Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In Defense Of Spoilers

I have been following an interesting thread at Amazon where folks are discussing the pros and cons of spoilers, among other issues. Here are some thoughts on the subject.....

First of all, there is a difference between stating an "opinion" of a book, and writing a review. For example...

This is an "opinion".... That book sucked.

This is a "review".... That book sucked because of poor writing, shallow characterization, too much purple prose, and unresolved conflict.

This is an even better review..... That book sucked because of poor writing (do you not know how to spell "captin"?), shallow characterization (we never got to see any deep POV for Charlie's character), too much purple prose ("your petals are filled with the sweetest dew") and unresolved conflict (what happened to the sister trapped in a Turkish prison)?

In other words, an opinion is just a statement with nothing to back it up. A review should be supported by details. Specific details make it even better.

I have an academic background. You always, always, always, support your hypothesis. You cite specific examples from the text to back up your claim. It's still an opinion. What I consider purple prose someone else might think is the best writing since the holy bible. But at least I am supporting my point of view with details.

This is why I use spoilers in my reviews. This is also why I usually don't read full reviews of books until AFTER I have read them. I don't want to spoil the read for myself, but I enjoy checking out other folks' opinions after the fact.

It is possible to write a general review that includes basic details without including spoilers. I do it all the time. It just sounds like a more generic review. "Great pacing, lovely setting, beautiful love story!" This is fine. But this is even better..... "The moment when Zsadist scribbles 'I love you' on a scrap of paper and hands it to Bella is one of the most touching scenes I have ever read in a romance." It's a spoiler, but it also captures what is magical about that book.

So, those are my deep thoughts for the day!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Wednesday,


Mandi said...

I don't mind you with Z - sometimes you have to include them to show the impact that moment has on a story.

But- I think you should make it clear in the beginning of the review that spoilers are present, or hide them under spoiler tags.

But I'd much rather read a review that explains why you like/dislike with things to back it up rather than - this book was good/bad.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Mandi! I agree about giving a heads-up for spoilers. (I have a blanket statement on my sidebar that says Warning: Reviews are chock full of spoilers....basically, read at your own risk). The good thing about including details is that you can decide if it's a good book for you, even if it wasn't good for someone else. For ex, if someone says "This book was way too sickly sweet for me" I know that I'll like it, because I like sickly sweet. Also, if I see that the book is rated G (no sex), then I might skip it. Stuff like that.

Amber said...

I had the predictable response to this post, which was "ZOMG, I love that scene too!!!!!" *ahem* Anyways. I have never minded spoilers. In fact, I prefer to know what I'm getting into before I read a book. Maybe it kills some of the magic, but it also increases the anticipation of said event, which can keep me going if the writing has not already captivated me. I don't even tend to tag mine, unless they reveal a secret that is shown late in the book. Something that is in the blurb or an obvious construct of that that happens later in the book isn't really a spoiler, in my book.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Amber! I love that scene, too. *sigh, sigh, sigh*

I don't mind spoilers either. If I'm reading a book review, I sort of expect them. If I don't want to know, I avoid reading any kind of review until after I've finished the book. I might look at average ratings to see if the book is okay, but avoid the detailed reviews until later.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I agree. I also agree with your choice of J.R. Ward's Zsadist and Bella as an example.
The worst offenders on Amazon will say the following in a variety of ways - after you've posted a very well written, well-defended, non-snarky review:
"It's a great book! Do you think you could do any better?!? Who are you to criticize the author?"

I'm like, uh, WTF? Why do you think Amazon has a review function?
I completely ignore opinions. I read actual reviews.

DT said...

I agree with you! Spoilers are needed sometimes to back up your thoughts. As long as they have plenty of warnings, I'm fine with it.

Started reading Sweet Magik Monday. Really liking it so far!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Julia.....oh, Hell, I don't post on Amazon anymore. I hate that it devolves into a review of the review of the review of the....nevermind. It's wack over there. As long as you support your opinion, it's valid. Might not be the same as someone else's opinion. That's OK. ;)

Penny Watson said...

Dead Trees--thanks for reading my book! So glad you are enjoying Sweet Magik so far.

Geekamicus said...

I actually got a comment on my review of a very bad book the other day (about six months after I posted it). The person said I had a very well written review because I backed up my opinions with examples. The poster wished all reviews were that helpful. Not getting slammed for hating a book is so rare. It kind of made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Penny Watson said...

Ha haaa! Good for you, Geek. It's not too often that comments on reviews at Ami make you warm and fuzzy. Hold onto that feeling....I'm sure someone will make you want to rip your hair out soon. :^)