel about optional spoilers. Have you ever read a review or posting with a spoiler that made you want to read a story you didn't think you'd like until you heard it? Do you like to read spoilers about stories you never expect to read?

In the meantime, I'll start my series about raising expectations, making promises and suprising your audience tomorrow.

* * * * * Public Service Announcement * * * * *


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm very particular about spoilers, I'll admit. I like to choose when and if I'll read them...but, if given a choice, I'll *frequently* read the spoilers. That's because there are only so many hours in the day for TV or movies--and sometimes the book mentioned won't be a genre I'm interested in reading.

So I love it when someone runs a spoilers alert on a blog post: a

*****spoilers below!***** kind of thing. Then it's up to me--and I will usually read on. The only time in recent memory that I was determined NOT to read spoilers was when the last Harry Potter book came out, and that's been years ago...

Nice post!

The Daring Novelist said...


Yeah, I think people do like spoilers if they have control over them. I will probably set up the separate spoiler blog this weekend, just in case I need to use it.