What Counts as a Spoiler? And Do They Matter?

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A lot of people, myself included, hate being spoiled for books. Personally, I like being able to explore a book for the first time without any idea of what the final outcome will be. I like getting to know the characters without the knowledge of someone’s death looming over me the whole time. The fact is that spoilers can make reading a book a lot less exciting. But there are two things people don’t seem to be able to agree on: what exactly qualifies as a spoiler and do they actually matter?

I’m not even sure I can answer the first question myself. I tend to view spoilers as anything that gives away some piece(s) of somewhat important information that is relevant to the characters, plot, etc. I don’t want to know if two characters end up together. I don’t want to know what that huge twist at the end is. I don’t want to know that X character dies. I want all of that to be surprising to me. I want to be able to read the book and wonder about what will happen.

But there are a lot of people that view smaller details (the MC goes on a date and sees a movie – even if you don’t know with whom) or really broad statements (the MC ends up dating someone at the end) as spoilers as well. I admit I sometimes feel this way as well. For example, some people feel that even mentioning that there’s a big plot twist towards the end of the book can be a spoiler. I never used to consider that as one, but ever since I saw someone mention it, I can’t help but notice how I’ll spend the whole time reading waiting for that plot twist and wondering what it might be. So yeah, I think that it could qualify.

The second question – do spoilers matter? – is an even harder one to tackle. As I already mentioned, I don’t like spoilers. So obviously my personal answer would be that yes, spoilers matter. Like I said before, they take away a certain element of surprise or may not allow you to guess about what might happen. But there are a lot of people who don’t care if they see spoilers or who even actively seek them out. I remember reading a post from one person who felt that if your book relies on surprise to be a good and entertaining book, then it’s lacking other essential elements of a good story. That’s kind of confusing, but basically, she was saying that if without surprise, you can’t enjoy the book, then it’s probably not a very good book to begin with. I can’t help but agree with that to some extent (although I feel the need to specify it does not change my opinion on spoilers).

I think what it all comes down to is the individual person’s opinion. However, this creates an entirely new problem for reviewers. How much can we disclose while still being able to say the review is “spoiler-free”? What kind of information should I mark as a spoiler? What constitutes a spoiler to me may not seem like a spoiler according to other people and similarly, what I don’t personally view as a spoiler may seem like a major spoiler to someone else. It’s a difficult situation for reviewers who don’t want to give things away in their review, but still need to, you know, review the book.

What do you think? What’s a spoiler? Do you mind seeing spoilers?


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36 thoughts on “What Counts as a Spoiler? And Do They Matter?

  1. I agree with you on what a spoiler is. But I have no problem with people posting spoilers… as long as they don’t do it openly like on Twitter. Like on WordPress… put a big heading that says “SPOILERS AHEAD” or something, so we know not to continue reading if we don’t wanna be spoiled. Ya know? Great discussion post, by the way!

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    • I think it’s because they’ve already been able to experience the story on their own with all the surprise and now are rereading it for other reasons – wanting to revisit the characters, to pick up on things they missed the first time around – rather than reading it because they want to read a new story.

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  2. I hate spoilers. On instagram someone said who the cursed child was – a HUGE spoiler – and then when I messaged them to tell them in case they didn’t realise what they’d done, they shrugged it off. If I had read that before I read the book I would have been TICKED.
    I’m totally fine with Spoilers if there’s a disclaimer, and if I can choose to avert my eyes. But don’t just throw it in there willy nilly!

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    • Totally agree! If I have the chance to look away, then it’s fine – talk about all the spoilers you want. But if you give no warning and I end up being spoiled for a book that I was really looking forward to reading, that sucks. It’s even worse if the person doesn’t care at all that they’re ruining the reading experience for other people 😦

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  3. I actually don’t mind the general references and quotes as long as they don’t have character names or anything! However this changes when it comes to a book that I am REALLY anticipating because then I want to go in knowing absolutely nothing 🙈

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    • I don’t really mind general references either. I agree with you about quotes too – as long as they either don’t mention who it involves or is about something that you’d learn from the blurb (i.e. it’s a romance book and the quote is about two characters flirting or something), they’re fine with me.

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  4. Agree with all, minus if some one sayes the plot twist then even more want to figure it out, and to say I guess I can live with some spoilers if it happens like by accident I spoiled myself of oc for the month of my lady Jane when went reply back on a bookish FB post but was section as well for past months and saw it there. Or Iv been spoiled for tmi and the other series but Iv compleatly forgotten what people have said. But my book friends all have read series so I don’t feel like being left out so I’ll listen.

