I seem to be rather odd in fandom in general in that I don’t care about spoilers — in fact, I actually quite like them. That puts me in line with what studies suggest, though: the University of California, San Diego did a study a while ago which took stories and gave them to naive participants (i.e. participants who hadn’t read the stories before) in two categories. One lot of the participants got a spoiler paragraph first; the other lot didn’t. And with stories that have ironic twists, mystery stories and literary stories, every single one showed the same result.
People enjoyed the stories more when they knew what was coming.
Without looking at the studies, I have a couple of theories about that. One is simply anxiety. I am an anxiously inclined person and I can end up utterly stymied with a book, not wanting to read further because I know something bad is about to happen… and I don’t know if things turn out right, whether I should be hopeful or not. But when I know the outcome, I can read the story fine. Sometimes when I’m struggling to read something (or even watch something), I ask for spoilers, or flip to the back of the book.
But there’s a lot more people without that kind of anxiety, I would guess, and for them I have a theory too — connected to one reason I like to reread books: you know what’s going to happen, and you can see the skill of the author in shaping the outcome. If it’s a question of Chekhov’s gun, you can spot the gun and feel clever; you’re reading on a different level. You can still be surprised by how things turn out, but probably you already know whether it’s the kind of story you want to read or not.
The weird thing is that people pretty consistently think they don’t like spoilers, and I wonder if that’s a social thing — “you’ll never believe what’s going to happen!” The whole idea that anticipation is going to make it better.
How about you? Spoilers, no spoilers? Thinking about experimenting with this now?
And will someone please have pity and tell me whether The Winner’s Kiss ends well for Arin and Kestrel?