First of all, it goes without saying, but this article will contain spoilers. More specifically, it will contain major spoilers for “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, “Fight Club” and “Blade Runner”. But this isn’t quite as much of a big deal as it might sound.
The fact is that we live in a world where people are extremely wary of having other people give away key plot details from stories, films, TV shows etc… that they haven’t seen yet. And, yes, I can totally understand this. No-one likes having the ending ruined before they’ve even started reading or watching.
But, if you’re actually writing fiction or making comics, then how do you make them spoiler-proof? How do you make something which isn’t affected by spoilers? Here are three of the many possible ways that this can be done:
1) Curiosity: Back in 2009, I bought and read Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” purely because someone spoiled the ending for me. I’m glad that they did.
“And Then There Were None” was, quite frankly, one of the most unsettling and frightening horror novels – sorry, I mean, detective novels – that I’ve ever read. If you’ve never heard of this book before, I’ll give you roughly the same spoiler that I was given “It’s a murder mystery, where literally all of the characters are killed.”
On the surface, this would seem to ruin the ending to the story. But, like I was, aren’t you curious about how a murder mystery story can end in this way. After all, if nothing else, shouldn’t the murderer and/or the detective survive? Who would be left to solve the crime? How, like in all good detective novels, would the events of the story be explained at the end?
Believe it or not, all of these questions are actually answered in a satisfactory way. But, you have to read “And Then There Were None” if you want to find those answers…
The thing is that if the plot twist at the end of your story or comic is so unusual, imaginative and/or innovative, then a spoiler won’t put people off of reading it. It’ll actually make them more curious about how it’s done. It’ll make them curious about how a writer was actually able to include a plot twist like this.
2) Quality: If your story or comic relies entirely on dramatic plot twists to keep the story going, then it’ll be a lot of fun to read. Once. And that’s only if you haven’t read spoilers beforehand.
However, if the quality of your writing, the quality of your characterisation, the quality of your artwork and/or the quality of your ideas are good enough, then spoilers aren’t so much of a big deal. Why? Because although people might already know how your story or comic ends, there’s a lot of other stuff there to keep people interested.
To use a good cinematic example of this, just take a look at “Fight Club” (the film, not the Chuck Palahniuk novel that it’s based on – which has a slightly different, and extremely confusing, ending).
This is one of the more famous films from the 1990s and it has certainly left it’s mark on popular culture. If the whole point of the film was just the plot twist at the end (eg: Tyler Durden is actually the main character’s alter ego), then it would have been forgotten a couple of years after it was released.
But, of course, the plot twist is just the icing on the cake. The film has retained it’s popularity because of everything else in the film -such as quotable dialogue (eg: “The first rule of fight club…”), the film’s subversive attitude, the film’s clever cinematic tricks and the film’s strange cast of characters.
This is also the reason why film, comic and TV adaptations of classic stories like Sherlock Holmes are still so popular. Even though everyone already knows how these stories end, people still watch them because they’re curious about how the writer, artist, director and/or actors will interpret a familiar story.
3) Ambiguity: One of the best ways to make your story or comic spoiler-proof is to make your plot twists very slightly ambiguous. In other words, leave them slightly open to interpretation.
You’ve got to be careful with this approach because, if you make your plot twists too ambiguous, then it’ll just confuse your readers. But, if you make them slightly ambiguous – then spoilers won’t be an issue.
Why? Because there are different ways of interpreting what happened. Not only will this make your audience debate parts of your story for years, but it also means that if someone who has never read your story or comic happens to read one of these discussions, then they’ll be exposed to several possible interpretations. The only way that they’ll be able to make up their own mind is to actually read your story…..
Another good cinematic example of this kind of plot twist can be found in both the 2007 final cut and the 1992 director’s cut of Ridley Scott’ “Blade Runner” (but not in the original 1982 version of the film).
These versions of the film alter the ending slightly to hint that the main character (Deckard) might unknowingly be one of the synthetic humans (“Replicants”) who he has been hunting throughout the film. However, this is done in a rather subtle and ambiguous way.
In the final scene, Deckard and Rachel (a replicant who he has fallen in love with) leave Decakard’s apartment together. However, Deckard notices that someone has left an origami unicorn on the hallway floor.
This implies that Gaff (another detective, who also has a passion for origami), has been there earlier and has let Rachel survive. That part of the ending isn’t particularly ambiguous.
The ambiguity comes from what the unicorn itself actually means. There are at least three possible interpretations.
1)In the original 1982 version of the film, it’s mentioned that Rachel is a prototype replicant who has an indefinite lifespan (“ordinary” replicants only live for four years), so the unicorn could be a reference to the fact that she’s special/ unusual and that Gaff has made an exception because of this fact. However, any mention of this fact is omitted from both the 1992 and 2007 versions of the film.
2)The second, more popular, interpretation stems from the fact that Deckard dreams about a unicorn earlier in the film. This interpretation hinges on the fact that replicants have artificially-implanted memories. If Deckard was a replicant, Gaff would have known that Deckard’s “programming” included dreams about unicorns. As such, the unicorn could be a sign that Gaff knows that Deckard is a replicant.
3)Another interpretation is, of course, that Deckard could have told Gaff about his dream during one of their hover-car journeys together, and Gaff was just playing a practical joke on him by leaving a unicorn in the hallway.
So, is Rachel special? Is Deckard a replicant? Is Gaff a master prankster? Well, you’ll just have to watch the film and make up your own mind.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂
(PS: Deckard isn’t a replicant! Seriously, just read Philip K.Dick’s original novel. It spells that fact out pretty clearly. Ooops! I should have probably added a spoiler warning about that too…)