As i’ve seen this happen more than once, what goes through your mind when a big plot twist or piece of the puzzle gets unintentionally spoiled by the fans theorizing the future of the book? Does the rest of the story gets put on temporary hold to try to figure out how to write something new or is the story set in stone no matter what may happen? If someone were to spoil the ending of the entire book completely unintentionally and you were able to experience the reaction, will it change a thing?
Oh, god, no. Never change anything if someone’s guessed something. Nothing good lies in that direction.
Okay, let’s talk - with no specifics - Game of Thrones. If you go into the depths of fandom, Game of Thrones is - to some degree, in some areas - a solved problem. There’s a good selection of fan theories (some of which have come to fruition) which have so much meat on them it was clear they have to happen, or the book would break its structure and become unsatisfying.
These twists are available to anyone who wishes to google for them.
The vast majority of people don’t. So… why change the direction of the story? What’s the point of fucking over the enjoyment of the vast majority of people (i.e. making your story make less sense, as you’re abandoning the already existent thread) for playing gotcha on a tiny fraction of your audience?
(As a quick aside - compare and contrast theorising in a fanbase with actual events in the text that’s being adapted. Clearly, anyone who is watching GoT could have googled the synopsis of the book. Equally, anyone who’s read the books knows the big beats. Does the adaptation change the big beats? If surprise to everyone in your audience is all that mattered, you would. We don’t.)
It’s also worth noting that, while obviously some complain on the nature of the adaptation, most fans of a book generally complain that they wish it was more like the book. In other words, things that surprised them (i.e. differed from their knowledge of the text) were less satisfying. They wanted to see the big dramatic beats, even if they’re stripped of their surprise.
Surprise only matters the first time you read something. For me, any worthwhile piece of literature exists to be re-read, and will open up more upon re-reading. In other words, knowing the twist should add to the re-reading of the book. If it doesn’t, and renders the story less than it was, it’s probably a bad twist - which is one reason why I don’t tend to call them “Plot twists” to myself. I call them reveals. The plot doesn’t contort. It’s merely revealing something in the nature of the world the reader was unaware of.
(As an aside, this means that someone who has guessed successful the direction of the plot is actually effectively skipping to their second read of the book earlier.)
There’s the other side of this as well - not just whether a plot beat has been guessed, but the almost inevitability of a plot beat being guessed. GoT fans have had twenty years to puzzle this out. In that period, a mass communication device emerged which allowed fans to talk to one another and share ideas. This machine would have torn apart any plot.
No one individual needs to guess anything. People can make one step in a chain, and then that step is exposed to thousands of minds. If even one of them can make the intuitive leap to the next step, then it continues. No one person needs to be clever enough to see the whole thing. The internet hivemind is Miss Marple, seeing through the most contorted of machinations.
(In passing, this is one reason why Alternate Reality Games are hard to do, because the mass hive mind will figure almost anything out, almost instantly. Equally in passing, the failure to understand this is another reason why Ready Player One is bad, but that’s irrelevant.)
In other words, the reason why twists are guessable is the same reason they are satisfying. A twist that isn’t foreshadowed sufficiently to give the possibility of being guessed by someone is not a satisfying twist, as it - by definition - came out of nowhere.
To make this specific to my own work. In the case of the biggest and most intricate of my current books, WicDiv, we sell about 18k in monthlies and sell 18k in trades (in the first month of release). That’s our hardcore devoted readership. How many people of them actually read the essays in the WicDiv tags? I’d say 500 at the absolute maximum, and likely a lot less. So for a maximum of 1.3% of our readership, we’d derail a still effective twist for everyone else? No, that would be a bad call.
Especially - and this is key - the people who have chosen to engage with a fandom are aware that they may figure something out. They are trying to figure something out. Why take that pleasure away from them?
In a real way, I think, in long form narrative, pure plot twists which no-one in the world guesses are dead in the Internet age, at least when dealing with any even vaguely popular work of art. You can do them in short form narratives (like a single novel, a single movie and perhaps a streaming TV show they drop in one go) but for anything where you give a fanbase the chance to think, it’s just not going to happen. A creator should be glad their work is popular enough to have enough fans to figure it out.
Yes, I may have overthought this.
But that’s only half the question.
How do I actually feel when someone guesses something that’s going to happen? Well, this is long enough already. Let’s put the personal stuff beneath a cut…