NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Monday, August 22, 2011

Before I start ... Who Did It?

Well, it’s official!  A lot of us want to know Who Did It ... in advance!

Well, maybe not exactly that, but a recent survey seems to support the fact that many readers *like* spoilers. They like to know not only what the story’s about and the names/details of the characters, but also what happens.

“People enjoy it when short-stories are spoiled. The finding, published by U.C. San Diego researchers, concluded that  readers preferred a spoiler paragraph before diving into short fiction, as opposed to just enjoying it as is. We can't identify with this, but understand the finding. The academics theorized the preference as due these possibilities: 1) Readers understand the story more when its spoiled. 2) A spoiled story means readers can enjoy the quality of the writing.”

Are you nodding or shaking your head? As a group of mystery/thriller/suspense authors, what do we think about that? :)

This is just a light-hearted look today, but authors are often disappointed when readers and reviewers give away significant plot twists when they talk about a book online. In the old days (Clare rocks herself in a granny chair), of course this was more difficult, when books were only in print. Then you could only pass on spoilers to the people you physically met. But now online and in the world of ebooks, we can tell anyone ANYTHING! Great for exposure and creating a buzz for our new book… maybe not so good when we have a devastating twist on the last but one page and want to keep that as a special surprise for the reader.

Even the writers of the article aren’t sure if they agree with the findings *g*. The link to the article is below, but here are the main points (hmm, does that count in itself as passing on spoilers???):

“Even though we are no fans of spoilers, Wired's Jonah Lehrer makes a good case for why humans derive pleasure in understanding. "The human mind is a prediction machine, which means that it registers most surprises as a cognitive failure, a mental mistake," he writes. "Our first reaction is almost never 'How cool! I never saw that coming!' Instead, we feel embarrassed by our gullibility, the dismay of a prediction error." …

... As far as the second reason (a good surprise lets you focus on the quality of telling), the A.V. Club's Sean O'Neal suggested another theory, boiled down to readers just liked how the spoiled stories "cut to the chase." Which is to say, readers liked the cliff-notes version.”

Well ... maybe, maybe not, I say :).

I think most readers understand the need to be cautious of spoilers, especially if they love being surprised themselves. Else why do people read mystery at all? I’ve personally been impressed that readers have kept the murderer’s identity secret in Blinded by Our Eyes. There aren’t many candidates : and the book is more of a Whydunnit than a Whodunnit. But I appreciate them keeping the spirit of the genre. Also in my book Freeman, it’s not until the final chapters that Freeman’s secrets are exposed to Kit, the young man he’s developed a tentative relationship with. It’s critical for the suspense in the book that these secrets peel out gradually – that’s part of Freeman’s narrative style at the very least! Again, I’ve been grateful that readers and reviewers praise it without needing to give away WHAT HAPPENS *g*.

Personally, I can handle spoilers unless it’s the major point of the whole darned book, like a murder mystery. I also find it difficult to adhere to with series books i.e. a blurb for a 2nd book can indirectly expose the ending of the 1st. And I remember talking to a reader about Branded, a fantasy book I wrote in my warrior hero’s 1st person POV. She said at first she was worried he would come to grief – then realised if it was being told in 1st person past tense, he was obviously still around to tell the tale LOL. Not *always* the case, I know, but an interesting perspective.

So what do you think? Keep secret or spill the beans? And how much do you mind, as both reader and author?

The full article at The Atlantic Wire is HERE.

23 comments:

Wendy Soliman said...

I absolutely HATE knowing what's going to happen. The whole point is trying to figure it out before you get to the end. Mind you, if I manage to work it out too easily then I lose interest in the book!

Tam said...

I'm the opposite of Wendy. I love spoilers and often read the ending first. LOL *runs for cover* However I will not tell anyone else the spoiler unless they specifically request it. Nothing is more annoying than people who delight in spoiling someone else's fun. It also annoys me when I ask for a spoiler and someone goes "Oh, I'm not telling, you have to read it." Nope, I'm not going to read it, so just tell me already and lets finish this conversation. :-)

Clare London said...

