Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Can A Spoiler Destroy A Story?
Daniel Abraham - author of my current favourite adult fantasy series, The Dagger and The Coin series - tweeted last week saying "I am coming to the conclusion that if a spoiler destroys a story, it wasn't a good story. Re-readability may be a litmus test for quality."
Do you agree? The quote came back to me when I read what appears to be a major spoiler for Cory Jackson's If I Lie earlier today in an article. I was left fuming at the lack of a spoiler warning, with every book mentioned up to that point in the article having been described without giving away more than what was in the blurb for the book.
Knowing the answer to a question I've been asking myself since I first read about Jackson's book certainly doesn't mean I'm no longer interested in reading it - but I have to admit my anticipation's been dampened just a little. I agree with Abraham that a good story shouldn't be "destroyed" by a spoiler, but I think reading a lot of books can be vastly different if you know the end.
Taking the example of The Dragon's Path, the first book in The Dagger and The Coin series, Abraham introduces several main characters who initially seem to fit easily into certain fantasy archetypes. One of them, in particular, develops into a very different character from the one I would have expected him to turn into. Rereading it, you can see from the start that there are clues about that character's personality and it's fascinating to pick up on them - but I wouldn't have wanted to miss the experience of being blindsided by the big turning point in the character development.
Similarly, Hayley Long's What's Up With Jody Barton? has an absolutely massive twist, to the point where I've avoided reviewing it because I'm not sure what I can say which won't give something away. Reading again, it's amazing to see just how many clues Long drops into the narrative which should have piled up to tell me something, but which I missed. As much as I can admire Hayley Long for doing this, I wouldn't have wanted to know the twist from the start because I loved being surprised.
Even if there's no big twist, I'd still like to read it without knowing too much about it for the first time - it's one reason I stick to reviews from certain people who I'm confident won't give too much away. I've criticised books in the past because the back cover gives away far too much - I don't think the publishers of Dark Eyes by William Richter, for example, did him any favours by revealing a lot of stuff that happens quite a long way through the novel.
Perhaps because of my own thoughts on the matter, I'm absolutely paranoid about spoiling things myself. In addition to the Jody Barton example above, I've struggled for hours with reviews of a few books - notably Claudia Gray's Evernight, which like Jody Barton has a twist so massive that you can't really ignore it, but even mentioning the existence of it is close to a spoiler itself.
What do you think of spoilers? Can they destroy a story, or should a good book be able to hold up anyway? I'd love to read your comments - just do me a favour, and if you ARE going to spoil anything, mark it clearly!