Category Archives: Prince Charming Extras

Do Spoilers Spoil Stories?

Spoilers, by Paulina Van VlietSpoilers ruin everything. They rip out ask the suspense and enjoyment, they wreck – Wait, you’re saying people actually like a work MORE if it’s been spoiled for them? Are you serious?

This is what Derek Thompson argues in “In Defense of Spoilers.” Apparently, anticipation of a twist can take away our enjoyment of the parts of the movie or book that don’t lead up to the twist. Or maybe we just like predictability. Anyway, research by psychologists has shown people rate stories higher when all the plot twists have been spoiled for them ahead of time.

Okay, okay, there’s truth in this.

For example, I’ll use Emma, by Jane Austen. I’ve already written it was much better the second time I read it, and that was mainly because I knew what was going to happen. The first time I didn’t know, so I didn’t think anything was happening. Anyone who’s read it knows it’s a lot of descriptions of conversations in a quiet English town. But it’s also been described as ‘a mystery without a murder’ – there’s so many clues in all the ‘nothing’ that goes on, and it all adds up to something. But the first time you read it, you don’t realized there’s a mystery at all. And I, at first, was a bit bored and confused.

And shouldn’t this research make sense? Don’t we tell the same stories over and over again? How many times has the Cinderella plot been used? (Including by me, here). And I’ve already admitted I’ll watch almost any version of retelling of Pride and Prejudice, over and over again.

So we love the same old stories, the seven basic plots, the Save the Cat story outline… We might as well stop with the attempts at original stories, right? Might as well quit worrying about spoilers. We’d enjoy everything so much more that way.

No, but wait! There’s something else…

When we worry about spoilers, we worry about losing that sense of surprise and satisfaction when we see the pieces suddenly fit together. Not every work is good at this, but every once in a while we come across a book that manages to turn itself inside-out in the last pages. The turn of events blows your mind.

This elusive feeling is something we chase in every movie and novel we read (or, at least, I do). You can enjoy a movie or a book without it. You can love a book that doesn’t give you this feeling. But this feeling is unique enough and wonderful enough it’s worth looking for.

Spoilers, of course, steal the opportunity fo this feeling away.

Back to Emma – your first initial read where you think nothing is going on is so important to the work! Because it’s that first read where you’re in Emma’s point of view, it’s that first read where you trust her and believe whatever she thinks she sees. There’s no sensations to compare your second read to if you haven’t had the first. You can hunt for clues the whole time on your first read instead, but you ARE missing out on something if you know what you’re looking for.

And that’s the whole point of avoiding spoilers, isn’t it? There’s an experience you’ll miss if someone spoils it for you. You’ll lose something you’ll never get back, and you’ll never know if there’s any amount of enjoyment that will make up for losing that initial experience. You’ll never know what that would’ve felt like.

Plot twists shouldn’t be the end-goal for every book or movie. Clearly, people can enjoy stories that are predictable. But I’d argue we should still try to prevent spoilers as a service to our fellow humans, because some experiences can’t be recreated once spoiled. People can at least try for that mind-turning experience. And if spoilers improve the experience – well, that’s what a second reading is for.

What’s your thoughts on spoilers?

 

Illustration by Paulina Van Vliet. All rights reserved.

(This post contains affiliate links)

2 Comments

Filed under Bookish Thoughts, Prince Charming Extras

Peck Out Her Eyes, She Deserves It!

Vindictiveness in Fiction

'Just Desserts,' by Paulina Smit. Creative Commons.

‘Just Desserts,’ by Paulina Smit. Creative Commons.

Some versions of Cinderella end with her ordering her bird-friends to peck out her stepsisters’ eyes. Yes, the sweet, lovely Cinderella whom we all heard about as a kid – though clearly not the Disney version. Apparently she decided to take revenge and punish her sisters by blinding them in the most gruesome way she could think of. Or, in other versions of the story, exiling them to the wilderness, or forcing them to be slaves.

 I always preferred the endings where she invites her stepsisters and stepmother to live in the castle instead, and teaches them how to be gracious. After all, Cinderella is supposed to be better than them, and if she resorts to petty vindictiveness to punish them, how is she better than her stepsisters, who mistreated her because she was prettier than them?

(See my version of Cinderella, Prince Charming, to see what I think about the character of the prince!)

 I always wanted to think if anyone could be outstandingly forgiving, it was Cinderella. And I always wanted to think the stepsisters learned to be better people after what happened. Maybe I’m just an optimist about humanity.

 But, strangely enough, vindictiveness is a strong theme in many works of fiction. I mean, take The Count of Monte Cristo. This is a book completely centred around a man taking revenge, it is regarded as a true classic, and its plot keeps getting used by many other works (the movie, The Mask of Zorro, for instance, and Charade, an actual Christian inspirational fiction book that uses the same plot).

 In the book, the Count of Monte Cristo takes great pleasure in revenge. He manipulates a man’s wife to commit suicide and take her son with her as well, driving the man insane. Then he destitutes another man, and causes a third to commit suicide. Of course, the point of the book is that they all deserved it, but still…

 Clearly, punishing people who were mean to you is attractive to most readers, and I’m not really surprised this natural human reaction is so popular. Everyone likes to see someone get their comeuppance. I am surprised that I don’t enjoy it. Like I said before, I like the versions of Cinderella where she doesn’t punish her stepsisters, and the parts of The Count of Monte Cristo where he relents instead of taking revenge. But this quirk of mine ends up interfering with my enjoyment of other classics as well.

