Archive for June 4th, 2013

Spoiler Alert!

Billy_Idol_-_White_Wedding_1982_single_picture_coverSomething happened this week on Game of Thrones. That something has broken the internet, especially among those fans who watch the show but don’t read the books. Now, I haven’t started reading the books yet, and I’m a year behind on the show as I don’t have HBO. But I know what happened this last weekend. Perhaps not specifically, but in general terms. I’d seen just enough people who read the books saying “holy crap” about what they knew was about to happen to know it was big. And that avoiding spoilers would be almost impossible.

So I spoiled myself. I did the research on what the holy crap moment was, what it entailed. I don’t know every little detail, but I know the broad details. Know what? It makes me that much more excited to get to next season, for those episodes to hit DVD, to get through to the ninth episode, because holy crap. I know why the readers were excited to see it, and why the viewers were blown away by what happened.

This isn’t unique to season three. I knew the Big Event from Season One. And I went into the season excited to know how things would get to that point.

Two years ago a study from the University of California, San Diego suggests that spoilers…aren’t. That they don’t actually spoil the experiences of readers or viewers. Over twelve selected stories, they discovered that readers who went in knowing the big twist endings reported generally higher satisfaction. This means I’m not alone in getting a thrill out of knowing what’s going to happen and enjoying how the story will get me there.

I bring this up not just because of Game of Thrones but getting back to Into Darkness as well. It was a movie replete with spoilers due to JJ Abrams and his infamous practice of hiding as many details of his movies until possible. Going into the movie I knew who Benedict Cumberbatch was playing. Did it ruin anything? To the contrary, there was almost a giddy fun in knowing who he was and what he was capable of several reels before any of the characters worked it out.

If a spoiler succeeds in actually spoiling a piece of media, I’d argue the fault lies in the media, not in the spoiler. As one of the professors behind the UCSD study observed, “Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing.” It’s why we can enjoy a movie we know the ending of. Why we can enjoy a well-crafted story outside of our genre comfort zones.

This isn’t to say that everyone feels this way. Which is why I’m not going into the actual spoilers in question. But as writers I think we need to remember that writing is the essential element, not the cleverness of a twist. People who’ve read Game of Thrones went into Season One and Season Three knowing the big “holy crap” moments at the end of each season. And yet they watch. I know the big twist of Fight Club, yet I’ve rewatched it several times. The discovery is a giddy moment of thrill, unwrapping the present, but the enjoyment has to come from the broader experience. Are you unwrapping a new Nintendo, or are you unwrapping a pair of socks put in a deceptive box? Each is a surprise, knowing which is a spoiler to your present, but it doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy that Nintendo any less.

So…be a Nintendo. Not socks. Never socks.

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