Wendy: Hell, yeah, if it's a mystery book! I actually *like* getting to the end and being surprised, so I'm the opposite of what the survey says LOL. And like you, I get bored if I've guessed within a few chapters. Reminds me of my earlier NYUS post on the "Joss Ackland theory" when you KNOW it has to be the brother / grandmother / nicest person / biggest star :).

Clare London said...

Tam: you go for it, if that's what you like! I remember the one - and only - instance of buying the latest book in a very popular m/m series, and emailing a friend because I HAD to know before I started reading that it wasn't going to end in tears LOL.

I genuinely don't mind in most non-mystery cases. I read books where I know or hope I like the author's style, so the reading is still a pleasure.

I think what annoys me are the people who "let slip" the spoilers, just from carelessness. As we all know, you never know online who's listening, and the whole experience can be spoiled. Though it's difficult nowadays to avoid *any* hints.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Ack, and after all the plotting and work that goes into creating twists and turns! I didn't realize there was a pro-spoiler contingent, but find it very interesting.

I like to be surprised in books and movies, but can't wait when it comes to the personal stuff, like finding out gender during my pregnancies or figuring out my Christmas presents. LOL

Wynter Daniels said...

For me it depends on the type of book. If it's a mystery, I don't want to know until the end. In suspense, the culprit is often known and it's the catching that keeps up hooked. Then it's okay. But I hate spoilers when the author didn't intend that.

Marcelle Dubé said...

To each her own, I guess, but I *hate* spoilers. The most I will ever do (and that's only sometimes) is ask the person who recommended the book/movie if it has a happy or sad ending. And depending on how I'm feeling, I may not read/view it if it has a sad ending.

Rita said...

I don’t like spoilers. I think the reader/reviewers who reveal too much of the story don’t have a clue what it took to put that mystery into the story. That said I’ve seen reviews on Amazon that I feel were deliberate. But I don’t want the story ruined for me. I guess this is one reason I don’t read reviews.

Anonymous said...

I hate spoilers. I hate them so much that I won't read the backs of books, or watch trailers for films or TV programmes. I am very careful which book reviews I read. I want the story to unfold in the way the writer envisaged - I want the twists to be revealed by the author. And this is so whether I'm reading a mystery or a romance. Once I get to the end, I often go back and re-read sections to appreciate the nuances and layers which were disguised and to see how the author achieved it.

HJ

MaureenAMiller said...

My mother does that...reads the last page first. I used to yell at her and tell her NOT to do it in front of me.

I like to be teased, but not too much. The surprise is all the more satisfying.

Good post, Clare!

Chris said...

Val described me as "the spoiler-phobic reader" - and it's apt. :)

Jordan Castillo Price said...

Someone blurted out the hook of the Sixth Sense to me before I saw the film. Talk about ruining the whole experience! I despise spoilers, and I particularly hate when book blurbs or film trailers expose all the dramatic parts of the story before I get to see them the way the writer unfolded them in the context of the story. I sometimes can't even read a whole blurb for fear of the story being spoiled. If I like it enough (as in a film) I watch it again with the commentary on--or I read discussion of a book's themes after I've formed my own opinion. That fulfills the "understanding" need the study cites.

Toni Anderson said...

Clare--it depends why I'm reading. If I'm looking at book to check out the plot structure I do like to know the villain in advance. I sometimes sneak a peak at the end of books to make sure the H/h/ H/H h/h etc get together. I have been bitterly disappointed in some stories where that didn't happen :)

Stevie Carroll said...

I much prefer not to know how a story will end. I also prefer to read series in order, in case there's an important surprise character development in one that will also be significant in later books.

Clare London said...

Anne Marie: I think you've put your finger on it, it's the shock of our careful plotting being disposed of in seconds LOL.

I love the vision of you shaking your Xmas presents trying to guess what's in them! My family does that :).