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    • I mean I’ll still a read a book if I saw spoilers for it, but I try to avoid them. But yeah I’ve been spoiled for a lot of really popular series (TMI, The Raven Cycle, etc.) because I wait too long to read them and then everyone’s talking about them haha

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  5. I agree they should be clearly marked! But sometimes I will read a book’s synopsis, form an idea about it, and then go HUNTING for spoilers to see if I got it right. Then I might even (gasp) decide to read it based on if I like the direction it takes as seen in those spoilers. Of course some types of books this doesn’t really work for (mysteries, thrillers) because being in suspense is the main part of the plot. But for a lot of YA and fantasies, I always check out the spoilers first.

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  6. I’m completely with you on not liking spoilers. It really ruins that element of surprise that you get from reading a book for the first time and figuring it all out as you read. For me, a spoiler is something very specific (i.e. who a character ends up with, who dies, how it ends, and all details that are very important to the stories plot). I’m okay with vague details and so that’s what I stick to in my reviews. I’d like to hope it works and that I don’t spoil anything important. I actually love reading reviews with vague details because it lets me know if I would possibly like the book or not. Great post! 😊

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  7. I actually did a post on this recently, because I’m a huge spoiler phobe! I don’t even watch movie trailers because I want to know so little. I disagree about the person saying that a plot twist shouldn’t define the book though. For me at least, I need to be already invested to feel shocked, so knowing something is coming can still affect the book for me!

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  8. OOOo! Nice post Kourtni! It’s a topic that I myself internally debate with when writing my reviews. I am of the latter opinion, I consider revealing that there is a plot twist in the book, a spoiler. I enjoy being surprised & when I know to expect it, it’s just not the same & takes away from my personal reading experience. This season is when we see a lot of readers picking up thrillers (myself included) & I think sometimes less is more. youre very right about that last statement, I always say “what you might not consider a spoiler, may just be a spoiler to me” it is absolutely a matter of preference 😉

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  9. Spoilers for me is when one reveals a major character death or a major plot twist. If I find out before I read the the book it usually ruins the reading experience i.e. Allegiant. I feel if one wants to have a spoiler filled review, just say it in the title so people know to not click it. I keep my reviews spoiler free unless I say otherwise. Great post!

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  10. I have a friend who often will read parts of the beginning, middle and end (?!) of a book before she dives into the whole thing. I can’t make heads or tails of that, but I know we all have our own quirks when it comes to reading and life in general!

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    • So true! When I was really little (I’m talking elementary school here) I couldn’t stand not knowing what happened at the end, so after I read the first chapter or two, I would end up going and reading the last page a lot of the time. I find it hilarious that I used to do that because now I absolutely hate coming across spoilers hahaha

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  11. I don’t mind spoilers too much as I firmly believe a good story is good even if you know what’s going t happen (otherwise, why would you ever reread anything)? But some stories really rely on emotional suspense. Like if you tell me the ending of a Twilight Zone episode, you’ve taken away the whole point. as it’s supposed to emotionally punch you in a way.

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    • I like to have all of that emotion and suspense and surprise the first time I read a book. Otherwise I feel like I’m missing out on something. But I definitely agree there are some books where spoilers have a much bigger impact than others, especially if they’re mysteries or thrillers!

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  12. Pingback: October in Review » Simply Adrift

  13. The worst spoiler I ever got was just after Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out. My friends and I all knew that a major character would die and were trying to guess who. I had a pretty good idea of who it would be, and it turned out I was right…but I didn’t want to know before reading the book! A friend of mine read it first and came over to me one day, and said “I’ll only say this…you’re an excellent prophet!” I was so upset with her!

    In general, I prefer not to have spoilers, but sometimes they are not such a big deal. Even knowing what will happen doesn’t tell me the whole story. Usually, I’m still interested/curious to find out how it got to that point, so there’s enough to keep me reading. Definitely agree that the kind of book matters though. Spoilers for mysteries or thrillers are the worst!

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    • Oh man, that must’ve been so frustrating! I had a lot of the deaths in HP spoiled for me, but that’s just because I didn’t read them until 4 or 5 years ago, haha.
      As time goes on, I find that spoilers bother me less and less although I still prefer not to have things spoiled for me. I like the surprise of reading a book for the first time, but there are still a lot of things to enjoy even if you know bits and pieces of what’s going to happen. But yes, spoilers for mysteries and thrillers are awful!!

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      • I mean, I guess I can’t really count it as a spoiler since I’d already guessed it myself, but I was still very angry with her! I’m in the same boat as you when it comes to getting spoiled for things now though, since I often don’t read the popular books/series until after some of the hype has died down, by which time it’s already well-known who ends up with who, who dies, etc.

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      • I still would’ve been frustrated! Even if I guess something that’ll happen, I’d rather not have it confirmed until I read it for myself 😛 But yeah I’m always behind on reading really popular books/series, so I usually have *something* spoiled for me before I get to it.

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