Interesting article on the value of knowing the ending

Very neat article, Chris--thanks for posting it. Apparently, spoilers (foreshadowing, sometimes by any other name) are a good thing!

I agree, I think foreshadowing can increase interest and suspense.

Really interesting research!

This was the explicit reason for my addiction to historical romances in my late teen years. KNowing the ending is so much less stressful. *G*

At first I kind of balked at the idea. My dad always tries to figure out the ending of stories, which drives me nuts. I like to <i>discover.</i> I love the not-knowing, those little "Aha!" moments as pieces fall into place. For me the longer the ride of not knowing can last, the better (there are obvious cases of overkill). It's an atmosphere I try to create in <i>Guts and Sass</i> all the hints, references to things the characters know about and don't explain to the reader, the hints you don't even know are hints until later. It didn't really resonate at first.

But gradually I found there was a way I could relate. Sometimes when I hear about stories through other people, I hear about this particularly cool scene or moment, and that's what gets me hooked. I want to experience that story because of that one moment. And the anticipation of that one moment is what carries me through the story. It's gotten me through some pretty terrible stuff for that one awesome moment. Similarly, with comics, when artist/authors do a chapter illustration that hints at some long-awaited face off or hookup, I'm like "OH SHIT MAN," and the anticipation is amazingly satisfying.

I'm with Traylor. I can't read most modern mystery as I figure it out a chapter in.

Interesting... The Darth Vader example particularly makes me want to comment that part of the reason knowing Darth Vader is Luke's father is good from the outset is that it's the bit of the story where the plot thickens and you go "ooooh, Darth Vader isn't just a two dimensional villain, he's a guy with a fascinating backstory, oooooOOOOOooooOOOO!" I knew about the twist before ever watching Star Wars and when I did finally watch the movies I spent the entire first two movies anticipating the moment when Luke goes "Nooooooooo!" Did it enhance my enjoyment? I think yes.

Another example which backs this idea up, for me at least, is the recent HBO series, "Game of Thrones." I knew nothing (heh heh) about the Song of Ice and Fire books when I started watching the series. I was confused about all the characters and who they were and how they were related to each other ("wait, who is this Theon Greyjoy and why is he living with the Starks even though he isn't one? There was another rebellion after Robert's Rebellion? My god, I can't handle all this backstory, I need to go to Wikipedia and sort it out...") I found backstory information but also a whole slew of spoilers for the entire book series... and yet, instead of saying "Well now that I know what's going to happen I don't need to keep watching the show" my reaction was basically "Oh. My. God. I have to read these books." (And so I did.)

And then there's "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. He had his narrator (Death) state Right The Fuck Away that the main character's best friend dies. I knew the entire book that this kid's death was coming... and yet, I cried my eyes out when it finally happened. I wept so bitterly that my mother was alarmed, but I kept insisting through the tears running down my face that this book was the most amazing thing ever.

I can't really think of an instance where being spoilered ruined something for me, actually. So I have to agree with the article. (However, I recall being blown away when Bruce Willis was dead at the end of Sixth Sense -- though I did not jizz in my pants -- and so it can be fun to be surprised... but only so long as you can go "oooh, that makes sense!" instead of sitting there going, "who with the what now?")

It would depend on the story--what you're actually driving at and what you need to emphasize to get there. I may have some more thoughts once I'm done grumping about how "(t)he literary stories were the least preferred." (Or, for that matter, once I can get the Psychological Science page to load so I can look at the original.)

I said I was grumpy; I didn't say I was surprised.


Hm. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Some of my favorite stories are my favorite stories simply because they managed to surprise me, and that's not easy to do... But I do check the endings of certain movies before I see them, and I don't feel like it makes me enjoy them any less...

~ Leigh

I don't know. I don't mind knowing the ending but I don't mind not knowing either. Glad I could add to the conversation in such a helpful manner. ;-)

Jaded remark here:

I think society has gotten less intuitive due to the lightning-fast pace and overstimulation that the internet and smartphones and cable TV have brought to us.

That said...

The article totally makes sense. I get a different experience from reading a literary work than a piece that is more, I'll say, "entertainment-driven." In writing Animus, I'm always trying to find a healthy balance between good old fashioned fast-pased entertainment, and a deeper exploration of humanity, society, and the animal instincts that drive, plague, and bless us every day.

I do think it's extremely helpful to know the ending of your story, or at least, where it is going. When I started Animus, some of the key components of what I was trying to tell with Book One were there from the genesis of the idea 8 years ago. However, some of the specifics were fleshed out along the way, and I actually came up with *better* surprises and "Oh shit!" moments in the process. Now that I have finished Book One, I've received a few compliments from friends who are readers, and have said that two of the major "aha!" moments in Episodes 29 and 30 were completely unexpected, but made sense and gave them an actual feeling when reading, which was my goal all along.