Book rapture and Anxiety over spoilers

Mar 15, 2021 10:12 pm

My friends and readers,

I have two main topics for this newsletter.

I'll begin with the topic of Book Rapture.

Did you ever notice that there's a point at which you become enthralled with a book?

I'm reading one now that has me enraptured. Usually such books are, like the present one, well-written history, but fiction can also capture my attention in a way that makes me loathe to put the book aside for any length of time. My own observation is that it is between the 10 and 20 percent progress marks that a book will enlist me to march forward with ardor and commit to ascend every paragraph and to assail every chapter. It's a good feeling, like the second or third sip of a hot herbal tea that warms both body and spirit with the promise of more delight to come.

I have finished the book that provoked me to wonder about the book rapture idea. It was fabulous and held my interest all the way through. In addition, I finished reading a rather long short story by Algernon Blackwood, "Wendigo," today. I very much enjoyed the way he told the story, and the words he wove into the fabric, texture, and color of the account. I'm going to have to explore more books by this author.

As for the second topic - Anxiety Spoilers

A member of a fb group to which I used to belong made a post indicating that authors should give spoilers to cure the reader's anxiety about what's going to happen in the book. The poster wanted to be sure that all the characters were going to be ok, and come through the book in a satisfactory matter.

Did I hear that correctly? This person wants to know before hand how the story is going to conclude for the characters? Perhaps this person doesn't really understand what reading fiction is all about. Of course, I did not respond--because idiots and the mentally ill should not be harassed. The fiction author's obligation is to take the reader on an exciting journey. Uncertainty and some anxiety about characters for which we have come to care is part of what makes the journey exciting. Uncertainty and anxiety keeps me turning the pages. If I want to know what happens--and I do if the story is doing what it is supposed to do--then I have to keep reading, turning the pages and journeying along with these characters. The very idea that a reader would want to know that nothing bad is going to happen to the characters before the book even begins flies in the face of reason, insults the intelligence, and, frankly, invites a punch in the face or at least a series of hitsies to the shoulder. If bad things don't happen to the characters, if their lives or things precious to them are not put in some kind of jeopardy, what's the point? A "story" requires certain elements without which it becomes nothing more than a jumble of miscellaneous facts. We need characters who face risks. We hope they will overcome, and we suspect that they will, but the journey they take and the costs they pay are more trenchant, engaging, and penetrating for the reader when the outcome remains uncertain. Naturally, I could say more, but I'm pretty sure I've said too much already.

Finally, let me add two things.

First, I received a great note from a reader who had read and reviewed Smoke last year. He informed me that he re-read it during his quarantine and enjoyed it all over again. It's nice to know that one of my books can bring delight to a reader even after they already know how it ends. I hope that doesn't eviscerate everything I wrote in the previous paragraph about spoilers. I think it means that Smoke is an excellent book. My point is that authors love to be told when their work delights a reader. Let the authors know when that happens. Post a review, and send them a note. Do let me know when you've enjoyed one of my books. I even like to know if you didn't.

Last but not least (I'm laying on the cliches pretty thick in this issue), I have finished writing Promise of Carnage and Flame, book 4 in the Tomahawks and Dragon Fire series. Maybe next month I'll tell you how to get it. I also plan to address the pressing issue of fortune cookie promises.

In the meantime, drop me a line. Let me know what good books have enraptured you and why. Do you disagree with my position on anxiety spoilers? Let me know.


Stanley Wheeler

avatar Budd Trippet
Currently enjoying Smoke, I won it in David John Butler’s sweepstakes. Thank you for signing the book and I am enjoying the dialogue and atmosphere. I just read a sample from your Tomahawks and Dragons series. The scene with young Colonel Washington caught my imagination. I recently finished Joe Ellis’s book “His Excellency” and now I need to read your series well done Mr Wheeler, well done!