Spoiler Alert: Spoilers Don’t Spoil

Have you ever had the experience of learning the ending of a book, movie, or TV show that you had really wanted to read/watch and saying to yourself, “AARGH—it’s ruined for me!”?

In college, I tried to be very careful about reading the introductions to classic literature. I found out the hard way that the people who write the introductions often presume the reader is already familiar with the work. Inadvertently, I’d learn key plots points—sometimes the ending—before I had even started the book.

At the time, I figured that knowing the ending would detract from my enjoyment of the book.

It turns out, I was wrong.

Researchers Find That Knowing Key Plot Twists Enhances Enjoyment of Respected Books

According to Science Daily, two researchers at the University of California – San Diego ran a series of experiments looking at how knowing the ending of a story in advance effects how much people enjoy it. The researchers used short stories by well-known authors such as Agatha Christie, John Updike, and Raymond Carver. Everyone was given a story to read in one of three ways: 1.) Some people simply read the story; 2.) Others were given a paragraph to read that gave away the ending (the spoiler) prior to reading the story; 3.) and for others, the ending was given away during the story rather than before.

People for whom the story was “spoiled” reported enjoying the story more. Not only did knowing the ending in advance not ruin enjoyment of the story, but spoiling the story appeared to enhance it! It didn’t matter whether the story was a literary work, a mystery, or something with an ironic-twist (e.g., surprise) ending.

Why?

The researchers suggest that well-written stories are enjoyable regardless of what we know about them. When we know the ending, we can pay more attention to other elements. Given that the stories were by respected authors, it would be interesting to know if the same results are true for less skilled writers.

Next time a work of fiction is “spoiled” for me, rather than respond with “AARGH!” perhaps I ought to say, “Thank you—now I’ll enjoy it even more.”

The Power of Storytelling: Charlene Strong’s Story of Transformation

I love stories. A great storyteller can transport you to places you have never been, can touch a place within you that seemed lost, or can inspire you in ways you might never guess.. A great story can take you on a journey but also reminds you of what is important in your life right now. My favorite place for great storytelling is an organization called The Moth. The Moth is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. They sponsor a free podcast that relates some of the best stories from their storytelling events.

My Go-To for Inspiration: The Moth

The Moth is one of my “go-to” sites when  I’m needing to get reconnected with what’s most important in life. I save their podcasts for those moments when I’m feeling distracted, disconnected, defeated, or just overwhelmed. I’ll go for a walk, put on my headphones, and listen to The Moth. Most of the time I emerge from the end of the walk in a better place, having stepped out my personal drama for a bit, and reconnected with a larger perspective on life.

 

This blog post was inspired by one such story, that of Charlene Strong. Charlene tells her personal story of how heartbreak led her to reevaluate her life and dedicate herself to advocacy for equal legal protection for LGBT families. Her story reminded me of the dearness of those in my life and the importance of nurturing and protecting my relationships with those around me. It also connected me with how pain and loss can sometimes be a catalyst for tranformation. I hope you enjoy and are also touched by Charlene’s story.

Here’s the video version of her story.

Here’s the audio version of her story.