Commenter Eric left a very interesting question and link on the blog a few weeks ago.
“Do spoilers really spoil anything? We all know people who read the end first, and then go back and read from the start. They like to know what happens. It allows them to enjoy the story more.He also linked to this article from Wired. It’s worth reading when you’re done here.
I find that I enjoy reading good books more the second time I read them. It's possibly the same effect. I know the outcome and can see so many more important aspects of the story because of that knowledge.
It's an interesting topic and wondered what your thoughts were.”
The article mentions a study done that showed folks actually enjoy a story more when they know the ending. Some interesting conclusions are drawn (I won’t “spoil” it for you here).
For me, my enjoyment of a story is lessened if I know the twist. Spoilers do spoil it. In fact, I recently watched a movie where I figured out the twist right away and it took all the fun out of the movie. (another post on this later pertaining to plotting) Part of my entertainment is trying to figure out the secret or how things are going to unfold. I like to be surprised by a story, because I seldom am.
I think a lot of it also depends on the kind of spoiler.
A twist the entire plot hinges on (like The Sixth Sense) is ruined for me if I know it beforehand. I enjoyed seeing the movie a second time knowing the catch, (so I could see all the clues I missed) but that OMG! shock was so much better. If the point of the story is the surprise, knowing the surprise kills the story.
A major shocker like Dumbledore doesn’t ruin things for me as much. I’m disappointed, but there is also that sense of “when will it happen?” that can be a strong hook as well. The one thing I’ve noticed when I watch/read a story like this, is that I tend to be so focused on when that spoiler will occur that I skim a little of the story leading up to it. I get impatient for it to be “over.” So in a way, it does indeed mess with my enjoyment.
A spoiler that robs the tension from a story is a killer for me. If that “will they or won’t they X?” question is driving me through the story, knowing the answer makes me stop caring. If the story drive is more about the how they do X, then it doesn’t matter so much, but if the outcome is in doubt, I don’t want to know it before hand.
A general knowing how something ends doesn’t bother me much since it’s usually a given. Heroes typically win. It’s how they win there that’s interesting. Series TV shows are a good example here. I pretty much know how every episode of NCIS is going to go, but I love watching the characters and how they interact. I don’t care about the ending. I care about the characters.
I’ve never been one to read the ending first, but I know a lot of folks do. It’s not for me, but I do understand it. And it’s probably a good idea for writers to think about that when they plan their stories. How is the book different if a reader knows the ending/twist/surprise going in? Is there enough to hold attention and still surprise if readers know the big surprise?
What about you? Do you like to know the ending or keep it secret? How do you feel about spoilers?