Questioning Katie: What Constitutes a Spoiler?

August 14, 2015 Personal, Q&A, Questioning Katie 15

Howdy Bookworms!

It’s time for some chit chat, Words for Worms style. I’ve been collecting questions from y’all over the last few weeks because I’m a big cheater face and I’m all about having you hit me with writing prompts. Thank heavens you beautiful bookworms are willing to keep giving me material!


Today’s question comes from the delightful Jenny at Reading the EndAt what point in a book does information about the book become spoilers if someone tells it to you? Like if someone dies in the first chapter, is that a spoiler? Third chapter? Middle? (This is a selfish question because I do not understand how human brains comprehend spoilers, but I am trying to learn so I don’t accidentally spoil things for people.)

This is SUCH a good question. If y’all don’t read Jenny’s blog you probably should because it’s fabulous, but she’s the type of reader who revels in spoilers and, as her blog’s name suggests, reading the end of books before she reads the middle. There is no hard and fast rule to figuring out the perfect level of spoiler tolerance. I mean, on one hand you have the Jennys of the world where virtually nothing is a spoiler simply because their enjoyment of a book isn’t hindered by knowing the outcome in advance. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people who are so fiercely spoiler averse that they won’t even read the synopsis of a book on the jacket. Pretty extreme, right? I mean, how do you know if you want to read something if you don’t even have an inkling as to what it’s about?



Personally, spoilers only bother me when there’s a big mystery to be had or when it’s part of a major series I’m invested in. Like, I’d have been REALLY upset if someone hit me with Harry Potter spoilers for the last few books, but of course that was nearly impossible to do as I purchased the books immediately upon their release and holed up until I finished reading them. I’ve totally been guilty of oversharing plots in the past, so I’ve adopted a simple rule. If the publisher revealed it in their blurb, I’m not going to feel guilty about “spoiling” anything. Do publishers sometimes reveal too much? Maybe? But if it’s THAT easy to find at least it’s not MY fault. Guilt absolved. (My Catholic roots are showing, aren’t they?)

What do you think, Bookworms? Where do you fall on the spoiler tolerance spectrum?

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15 Responses to “Questioning Katie: What Constitutes a Spoiler?”

  1. Sarah's Book Shelves

    I think this is such a good question and also people probably have really different opinions. I, personally, like to discover things for myself and don’t like to know a ton going in. I like to know generally what it’s about and maybe the tone (sarcastic, melancholy, emotionally gut-wrenching), but not any of the plot details. I actually wrote a whole post recently about how I feel like publishers have been including more and more plot detail in their blurbs….in many cases revealing way too much.

  2. Jancee @ Jancee's Reading Journal

    My roommate is the type that won’t read the synopsis, while I don’t care about spoilers. Just yesterday, I recommended Grave Mercy to her on the basis that “it’s basically the dark brotherhood from Skyrim”. That’s it. She doesn’t want plot or thoughts or anything.

  3. Megan M.

    Reading the ending first is a reading system that I just cannot comprehend. I know there are people who do it but thinking about it makes my brain want to explode. The ending is the one thing I want to be happily surprised by. Even if I’ve guessed what will happen by the middle of the book, I still don’t want to know for sure until I get there.

    I think if someone dies in chapter one, it’s fair game. Right? I mean if you could read it in the “sample” then it’s not a spoiler. By the middle there’s usually a turning point or reversal, and that would be spoiling too much in my opinion. Middle to end is off-limits, and any plot point that could be called a “big reveal” or “huge twist” should be off-limits too, no matter where it falls.

  4. Lost in Literature

    Oh my gosh, I have spoiled so much in my “reviews”, if you can call them that, in the beginning days of my blog. But I was careful to give the heads up about it. It was intentional, especially in the case of THE STAND, basically because it was impossible in my excitement to talk about the book without all the incredible details.

    I think I’m better about that now. And my “reviews” are less about the details of the book and more about my experience reading it.

  5. Joules (from Pocketful of Joules)

    If it’s a book I’m just kind of considering and not really committed to, I don’t mind spoilers and one might make me go ahead and read the book. If it’s a big ‘mystery’ and I want to read the book, I don’t want to be spoiled! =)

  6. Rhian

    Count me in the “doesn’t even read the synopsis on the back” group. Very spoiler averse. So you can imagine how I felt when I found out about the ending of Allegiant before reading it.

    I’m not even that keen on statements like “if you liked Gone Girl you’ll love this”. And slightly OT, has there been an explosion in books about dysfunctional marriages or have I just happened to stumble across all of them.

    To answer your question, how I decide whether or not I want to read a book is to start reading it (99.9% of my reading is physical books). If it sucks me in within the first few pages, then I’ll usually buy it. Where I see a recommendation/review online, I’ll see if I can find an excerpt to read, then same principle.

  7. Laurie

    I used to include spoilers, but put the little “spoiler alert” at the break so someone could stop if they’d like. But more and more I have started connecting books more to my own experience–and so I find myself doing less summary. And I handle spoilers by saying something pretty wishey washy like “tragedy strikes” or “chaos ensues” or something cliche like that.

  8. thatashgirl

    I’m generally ok with spoilers unless as you said, it’s a huge mystery. We’re talking, I see dead people, style moments. Those I want to experience myself. But very few books have those kinda moments.

  9. Samantha

    I’m pretty laid back about spoilers – I usually know what avenues to avoid to avoid spoilers. I won’t read reviews before reading a book, etc. although sometimes I’ll peruse them making sure to avoid spoiler tags midway through the book just because I want to see if other people are thinking the same things I am. 🙂 But if something gets “spoiled” it doesn’t really bother me that much, especially if there’s warnings that I flat-out ignored. 🙂

  10. Jennine G.

    I don’t mind comments that are on the book summary or a website summary (like Amazon) or is something we find out quickly in the story…those things are needed usually to get me interested. But if it’s major, or a plot twist, or the ending, I will freak. I can’t stand anything that gives away a big peice of the puzzle.

  11. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    I take the same approach to spoilers that you do; if a plot point is mentioned in the publisher blurb, it’s fair game. (I mean, if someone is SO spoiler averse that they won’t read the blurb, they’re probably also not going to read my review before the book.)

  12. Jenny @ Reading the End

    YOU are fabulous. YOU are. Thanks for answering my question! I like seeing all the different ways people feel about spoilers, although it does sort of confirm that there’s no right way to approach spoilers. It seems very VERY specific to each person.

  13. Isi

    Great post!
    I like your rule about the synopsis from the publisher, but the problem is that sometimes they reveal too much! It doesn’t happen very often, though.
    So well, I just try not to spoil all the “Oohhh” moments of the books, even if they are at the beginning.

  14. Michelle

    I’m like you. If it is a publisher’s synopsis or blurb, then it is fair game. I do think some publishers give away too much, but they’ve done it and not me. Because spoilers bother me so much – I’m one of those who will only read the synopsis in fear of learning anything else – I do try to keep my reviews as vague on plot points as possible. Spoilers are so weird though because how people interpret them are as individual as they are.

  15. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I also usually use the publisher blurb as a guide. I do sometimes mention there’s a twist, but otherwise I think I do a good job avoiding anything that could be considered a spoiler.

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