Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spoilers: a Storyteller's Nightmare

Credit: Brian0918
Recently, I was shocked to discover that one of my most beloved Lit. professors reads the last page of a book first!  I know for some of you, this may be a matter of course, but I have never been able to bring myself to practice this reading habit, and think I never will.  But my opinion on whether or not this is "ethical" (literarily speaking, of course) is not the point of this post.

After recovering from the shock of the moment, I had somewhat of a writing revelation!

Over the past year or so, my writing tastes have changed.  As a younger student, I was happy to write anything.  I enjoyed piecing together words for almost any kind of assignment: argumentative papers, reports, reviews, stories, poems, speeches, etc.  But more recently, I have enjoyed writing research-based prose less and less.  My professor's comment today made me realize why.

Research papers have built-in spoilers! 

Conventionally, a scholarly writer includes the thesis statement of a paper near the end of their very first paragraph, giving away their final conclusion almost before the argument has begun.

As a story teller, and someone who enjoys even small measures of suspense, this ruins the whole process.  It is much less fun to read, in my opinion, when I know how it all ends.  And it makes less sense for me to write this way the deeper I get into creative writing.  How can someone understand my conclusion if they haven't taken the journey I took to get there as I describe it in my paper?  Does the end of a story make sense, is it as meaningful, before we hear the story itself?

Fortunately, I won't be writing too many more research papers in the foreseeable future.  My formal studies have nearly come to an end.  But I thought this revelation about my own composing process and motivations for writing was encouraging and interesting enough to share with you.

From a favourite YA series of mine,
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.
Image Credit: Alice Rosen

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below: Do you read the last page first?  Why or why not? 

(If you do, don't feel bad.  Lit. professors do it too!)
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