Series and spoilers

Here’s a post from Kill Zone Blog: Spoiler Alert!

Today I’m seeking advice from authors who write series fiction as well as people who enjoy reading series books.

Here’s the situation: I have an idea for the ninth book in the Tawny Lindholm Thriller series, but this new plot would reveal several surprise twists from prior books. These are major league spoilers.Here’s my dilemma today: the potential plot for book #9 would require revealing crimes and the killer’s identity from book #3, Eyes in the Sky.

At this point, I haven’t written one word of #9. The new plot vaguely swirls in my imagination but it’s far from pinned down.

That’s a somewhat different concern for a mystery or thriller series. Still, this is kind of a good question, isn’t it?

Personally, I’ve never tried to avoid the single most essential spoiler for TUYO in any of the other novels in that series. I just don’t see any way to avoid that one, so I don’t try to avoid it. BUT, I do hope readers mostly come to TUYO without reading any reviews that contain dire spoilers, because I do think the story works best if you haven’t been spoiled about, you know, that big revelation or that other thing that happens and so on.

After TUYO, each book does build on ones that have come before, and I don’t really try to avoid what we might call spoilers-of-fact. When such-and-such happens in TASMAKAT, this depends on stuff that happened in TARASHANA and SUELEN, and I don’t try to avoid references to those past events. My own feeling here is, the details of how something happens are much more important than the fact that it happened. I don’t think it’s a problem at all. Also, I just don’t think any other spoilers matter as much.

In fact, I’ll go farther: it’s not in the least desirable to avoid references to stuff that has happened previously if that stuff was important to the characters. You are going to lose the emotional heft of previous events if you try too assiduously to avoid spoilers. Readers, it seems to me — I’m probably generalizing from my own personal lack of concern about spoilers — but readers are surely going to want to know how it happened, not just that it happened. References to previous events are often, though not always, fine. It is, however, probably desirable not to spell out in detail exactly how events played out and why those events were meaningful.

I can see that this problem might be much more serious for a mystery series. Would it bother ME to have the killer’s identity from Book Three revealed in Book Nine, if I happened to read Book Nine first? I’m actually not sure! I don’t read mysteries for the puzzle. I read mysteries for character and setting. On the other hand, if killer’s identity is too obvious, that does bother me a little. I would PREFER not to have the identity of the killer revealed to me before I read the mystery. It’s a tough question!

The Tuyo World Companion has of course raised questions for me about spoilers. How many, how big, just in general how to handle spoilers in a companion book like this.

Basically, I made no attempt at all to avoid spoilers for TUYO; I’ve allowed a good many mild spoilers for other books; I warn readers, hopefully in a way it’s impossible to miss, that there are big spoilers in the letter from Selili to a friend; and I’ve done my best to avoid really big spoilers for TARASHANA and basically any significant spoilers for TASMAKAT. This means editing out certain references as I’ve gone along, as I’ve tended to cut back on spoilers during revision passes.

I also amused myself just a few times by adding [redacted] into the text of the Companion. For example:

Saraicana, a good-sized city on the Makanet River, a hundred miles or so downriver from Berenret. In KERAUNANI, it’s implied that something may be wrong in Saraicana, that a good deal of criminal activity is going on in that city. Even though that was some years ago, the problems there may have been difficult to solve because [redacted]. We haven’t yet visited Saraicana, but we’re going to, briefly, in an upcoming novel called RIHASI.

This is meant to serve as a mild teaser for an upcoming book … which I would really like to write, aargh, the lack of time is killing me … and as I say, I think it’s funny to drop lines like that in here and there. There are only a few! Anyone who has already read all the books will hopefully get a kick out of some of these, just as I do.

But, though I don’t in general want to see BIG PLOT DESTROYING SPOILERS before I read a book, I don’t usually mind seeing smaller spoilers.

