Sheila Lowe, MS, mystery writer and forensic handwriting analyst
I’ve spent a significant portion of the last couple of days od’ing on the second season of the Netflix series, House of Cards; four episodes to go. I detest most of the characters and feel like I’m watching a train wreck, but I can’t turn away. That’s good writing. In the first episode of the season there’s a big shocker that I would not dream of sharing with viewers who hadn’t yet seen it. Every review I’ve seen carries a big SPOILER ALERT.
Downton Abbey was one of my favorite shows for the first three seasons, but I’m not watching it anymore. Someone who had seen the first few episodes of season four told me about an upcoming plot line that I just did not want to see, or the fallout from it in subsequent episodes. The person in the know made sure I really wanted to hear about it before making the reveal (a spoiler alert).
Some people don’t want to be surprised. They read on past the spoiler alert because they want to know what’s coming. Others stop at that warning and go no further. But the warning gives them the choice.
Until recently, Amazon required reviewers to put a Spoiler Alert warning at the top of any review that contained “tells” about significant plot lines. That has changed. I found out the unpleasant way.
I’m sure I'm not the only author who semi-regularly checks her reviews, and that’s how I discovered the offending comment tucked inside a back-handed compliment regarding my current book, WHAT SHE SAW: “The premise of the story was good, including memory loss and XXXX (redacted because it’s a friggin’ spoiler), but it lacked the punch that Ms. Lowe’s previous novels held.” Okay, so the person wasn’t crazy about the book and gave it only three stars. Fine, that’s their opinion. It’s got a healthy number of five star reviews, too. But why did this reader have to spoil it for others? Spite? Ignorance? Insensitivity? Indifference?
Anyone reading the full comment would have no compelling reason to read the book because this line gives away one of the most important plot points. I was unable to resist adding a comment (yes, I know, it’s not recommended) asking the reviewer not to put a spoiler without a spoiler alert. Then I emailed Amazon and asked them to remove the review. Amazon failed to respond. I wrote to them again and finally got the answer that Amazon no longer requires readers to post spoiler alerts.
Any thoughts from the standpoint of reader or author? Do spoiler alerts matter to you, or am I making a big deal out of nothing?