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Spoilers in the title?

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Joe Benet
Posts: 87
Bronze Star Member
Topic starter

How much of the story plot, twist, or resolution should the title give away? For example, if I write a whodunit, what effect does a title like "The Butler Did It" have? Removes the mystery, so why bother reading the story? Summarizes well, so the reader knows what to expect?

Does that calculus change if the title is catchy and otherwise just perfect?

Thanks for your insights.

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Posted : June 19, 2023 11:44 am
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Dustin Adams
Posts: 1289
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I think if the title gives it away it should be ironic.

There are many who believe your logline should be ironic.

"A man gains superpowers, only to survive a cataclysm and be the last person on earth."

So if the butler did it, maybe it was the butler that got fired a month earlier, and not the current butler who is a really good guy.


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Posted : June 21, 2023 2:20 am
Posts: 103
Bronze Star Member

I would consider that anything in a title is not a spoiler per se. A title exists to set expectations, to draw the reader in. A title like "The Butler Did It" would tell me to expect a story that analyzes and possibly subverts the trope of "The Butler Did it." Perhaps the story is told from the point of view of the butler. Perhaps everyone suspects the butler from the get-go (maybe he was even framed), only to have the real murderer revealed at the end. 

Another way of looking at it - what is a spoiler, anyway? As someone who does not avoid spoilers - it's one thing to read ahead about events that will happen, and another to experience the emotions right alongside the characters. There are several stories that will start by telling you the ending at the beginning. But the enjoyment is seeing how the story gets there. I may see a story where I know the characters live, and still wonder "How the heck do they get out of this predicament?" 

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Posted : June 21, 2023 6:58 am
Posts: 286
Silver Member

It depends on the story. If it's not a typical whodunnit, the fun or pain might be in knowing the butler did it.

One of the best TV series I've seen is Chernobyl, and most (if not all) of us know what happens. Another brilliant TV series is Better Call Saul. Saul isn't a character in the series for a long time, but anyone who's watched Breaking Bad kind of knows where the main character ends up. But getting there was gripping. Breaking Bad works in a similar way.

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Posted : June 21, 2023 1:51 pm
Posts: 831
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Just for this part of it, Columbo springs to mind as well. Every episode starts with you knowing who did it, and how. The real mystery is in how it will be solved. But one of the strongest things that comes out of that is the dramatic conflict between the culprit and the detective--you watch them going head to head, and you know what one is trying to hide, and the other is trying to unveil. It's something that a traditional whodunnit just can't do as well, because it only really works when you know who the culprit is, and you can have the necessary time devoted to them. What you might consider a spoiler is actually the opposite--it improves the story, rather than spoiling it.

And I think that's the point with regard to the word spoiler. If it spoils the reader's enjoyment of the story, then it's bad--but if it doesn't, then it isn't really a spoiler, no matter what it reveals.

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Posted : June 21, 2023 7:15 pm
Joel C. Scoberg
Posts: 279
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Posted by: @doctorjest

And I think that's the point with regard to the word spoiler. If it spoils the reader's enjoyment of the story, then it's bad--but if it doesn't, then it isn't really a spoiler, no matter what it reveals.

Excellently put

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Posted : June 22, 2023 1:22 am