I was probably 11 years old, maybe 12, when I dove into Christopher Paolini's Eragon. It was far from my first book- I had loved books since before my own eyes could make sense of the words- but it was my first real book, or at least, sitting strong at just over 500 pages, it felt that way to me. My Dad had already read it and had given his copy to me to read.
Take note of mistake number one: my Dad had already read it.
I was sitting in the backseat of my Dad's van, book in hand (those were the days when I could read in the car without getting a migraine, once upon a time), slowly but surely working my way through the world of Alagaesia. And, as one is wont to do, my Dad started asking me about how far I had read so far.
There is a certain art to asking someone about a book you have already read, a show you have already seen, and movie you have already watched. You must be tactful, subtle, and most important of all, vague. "What is going on with X-character?" "Has anything big happened yet?" "What is happening where you are right now?" All of these are acceptable leading questions to discover how far into a story someone has made it.
My Dad opted for none of them.
"Is X-Character dead yet?"
No. No he was not.
I learned an important lesson that day. When it comes to stories, people who already know what happens are not to be trusted.
As someone who obsessively loves fiction, spoilers are the bane of my existence. Knowing about a major event in a story before it happens takes so much out of the experience for me. So many important moments have been ruined for me, and no matter how long it has been, in some cases years, I am still angry. I will never know the feeling of shock and sadness of reading the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the first time because a friend of mine told me what happened just days after the book was released. When I make it to the end of A Storm of Swords I will not get to experience the jaw-dropping shock of the epilogue because I already know what's coming. I might never finish reading the Divergent Series because I know what happens at the end of the final book (I actually threw a shoe at my wall over that one).
When it comes to stories, there are two types of people in the world. There are the casual readers/watchers who enjoy a story well enough, but it is not particularly important to them. And then there are the passionate readers/watchers, people like me. For us every book we open is a door into a world as real as the one we live in. The characters live and their lives matter. And if they die, it hurts.
Neither type of reader/watcher is better than the other. However, there is something very important that all casual readers/watchers need to remember and remember well: the fact that it is not important to you does not make it okay for you to ruin it for us.
A lot the things that have been ruined for me were ruined simply because they were not important to the other person. It did not effect them much, so they had no problem talking about it as if it is no big deal. But when they did that they stole something important from me, something I can never get back. So please, to all the casual readers/watchers out there, I beg of you to be careful about what you say around people who have yet to read or watch whatever it is you are talking about. Because when you nonchalantly throw spoilers around you are ruining important moments for those of us who do care. You are stealing from us. You are telling us you are not to be trusted.
There are very few things that upset me as much as someone ruining something from a book I'm reading or a show I'm watching. It taints my experience with the book and after it has been done nothing can undo it. I have realized by now how difficult it is to explain to someone who doesn't get it just how big of a deal this is, so instead all I can ask is that you recognize that it is a big deal to me, and to many others. You don't have to understand- believe me, we think you are just as strange for not getting emotionally involved as you think we are for getting so attached. But please, at least respect it. Because if you do ruin something important for us, we will never forgive and we will never forget.