By Ellen Whitfield
Could spoilers be a good thing?
Mysteries and thrillers have always been my go-to reads, and when I started working as publicist for authors, I was excited to get to work with so many talented writers who craft books in my favorite genre.
What I didn’t want to reveal to them, however, is that I am the queen of spoilers. I almost always read the end of a book before I get there, usually when I’m about a third of the way through and have a grasp on the characters and main plot points. I am especially guilty of this with mysteries, because I literally cannot wait to find out what happens.
And romances with love triangles? I cannot stand the suspense and I must find out how things shake out in the end.
WHY? Everyone asks me this, and I honestly don’t have a perfect answer. I think it has to do with wanting to be able enjoy reading the book without rushing through to the end and feeling stressed out about what might happen.
Before I started my spoiler habit, I was frequently disappointed when the murder was committed by someone who didn’t fit the profile I had put together in my head for the killer, and I would feel slightly stupid for not picking up on hidden clues that obviously pointed to one character. (I would make a terrible detective.)
But now, I more often than not close the final page of a book with a contented sigh because I have been able to follow the trail that the author laid down, and everything came together in a satisfactory manner.
Does it occasionally take away the enjoyment of the book? Every once in a while, yes. Earlier this year, I read The Woman in the Window, and I feel like that one may have been more enjoyable had I waited to find out both twists presented close to the end. (I’m really sorry, A.J. Finn.)
But more often than not, I find that I feel more relaxed and can focus more on the writing once I know how the story will end. I pick up clues that I may have otherwise overlooked, and I feel better about siding with certain characters, knowing they won’t betray me in a twist ending.
If I don’t peek, I find myself itchy and distracted, and not really enjoying the book, which is kind of the whole point, right? I still enjoy the build up to the eventual reveal and I think I’m still a fair judge of the story overall.
But authors, especially mystery authors, put so much work into crafting an intriguing tale, and I always feel like I’m betraying the way a story was meant to be read when I flip to the last chapter. I took an informal poll of some of the writers I work with, and I was surprised to find that they weren’t horribly offended.
Most of them said it’s the reader’s choice as to how they want to read a book, even the thought of someone immediately finding out what happens makes them feel a little icky. But one of them even said she herself was an offender.
I read a 2011 article that cited research from a UC San Diego’s psychology department study to say that spoilers are misnamed: for some people, they enhance the story rather than spoiling it.
One of my authors presented a perfect analogy: “If someone wants to ‘eat dessert’ before dinner, that’s fine, as long as it doesn’t spoil their appetite for reading the book from the beginning, and as long as they don’t reveal the ending to someone else.”
If you are going to eat dinner anyway, does it really matter if you eat dessert first? Grab a bowl of ice cream, flip to the end of the book, and let me know what you think.
Ellen is a publicist at JKS Communications. With a strong journalism background, Ellen balances her understanding of “the other side of the desk” when it comes to media pitching with a true love of an avid bibliophile. She has been part of the community of journalists in her more than seven years experience in print media with such well-respected outlets as The Dallas Morning News, The Advocate (Baton Rouge and New Orleans) – where she coordinated books coverage for the paper, Waco Tribune Herald and others. Her experience on the editorial side of travel, community and lifestyle sections of newspapers, social media and online media is to the benefit of authors in a variety of genres. She has an eye for design and a passion for detail. A Louisiana State University graduate, Ellen lives in Louisiana with her husband, a newspaper executive, daughter, and (ever-growing) collection of 550 books.