It’s been a season where spoilers are on everyone’s mind. I have a bit of an unusual approach to spoilers. In the case of Avengers: Endgame, which I was planning to see, I did put a little bit of effort into avoiding spoilers, but ended up catching a couple anyway, which bothered me very little. In the case of Game of Thrones, I sought them out, because I was never going to watch the episodes, and would prefer to have some sense of what everyone was going on about!
As a rule, I don’t care if you tell me what’s going to happen. I really only care how it happens.
Spoilers are all about the what. And don’t get me wrong; the what is important. It’s especially important when you are writing something, and trying to avoid harmful tropes – like, say, a woman dying in order to provide motivation for a man, or a black or gay character self-sacrificing to rescue all the white/straight people. Once your what is problematic, you basically have to make sure it’s in a context with a lot of other instances of minority characters who don’t have such things happening to them, so that the problematic thing is outweighed by a lot of other whats. Just looking at the how and justifying the fact that it occurs by having the story require it is not good enough.
But when it comes to my enjoyment of a story, I’m all about the how. I can’t be spoiled by spoilers because what happens matters less to me than how it happens. This affects how I write, as well. Some authors don’t like to plan ahead, because if they know what’s going to happen, they lose motivation, and can’t feel motivated to write it. I prefer to plan ahead, because as a writer, I’m motivated by how it’s going to happen, and how it will feel when it finally does happen.
Oddly, this does affect how easily I can describe my book to people, because pitch lines and queries are mostly about what. Tagaret, a young man of the nobility, gets pushed by his father into a competition for Heir to the Throne of Varin. Nekantor, his sociopathic brother, becomes obsessed with their family’s success and wants to take control over the process. Aloran, their mother’s servant-caste bodyguard, gets sucked into the political conflict while trying to keep the family members safe. I’ve been working pretty hard on how to talk about that! It’s important, though, to try to capture tiny hints of where the how comes from. The cavern city of Pelismara has stood for a thousand years, and the inbred nobles cling to the myths of their golden age as their health declines. A contagious fever breaks loose in the city, which disproportionately affects nobles. Struggles for power in this world are never predictable, because Varin’s society has seven caste levels, each of which has its own culture and views the world in dramatically different ways.
Don’t worry, I won’t tell you how Mazes of Power ends.