AND, if I’m trying to decide whether to finish a book, or for that matter whether to start a book, sometimes BIG PLOT DESTROYING SPOILERS are exactly what I do want. It can be very reassuring to know the dog doesn’t die, the important characters don’t die, everything works out, whatever. Big stuff that I don’t want to have to worry about. I was talking to Sharon Shinn recently and she referred to a particular book and I said Sounds interesting, does everything come out okay, spoilers please. The answer is: kind of, but on the other hand kind of not. If I read the book, I’ll provide comments including about whether everything more or less comes out okay.

In some cases, big spoilers can be essential: a specific example. After SarahZ told me what was going on, I wound up finishing this book after all. I skipped two chapters, which turned out to be just right to skip over the part that was infuriating me to part where the story comes back together in a more satisfying way. This is still never going to wind up on my top ten list of SF novels, but I would never have read the ending if SarahZ hadn’t provided the giant spoiler.

How do you all feel about spoilers?

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6 thoughts on “Series and spoilers”

  1. I am, for the most part, neutral to positive about spoilers. I have a problem fairly often where I stall on a book because a plot turn is too high tension for me or I’m finding a character irritating or I’m bored. Often I’d like to know how things come out but don’t feel like reading through linearly. At that point I tend to jump ahead to the last chapter or two, see how things wrap up, and then decide if I want to know how they got there. Sometimes I do, and I’ll go back to where I left off, skip ahead a little, and try again. Other times the itch has been scratched and I don’t care enough to read the rest. So this is obviously self-spoiling. When I’m reading reviews, I don’t care whether there are spoilers (though it’s good to flag them since lots of people DO care).

    I think it’s related to re-reading, which I do a lot. Obviously anything I re-read is “spoiled” since I know the twists and turns. But I don’t re-read for the plot, I re-read to hang out with the characters and to see more subtle things in the writing that I didn’t notice on the first pass.

  2. OtterB, yes, you mentioned about skipping ahead sometimes. I don’t do that very often, but I will jump ahead for two reasons:

    A) Yes to the high tension. I get too stressed and jump ahead to be sure everything comes out all right.

    B) I have actually almost totally lost interest, but I’m mildly interested in knowing how things turned out. I don’t think I ever go back and read the middle if I skip ahead for that reason.

    And yes again, I re-read all the time, and so obviously I don’t mind that kind of “spoiling.” I like knowing how a book is going to go, I enjoy hanging out with the characters and I also enjoy encountering lines of prose I remember and like. I wrote a post not that long ago about how I realized I prefer audiobooks if I’ve already read the book and love it, and that was a surprise to me, but it sure makes it plain that knowing how the story goes is a positive pleasure, not a problem. Even so, I don’t think I would appreciate someone telling me who done it before I opened a mystery.

  3. OtterB pretty much described me. I reread a lot and don’t care much about spoilers. There have been a few books where being spoiled may have contributed to my not finding them very interesting, but I suspect I would have DNF anyway.
    What I read for is not just what, but how, and spending time with characters. None of that can be spoiled by knowing x or y happens. I have learned over years that even if I’m thoroughly spoiled before I read the book experiencing it as the author wrote it, is different. Usually better, assuming the author is at all competent.

    For the original poster, I’d say if they author has to include references to such big spoilers do so – carefully. LM Bujold may be someone to look at here: the Vorkisverse books include lots of references to stuff that has already happened, without being particularly spoilery – except for the extreme spoilerphobes (probably. I really don’t understand the ones who don’t want to know anything. ) She handles it like adding in the backstory in a first of a series/setting. Works for me.

  4. Ditto to ElaineT and OtterB for me. I reread a lot and almost never mind spoilers, though there are a few books with surprise twists where I’m glad I read it the first time without knowing the surprise in advance (e.g. And all the stars).

    In other cases, where the book is high tension or I don’t know or don’t trust the author, I really prefer getting some big spoilers about things turning out all right before buying the book.
    Before ebooks, browsing in a bookstore for new-to-me authors, I’d often read some of the ending before buying the book. Online ebook stores never have that option, and most online reviews are kept so spoiler-free that they don’t reassure me if I’m uncertain about buying.

  5. Hanneke, And All the Stars is the all-time great example of a book where you do NOT WANT SPOILERS. I definitely would not have wanted anybody to tell me about that plot twist!

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