Like much of the world, I’ve been glued to my TV this week watching the Olympics. I made it through Monday without seeing any spoilers about the men’s gymnastics team finals, but every day since I’ve seen some kind of spoiler. I still watched in the evening, but it marred the experience already knowing the results.
It had another effect as well. Because I already knew the results, I viewed the coverage differently, and I’ve come to a conclusion. Even if I hadn’t known the results, I would have figured it out based on who they focused on–and who they didn’t. For example, with the Chinese dominance at the last Olympics, I expected them to be contenders, but NBC showed only a few routines by Chinese gymnasts, so I knew they were out.
I could give some other complaints about the coverage, but since this blog focuses on writing, I’ll point the conversation in that direction. As a reader, I’ve been known to read the last page of a book before I get there, but it depends on what kind of book it is. Romance? I already expect them to get together in the end. Mystery? It depends on whether it’s a story where you already know the answer and are just going along with the protagonist or one where the point is to solve the mystery. I have to really fight myself on this one sometimes. Either way, I still want to read to figure out how they got to that point.
But the Olympics coverage brings another point to mind. There’s very little suspense because they’re directing you toward the winners. We should keep this in mind as we write. It’s so important to plant the seeds for your climax without giving it away (unless it’s one of those where you know the end and the characters just have to figure it out). You want to give hints and maybe even plant some red herrings so the reader doesn’t automatically know what will happen. Who wants to keep reading if they expect the ending? The best books make you really want to peek but resist because the author’s doing such a great job leading you along you don’t want to spoil it. NBC could learn a lesson here, but I suppose for them it’s about cramming as many things as they can into primetime.
So how do you feel about spoilers? Answer my poll below!