Wynter: *nod* exactly! The fun of these books is the suspense and the hook. Maybe it's not so bad if it's another genre :).

Marcelle: Well, as I admitted, sometimes I just daren't start reading if I suspect there's a non-HEA! There are just those days when you can't cope with TOO much of a surprise...:).

Clare London said...

Rita: I confess that I think *some* reviews are just statements of what happened - and that includes any surprise endings! Unfortunately, that's not really a rewarding review, and can spoil it for other readers.

HJ: that's a lovely description, to experience the book as a reader in the same way the author unfolds it. And you're right, we can appreciate the style and construction *after* the denouement just as well if not better! :)

Maureen: that's a great vision, your mother tormenting you with the secreta of the last page :P *lol*. I've been known to put my hand over the last page to hide it as I'm reading, so my eyes don't skip ahead LOL.

Clare London said...

Chris: *lol* your reputation precedes you!

JCP: How many times have I sat through a film trailer then turned to my companion and said "well, why bother seeing the film, now?" LOL. I like that idea of watching again with the commentary - I don't use that feature enough.

And yet another vote for sharing the author's craft and love for the story as it happens, rather than as a potted summary!!

Toni: *lol* like me, there are days I can't bear the thought that I'll invest all my love in a book then they'll either twist the ending on me and kill my favourite character (damn you, Jeffrey Deaver!) or leave it hanging to try and tease me into a sequel!!

Stevie: Agreed, if it's a character-based series, there's more than just the story in each book. It's marvellous to connect with the character and watch them develop personally as well :). (thinking of JCP's series here... LOL).

Shirley Wells said...

I loathe spoilers. I like to figure it all out for myself and hate being given even the slightest clue.

My sister, on the other hand, always reads the last couple of pages first. Yes, really. She believes she can judge from that whether she'll enjoy the story. Who knew madness ran in my family, eh?

Clare London said...

*rubs chin* Intriguing! Here we all are, busting a gut to create a zappy first chapter to hook the reader, when what we *should* be concentrating on is the page at the back! :)

JB Lynn said...

Uggh. I hate spoilers. For me most of the fun comes from finding out what happens. How does someone fully enjoy something when there's no mystery?

Kathy Ivan said...

I'm in the I Hate Spoilers camp. Especially if its a mystery/suspense. Why would you want to know ahead? I just don't get that.

Now in the case of some book (like Desperate Choices--my book), you know toward the beginning of the story who the villain is and that's fine because its the pacing of the book and the "when will they tumble to the knowledge that it's him/her and catch the bad guy. But--don't tell me ahead of time how they did it or it ruins the story for me.

Lee Rowan said...

I almost never care when it comes to TV shows--considering how often my favorite characters get killed off, I'd rather be forewarned. (Not that I've watched much tv the last 5+ years, I don't like sitcoms and despise 'reality' shows.)

For mysteries, I don't want to know. And I was really irritated when, after I'd spent most of Home is the Sailor setting up a major issue that was resolved in the last few pages, one helpful reviewer chirped about how she really liked that I solved the problem by _____ Yeah. Total spoiler. I tend not to complain about reviews I don't like, but I wish someone would ask them to at least warn about the spoiler.

For most romances... The blurb generally tells it all. "Will Dick and Jane be able to make Spot stop running away?" Well, of course they will.

One situation in which I do like spoilers: if a major character is going to die, I would rather know in advance. Call me a wimp, but there are plenty of painful shocks in the news, and I don't enjoy them in my R&R reading.

Clare London said...

JB:I know, though maybe that's just in our genre. After all, it's the mystery that readers are looking forward to!

Kathy: *nod* Sometimes it's the "How"-dunnit rather than the Who, and that's just as suspenseful.

Lee: I agree wholeheartedly about knowing about character death. Unless I'm reading a shock!horror kind of thriller (which is rare, I admit *g*), I hate it when someone I've grown attached to dies. I know that's a measure of the author's skill to make me care :), but I have to be in a very resilient mood to step away and see the skill rather than feel the pain.

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