SPOILERS: or FIVE things that make a story

Apparently people don’t like spoilers. Telling someone how a book or a movie ended is an evil thing to do. This became all too apparent to me after I saw the new Star Wars movie. When people heard I’d seen it already they would put their hands over their ears and run away screaming: “Don’t tell me anything about it, I haven’t seen it yet!” or they would put up that special, secretive face (you know the one? It’s the one Watson has on all the time, more or less, in the Sherlock series) and they would ask me in hushed tones, as if we were discussing state secrets: “What did you think?” and I’d tell them, “It was great, but I’ll never forgive him,” completely oblivious of why I was whispering.

This mindset, in the age of trailers that show you all the main scenes in a movie (though I can admit that such movies are rarely worth watching), is a bit puzzling to me.

I’ve never minded spoilers. Knowing how a story ends has never spoiled the enjoyment of said story. I never saw the ending as the *thing* with stories. I am more of a the journey is the destination woman. To me the story is in the details, like Stephen King is fond of saying. 

Many people enjoy reading books over and over again. I rarely do this. There are a few that I revisit regularly but all in all I consume a story once and then I leave it. It’s not because I don’t want to, many stories I’ve read are worth reading again and again and again, but there are so many other stories I’d like to read too and so little time.

Some would say that there is a difference in re-reading a story you love and being told by a talkative friend how a story you are enjoying  (or hope to enjoy later) ends. To me the difference is only in the effort you put in the “new” book. Knowing the ending is interesting might even HELP me get through the entire story and not just leave it on the nightstand. It might help me from falling asleep in front of the TV too.

I guess this attitude towards spoilers is tightly linked with the fact that I often get lost in a certain point of a story. I sometimes can’t for the life of me remember how a book ended. It’s not always the interesting part. It ended well? I can’t remember. Well I guess it did, I do tend to remember the bad endings, often those make me a bit angry (and that can be a very good thing in a story).

But to me there is often a point in the story that I get hooked on. A prop, of sort, that excites me. When it comes to many, many of the authors I like it’s the simple truths about life that I get hooked on. With other stories there is a particular element that gets me going.

One of my teachers in Literature at the University of Iceland once said that he disliked Stephen King because he always had to open all the doors. I interpreted this (and forgive me, G, if I’m wrong) to mean that he didn’t like the fact that King has a tendency to show us his monsters, he doesn’t hide them in the cupboard and if he does then he gives us the key to this cupboard and lets us in.

And that is exactly why I love Stephen King’s stories. Well, that and the fact that his literary world seems so natural, even normal, with all the bizarreness.

To me stories aren’t about the fact that Mary survived, and ended up with Prince NotSoCharmingatFirstButLaterHooopla. It’s about all the little ideas that pop into my head while I’m reading, or watching. I never got the NO SPOILERS alerts and I guess I never will. Knowing the secret in THE CRYING GAME wouldn’t have spoiled my love for that particular movie and I’ll be darned if I remember how THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE ends. I’m listening to it now, in audiobook format, and I’ve read it at least twice before. It’s a fantastic book.

There might be a slight difference between books and movies in this though. You might argue that knowing that Jacqueline and Simon killed Linnet will spoil a perfectly good murder mystery, but there too I’m not watching because of the “murder mystery”. Rather because I like the way Simon MacCorkindale played Simon in DEATH ON THE NILE, or the way Peter Ustinov spoke English with french accent. I’m not so interested in the mystery, it’s still a great book and a fantastic movie.

So I don’t mind spoilers. You don’t need to worry about that with me. Knowing the end will not put me off reading a book or seeing a movie. In fact knowing more about it may help me decide it’s worth my time, but what interests me in a story is rarely in the ending, but in everything else. It’s Murakami’s wells and King’s Dandelo (I just love the “cellar scene” right before they arrive at the Dark Tower) or Tak, it’s the dialogue in Tarantino (and OH SO NOT the story!) and the scenography  and the “tears in the rain” in Bladerunner. I recently loved a movie, despite all its faults, mainly because I loved the scenography so much.

The story isn’t in the ending. I don’t care about the ending. It’s all about how you get there and you can’t possibly spoil all that even if you are one of these people who make movie trailers. And maybe they’re right, maybe showing all the important scenes in flashes makes people go to the theatre more? What do I know.

I don’t mind the trailers and I don’t mind the spoilers. The story isn’t in the end or in the way it goes. It’s in the words, it’s in the things it teaches you about life or about yourself, it’s in the interesting dialogue or the ideas behind certain scenes or even the idea behind the entire story. In fact I’d like to say that the story is in the ideas and it is in the way that particular artist/writer approaches that idea, or presents it. It’s in the way the story has a dialogue with the reader/viewer.

And things like that are hard to spoil.

And in the spirit of that I’ll post a little list on what catches my attention.

Interesting Characters – a story is nothing without them. In fact you can save a perfectly dull story with good characters. I would even argue that you can make people forget that you are a horrible writer if only you succeed with this part of your story.

Good Ideas – A story isn’t much without a good idea. For me it doesn’t matter much if the idea is something the entire book focuses on or if it’s just a thought that passes you by in a huff. A good example of a great idea is China Miéville’s EMBASSYTOWN and his double-tongued language, or Lemarchand’s box in THE HELLBOUND HEART by Clive Barker.

Good Prose – I’ve read stories which handle topics I am absolutely not interested in just because the prose was delightful to read. The Swedish author Per Lagerkvist is one of these authors. He has a delightful prose (at least in Swedish) and I’ve read all his books, both the ones that handle topics I am interested in and the others.

Good Settings – it doesn’t matter if it’s a visual thing you’re watching or setting in a text. It’s important that the environment is interesting in some way. The story REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier is a good example of this. I hung on to that story a lot because of the environment it was placed in, the mansion and its eerie surroundings, and a big part of that was the time it was set in.

Life – Did I mention Good ideas already? I did. Well, this is more the existentialist in me craving attention. You may wonder what The Pet Sematery has to say about life, but you’d be surprised. I particularly like stories that stay with me mainly because they said something about our existance on this planet. It doesn’t have to be heavy existentialism, just a few words on sleeping cats sometimes do nicely. It’s all in the precentation and in what is provoked.

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