Predictable/10

Or: Why I don’t care if I can predict things in books.


If you’ve seen it, you might know that I don’t always read series in order. In a way, this is sort of like a continuation of that post.

A very common criticism I see people give books is something like, “I was able to predict the ending.” I completely understand why many people would find that to be a problem. Part of the appeal of books (I think) is having your expectations shaken. “I didn’t see that coming!” is usually seen as a good thing if pulled off well.

The thing is, though, I don’t necessarily care if a book’s ending is predictable. Sometimes it’s fun knowing that I’ve guessed what’s going to happen. I don’t know how the author will write it. I don’t know how they’ll develop the world, what consequences they’ll decide to show, etc. A book is more than just its plot. Just knowing the plot of, say, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley doesn’t mean I’ve read it. (I haven’t read it yet by the way.) The plot might be very exciting, but the execution and everything else might bore me to tears. Or the complete opposite.

Another small issue I have with the predictable=bad mindset is that it sort of treats all books as needing to have shocking twists and reveals. Or even just red herrings and misdirections. Books like that can be great, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a straightforward story. Some might say that predictable=boring, so they’re less engaged. Understandable. However, like I said earlier, sometimes it’s fun knowing you were right.

When I reread a book, I don’t say to myself, “Yawn. I saw the ending coming from a mile away.” Instead, I become more invested in the book. “Oh, the part is coming up!” “Hey, I never noticed the little clues and bits of foreshadowing the author included in the beginning. That must’ve been pretty neat to catch on a first-time read.” When I read a series out of order, I might already know how an earlier book will end. I don’t know how the book will get to that ending, what the prose will be like, etc.

So the moral of the story is: I don’t necessarily find predictability to be a bad thing. I understand why many others do, though. It’s just not something that bothers me. If anything, it makes me more invested because I don’t have to worry about trying to figure things out. Instead, I can just enjoy the ride. If my expectations are shaken, cool. If they aren’t, oh well…not a big deal.

2 comments

  1. I think another thing to consider is the context of the plot. There are stories that follow traditional beats, as “classic” as they come, but the emotional resonance of the characters and the writer’s execution elevates it above, say, another “take back the throne” plot. If the characters and execution are great, I myself don’t mind it. What comes to mind, in regards to this post, is Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice. While the story is older, it was written at a time when Game of Thrones started to change the fantasy genre.

    That book had all the classic motifs of older fantasy. But its exploration, examination, and characterization made it into a beloved series, despite its traditional elements.

    It’s always interesting to see how one balances originality with execution.

    Great post, Kop!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been coming around to this way of thinking recently. I’m getting over my worries about spoilers or needing to be surprised by everything. There is a genre movie podcast called Switchblade Sisters and the host always says that it’s not WHAT happens but HOW it happens that makes a movie worth watching. It’s easy to apply that to books as well. Just because it’s fairly obvious that a character dies doesn’t mean it’s less interesting to find out how and why if happens.

    And I totally agree with what you said about it being fun to have your guesses confirmed too. Having just read Ship of Magic there were many things that I guessed were going to happen and it was exciting to see them play out.

    Liked by 1 person

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