Typing Faster

July 30, 2009

The Beauty of Spoilers: There are no spoilers in this post…though there should be!

Filed under: Craft — petertypingfaster @ 8:00 am

A lot of people don’t like spoilers. They want to watch an episode of their favorite show with fresh eyes. They want to be surprised at the twists and turns the writer’s woven into the story.

I’m not one of those people.

And I’d argue that if you’re an aspiring screenwriter, you shouldn’t be one either.

As an aspiring screenwriter, whenever you watch anything, you should be working. You should be tearing it apart to figure out what makes it tick. You should be trying to understand why the writers put that scene there, that character there, and that line of dialogue there.

When it comes to television (or features), you should emulate a young sociopathic serial killer who goes around butchering small animals to “see how their insides work.” That’s what you need to be doing to every piece of media you come across. Butchering it mercilessly to see how it all fits together.

You’re not watching it to be entertained. Entertainment’s a byproduct, not the end goal. You’re watching it to better your craft.

Spoilers can help you do that.

If you know what’s going to happen, then you can put away your shock and awe when it does happen, and instead focus on the HOW and WHY it happened. Knowing what happens ahead of time will cut down the time it takes you to analyze a given show. Being spoiled means less work for you in the long run.

Because if you haven’t been spoiled on a show, then to really analyze it, to really tear it apart, you’re going to have to watch it a couple of times at least. If you go and read an in depth review before you watch it, you can cut at least one viewing from your analysis time.

And at the end of the day that’s the biggest argument for spoilers.

It saves you time. Loads and loads of time.

It saves you time so you can write more. And believe me the fastest way for you to improve as a writer, the fastest way for you to get to that point where you’re getting paid to be a writer, is to write as much as you can.

“Ass-in-seat” time is a precious, precious commodity.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take the best television show of all time, The Wire. It’s deep. It’s complex. And there’s no way in hell you’re going to catch everything that’s going on behind the scenes if you’re watching it with fresh eyes.

If you haven’t seen it yet, this is what I want you to do. Go out and rent the first season. Pop in the first episode and watch it cold. Good, right? Feel you’ve learned something? Excellent!

Now go over here and read this. Now watch the second episode. Learned a bit more when you were watching it that time? I certainly did!

Could you do this the other way around? Watch the episode and then read the spoilers? Of course you could, but you still lose a lot of the immediate analytical benefit watching the episode blind. In other words, you’re going to wind up being able to analyze the other persons critique, but not necessarily have anymore insight into the episode itself.

So what’s my final recommendation (in case it’s not blindingly obvious by now)?

Embrace the spoiler. The spoiler is your friend.



  1. Respectfully, you also need to be aware that not everyone who reads your posts on various media sources is a) an aspiring screenwriter, or b) YOUR KIND of aspiring screenwriter. Whether or not you think it is best for writers to go in cold, you have to respect that most people (writers or not) don’t want to hear a spoiler, and that the conscientious thing to do is to warn them that you may be giving a spoiler, at least that way they can make the decision for themselves. I will never give up wanting to be entertained by television and movies. If I lose that desire to be engaged, so will I lose the reasons I have to want for wanting to entertain others. If that means I have to watch a show 6 times in order to analyze it, so be it. If there are some shows I choose to shut my brain off and just enjoy, I’d say that’s my prerogative, and would appreciate any future spoiler warnings people choose to offer.

    Comment by Rachel Langer — July 30, 2009 @ 8:17 am

  2. You’re absolutely right when it comes to the etiquette of spoilers, people should offer up spoiler warnings in order to preserve a readers choice in the matter.

    This post wasn’t intended as a commentary on the etiquette of spoilers, but as an argument that aspiring writers shouldn’t be afraid of spoilers, that spoilers can, in fact, help their writing. Of course it’s not an approach for everyone, but it’s one that I think is worth trying.

    It’s an opinion. No more, no less.

    Comment by petertypingfaster — July 30, 2009 @ 9:21 am

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