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Speak To Me Of Spoilers [Apr. 16th, 2011|04:34 pm]
I'm going to relaunch Elcenia soon. By my estimates, unless I cut out a decent chunk of content, the material already written will (when condensed and rewritten) comprise 7 (possibly 8) novels, 7 series of novellas/shorts, 12 standalone novellas, and 6 individual short stories.

A lot of these things take place concurrently, or partially concurrently. The first three things I'm going to write - a novel titled "Summons", a five-novella series titled "Blood", and a three-novella series titled "Silver" - overlap considerably. Summons begins at the chronologically earliest point I plan to cover; Blood starts during Summons but ends close to the last chronological point I plan to cover. (Some things happen in other stories after the end of Blood, but they're mostly either on another continent or a "next generation" sort of thing.) Silver starts near where Summons ends, and ends during Blood. All of these stories share significant numbers of characters, too, although they're focusing on different plot threads. Subsequent stories form similar overlapping clusters.

Speaking of characters...

Dear lord does Elcenia ever have a lot of characters. I was once challenged to name 50 of them from memory. I did 200. Without looking anything up. (I did name several dead characters to achieve this feat, but I also left out a bunch whose names I couldn't remember readily.) Even if I pare away as many extraneous individuals as I can, there's still a lot of characters. Oh god so many characters.

I cannot do without some form of character reference here. I mean, I know who everybody is and if you give me a big enough sheet of paper I could get at least 60% of them onto a single family tree from memory. But my readers would be lost, the poor lambs.

I don't know, though, how to make the character reference interact with spoiler potential.

For example: take a character I'll call Sister so you don't know who she is later on when you read Elcenia. Sister has a long-lost brother who I'll call Brother. While this relationship is (intended to be) fairly obvious once Brother is introduced, it is not something you know about Sister when she is introduced. If someone opens up the first chapter of Summons, meets Sister, and then goes and looks her up in the character reference, her page must not state the correct number of brothers that she has, because that's a spoiler for a later revelation. So such a page must either lie about or omit Sister's sibling-having status.

But, after this information is made known, the spoiler-safe page is actively misleading. The reference page is there to help readers keep track of the characters: there is a nonzero chance that a reader who looks up Sister has read past the revelation about Brother, but is having enough of a challenge keeping track of the cast list that ey will be badly misled by a spoiler-free page.

I don't know how to model the spoiler-averse brain, because I don't have one (the government took away the one I was studying, and its mason jar too). Somebody who doesn't like spoilers, please tell me what you would like a character reference page for Sister to look like so I can decide on how to present this type of content.

[User Picture]From: lienne
2011-04-16 08:53 pm (UTC)
Advantages of web content: you can tuck spoilery information away under a button or black-on-black text or some similar trick. I'm spoiler-averse in some contexts, and I'd be happy with a page on Sister that had something like "Siblings: So-and-So, Other Dude, Brother."

Alternately, for people even less fond of spoilers than I am, have an entire "Spoilers" section at the end of every character page that lists all the information about that character that is explicitly concealed from the reader at the time of their introduction. Maybe even broken down by when it is revealed.

(And of course LJ decides to strip formatting in the comment, but not in the preview. Lovely.)
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[User Picture]From: alicorn24
2011-04-16 11:26 pm (UTC)
So it's not a problem for spoiler-hater to be able to see that there *exists* a secret about Sister's siblings?
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[User Picture]From: lienne
2011-04-16 11:40 pm (UTC)
I can see how it might be for someone who hates spoilers a lot more than I do, but for me and people whose spoiler-aversion is on roughly my level, it isn't.
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[User Picture]From: tremensdelirium
2012-10-16 07:47 pm (UTC)
Hmm... I'd say that knowing there is a secret is not a problem, unless knowing that there is a secret makes it trivially guessable.

If you said there was a secret about Sister's siblings, I'd assume that she had a sibling that she did not know about. If that's what you're worried about "spoiling," then I'd suggest getting more general; perhaps you can say that there is a secret about Sister's relatives.
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[User Picture]From: mantic_angel
2011-04-16 08:54 pm (UTC)
With a bit of JavaScript, it would be pretty easy to make a webpage that has a description and a "click to reveal spoilers". With even less programming, you could do what TV Tropes does and just put the spoilers as white text on a white background.

You could also just put the spoilers on a separate page, and thus have the "spoiler free" and "spoiler-ific" cast pages.

While I'm spoiler-adverse, I also basically never use reference material and can't track a cast of more than about a dozen, so I'm unfortunately not ideal for providing actual advice, just some suggestions of what I've seen :)
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[User Picture]From: adelenedawner
2011-04-16 11:08 pm (UTC)
Thirding the idea of harnessing the power of the internet to make information available in a modular way. Knowing that you don't code, though, I'd suggest having separate lists, either on a per-work or per-chapter basis.
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[User Picture]From: thepokeduck
2011-04-17 10:24 am (UTC)
I find that when a story has a ton of characters a character reference is very useful.

As a spoiler averse person, I occasionally do receive spoilers from the indexes, and may be upset, but still find the story enjoyable, and certainly don't fault the author for wanting to write a helpful guide.
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[User Picture]From: tremensdelirium
2012-10-16 08:09 pm (UTC)
The idea of putting a reference online with expandable spoilers makes a lot of sense - there's no reason you couldn't do that and put just one version in the book itself.

Another unconventional technique you might consider is using something like Homeric epithets. For example, in the Iliad, there are two characters named Aias: The first, who is really big and from Telamon, is often called something like Telamonian Aias or Giant Aias. The second is called Aias son of Oïleus, Oïlean Aias, or Locrian Aias.

While once we've learned that Telamonian Aias is big, calling him Giant Aias doesn't give any new information, it does help us remember which Aias is in this battle scene, by giving a trait that's relevant to the action.

Other characters who don't share names are also given epithets, which help remind you who they are by linking them to their distinctive characteristics, places of origin, or relatives. So Achilles gets the epithets swift-footed, son-of-Peleus, man-breaker, lion-hearted, and godlike., while Agamemnon is son-of-Atreus and lord-of-men.

It shouldn't be to hard to use only epithets that refer to past events, not future ones.
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