 Take Roald Dahl. Everyone loves Roald Dahl! Everyone’s read at least a dozen of his books in their childhood – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, etc. So I read them too, and they confused me like crazy. As a kid, I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to laugh or feel bad (I actually felt bad) when James’ aunts get flattened by the giant peach, or Veruca Salt gets carried away by squirrels.

 So while I knew these books were wonderfully creative and inventive – no one’s written about being inside a chocolate factory before! And definitely not a chocolate factory that was so fun – I couldn’t get past feeling uncomfortable with them. In this case, I never particularly felt that the characters in the book were the vindictive ones – Charlie, or James, for example. It was just this undercurrent of vindictiveness that ran through most of the books – as if the author himself was exorcizing his demons.

 So here’s the thing – bad characters should learn something, or be punished, or whatever makes a satisfactory ending to a story. But what I find uncomfortable is when other characters take this into their own hands. Because I don’t believe we ever see things quite clearly when we’ve been hurt. And I’m always afraid that taking this kind of revenge just tangles things up and makes them worse.

But that’s just me. What do you think about vindictiveness in fiction?

Leave a comment

Filed under GENERAL Bookish Thoughts, Misc. Books, Prince Charming Extras

The Crime of Re-Using Plots – Is It A Crime?

Oh no, a romantic comedy! (Sabrina trailer – {PD})

Oh no, it’s another mad dash to the airport, where the girl swears she will leave the country forever and the guy insists he’s in love with her, you sigh to yourself. Everyone knows romantic comedies all have the same plot. Why do they even bother making more of them?

Well, how many plots do you think there are in the world, anyway?

Don’t get me wrong, I get as annoyed by a formulaic “plot twist” as anyone else. I never want to see another break-up where the girl found out the guy was really a newspaper reporter and writing about her the whole time, ever again. I’ll be perfectly content if think-he’s-cheating-but-actually-it’s-all-a-wacky-misunderstanding scenes are banned from movies and books altogether. But that doesn’t mean expecting every element of the plot to be completely original every single time is at all realistic.

Like I said in previous posts, ancient writers all let each other play in their sandboxes. There was nothing surprising that the bard who wandered into your village told the exact same story as the bard who was there three months before. Another story about the Fall of Troy? Hey, why not, it’s not like anyone owns it. And so people only got famous if they did something really, really interesting with the well-worn story.

Romeo and Juliet was originally The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, and end with the nurse being hung and the apothecary banished. Shakespeare was merciful to the nurse and the apothecary, and a classic was born. The Metamorphoses was just Ovid retelling every single Greek myth he could think of, and making sure everyone changed into an animal at some point in the story, but everyone agreed he told the stories better than anyone else. And shoot, everyone knows Star Wars is based on The Hero’s Journey. Just because we’d told stories about heroes before, didn’t stop Star Wars from becoming insanely popular.

The key is – it’s got to be done better. We don’t live in a time where plagiarism is allowed, so an original take on the plot of the latest best-seller won’t get you anywhere, but no one’s copyright The Hero’s Journey. Or the romantic comedy formula. Use them to your heart’s content, but do it better.

Because that’s the real source of frustration with the formulaic plots, isn’t it? It feels like the writers or whoever thought the audience must be feeling the emotions they want them to feel because they hit all the right plot points. Who cares if the characters are cardboard and have no motivation – they’re racing for their love in taxicabs through New York, so you have to cheer for them. On the other hand, if the writers succeed is presenting a hackneyed plot in a fresh and interesting way, you almost forget you’ve heard some of the plot points a thousand times before. For example, in Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn, Audrey is chased by two brothers who are in love with her. Not the most original set-up in the world, but I still love the movie because Audrey makes me care which guy she ends up with. Or you can take the millions of re-tellings of Pride and Prejudice that exist, and I will watch as many of them as I can get my hands on, because the dynamic at the center of the book is so intriguing I want to see what other creators do with it.

Re-telling the story is not the problem. Re-telling it well is.

Cinderella is another story that’s been re-told a hundred thousand times. Can it handle one more? Call me deluded, but I thought so and wrote Prince Charming because of it. And since it’s free today and tomorrow, you can go here and decide if I succeeded.

What do you think, is re-using plots a crime against writing and the source of all formulaic books and movies? Or can writers dispense with being completely original once in a while to play around with well-worn tropes?

2 Comments

Filed under On Writing, Prince Charming Extras

Interview with the Author of ‘Prince Charming’

Curious about my latest ebook, Prince Charming? Head over to the Amrah Publishing House website to see my interview and find out what it’s all about. Stay tuned to the website for updates on promotions and giveaways too!

Or just read the description here (though seriously, the interview’s pretty neat too):

The prince is an irresponsible flirt who won’t settle down. The king needs an heir who will grow up and take care of the kingdom. What’s the solution? A royal ball, of course.
Despite Princess Anastasia’s doubts, the prince does meet a girl who’s different from all the others. But what’s this? A wicked stepmother, and several stepsisters? If there’s a girl who can ever learn to put up with the prince’s self-centeredness, her past may ruin this romance—and the ball!—before anyone gets a fairytale ending.

Available at Amazon

Amazon

Leave a comment

Filed under Prince Charming Extras