When someone discloses the ending of a TV show, movie, or book to someone who hasn’t yet seen or read it, we call that a spoiler. But what is the word for someone who gets partway through a movie, TV show, or book, and turns to the person next to them and asks, “Does so-and-so live?” I don’t think there is a word for a person who wants a movie, TV show, or book to be spoiled. Nevertheless, I live with two of them.
If we are watching a movie, and there is some tense, dramatic scene involving the main characters, the Little Man will inevitably ask, partway through the movie, “Does he die at the end?” Kelly sometimes asks similar questions about a show we’re watching that she knows I have already seen. They seem like perfectly innocent questions, but I find them painfully difficult to answer. I often find myself muttering, “Just watch the movie and find out,” not wanting to spoil things.
Wanting to know the end of a story before reaching the end is alien to me. I watch movies and read books for the drama of the story. Knowing what will happen spoils some of that drama, so I can’t understand why someone would want to know this before the story reaches its natural conclusion. But this is a fairly common phenomenon in our household.
Even when I write a story, I don’t plan it out ahead because knowing for certain what is coming steals the fun. The first draft of a story is like watching a movie for the first time. Everything I am learning is new, and I am often surprised by the twists and turns the story takes. But having written many stories, I also understand (or at least have glimmering idea) of what it takes to keep a reader interested and entertained. An important ingredient is to keep them guessing.
Kelly and the Little Man are more practical. They want their expectations set early on. I have trained myself, over decades to gradually unveil a story, drawing in the reader, and it kills me to have to answer questions about what happens later in a story. Interestingly, the Little Miss is more like me in this regard. She gets totally and completely absorbed in the shows she watches–to the point where interruptions annoy her. And she never asks what happens next. She grasps the thrill of storytelling, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she tried telling her own stories as she gets older.
Spoilers have been around forever but have become more effective thanks to the megaphone effect of the Internet. But spoilers have never interested me. I can’t recall a time when I felt tempted to look at a spoiler. It requires a certain amount of impatience to reader a spoiler, but savoring a story over a long period of time is something I love about stories. It is why my favorite books tend to be longer books. I want to the story to last as long as possible. I am in no hurry to get to the end to find out what happened. I’ll get there in good time.
That said, let me close with one spoiler: Next time the family sits down to some dramatic movie or TV show, you can be sure that either Kelly or the Little Man will ask me what happens well before the end.