Spoiler alerts abound on the Internet, but do spoilers really spoil the enjoyment?

“Spoilers don’t spoil stories. Contrary to popular wisdom, they actually seem to enhance enjoyment.

“Even ironic-twist and mystery stories — which you’d be forgiven for assuming absolutely depend on suspense or surprise for success — aren’t spoiled by spoilers, according to a study by Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt of UC San Diego’s psychology department, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science…

“Why? The answers go beyond the scope of the study, but one possibility is perhaps the simplest one: that plot is overrated.

“‘Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing,’ said Christenfeld, a UC San Diego professor of social psychology…

“It’s also possible that it’s “easier” to read a spoiled story. Other psychological studies have shown that people have an aesthetic preference for objects that are perceptually easy to process.

“‘So it could be,’ said Leavitt, a psychology doctoral student at UC San Diego, ‘that once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier — you’re more comfortable processing the information — and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.’

“Stories are a universal element of human culture, the backbone of the billion-dollar entertainment industry, and the medium through which religion and societal values are transmitted,” the researchers write. In other words, narratives are incredibly important. But their success doesn’t seem to hinge on simple suspense. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: How important is surprise to your story? Do you let your readers in on the surprise? Do you use foreshadowing as a spoiler? Do you agree or disagree with this study? Will it change how you structure your stories?

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel about spoilers?

Art Prompt: Spoiler alert

Photo Credit: G. Turner on Flickr


4 Responses to Prompt #134 Spoilers

  1. zencherry says:

    Have I told you lately how much I LOVE your prompts? You are a font of creative juices!:D

  2. Spoilers are actually good for writers, if you can bear the idea. Knowing the ending of a book doesn’t “spoil” it for me. It allows me to get deeper into the mechanics of the novel in the first read. I can get analytical right away and not have to read the book multiple times (once for enjoyment, once for craft …).
    Here’s my blog post on the topic: http://melaniemarttila.ca/2012/03/22/why-spoilers-are-good-for-writers/
    Melanie Marttila recently posted..Storytelling in learningMy Profile

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