What constitutes a spoiler?

I don't know.

 

As I've gotten more and more involved in reviewing, it's become increasingly worrying.

Are my reviews spoilery? 

How can I tell?

 

In general, I'm the worst person to determine what constitutes a spoiler.  I routinely drop off a TV show wagon and keep up-to-date by occasionally reading the Wikipedia page.  If there's a movie or book hitting the conversational stratosphere that I have no plans on reading, I get someone to summarize it for me. For example, I got someone to explain basically the entire series of Breaking Bad to me. Never going to see it, but hey, interesting idea. Unless it's a mystery (and I loosely define anything vaguely mysterious or detective-ish as a mystery, including most of the UF I read), I'm far more interested in the execution than the conclusion.

 

I recently ran across a television "manifesto" of spoilers, but I haven't been able to dig up an equivalent for books.  Books, are, obviously, rather trickier, as they are far more timeless.  There's no expiration date on the surprise of a book.

 

So over the last few years, I've cobbled together my own guidelines.  I'm not sure if they're "correct" (i.e., generally palatable), and I'd be willing to change them.

 

What I do spoilertag:

  • The murderer! (in murder mysteries)
  • The conspiracy! (in mysteries)
  • The ending/resolution
  • The outcome of romantic tensions
  • Murder victims past about 20-25%
  • Themes that can be perceived only in retrospect

What I don't spoilertag:

  • Anything that happens in the first 10-20% of the book
  • General events that don't seem, to me, to elicit suspense
    • Locations
    • Story types (mystery, political intruigue, comedy of manners)
    • Humorous or touching events or quotes
    • Historical events
  • Basically anything that happens in nonfiction
  • Events from previous books (although I occasionally attempt to be cryptic)
  • Unsatisfactory aspects of plot resolutions (I'm hit-and-miss on this one)
  • Characters or types of characters that are introduced
  • Irritation with character bloodbaths
  • General themes that I see the story as exploring

The "themes" aspect is probably the most worrying.  Should those types of things be spoiler-tagged? I don't know.

 

There has to be some line between complete uninformativeness and spoilers, yes?

Because if you take "no spoilers" to its logical conclusion, then you should pick up all your books in a brown paper wrapper with no previous knowledge of the title, author, or plot, yes?


Argh.  There should be a guideline somewhere.

Does anyone know of a good one?