I plan to ask a question shortly. So far I've described elements from the plot and a description of the characters but what should I do about spoilers?

Obviously asking

"Space opera, floppy-haired hero fights man in black"

is a less obvious match than

"Space-opera, floppy-haired hero fights man in black who turns out to be his father"

But surely it has the potential to spoil the film for future viewers. What to do?


3 Answers 3


You should definitely include spoilers. The two biggest reasons that I can think of are:

  1. The spoilers or plot twists are usually very memorable if done well. This means that the spoiler or plot twists are more likely to lead to a correct identification. I'm not an expert on the work you give in your example. When I read the first description It wasn't clear to me what story you were referencing. When I read the second description with the spoiler it was obvious to me what work you were referencing:


  2. In all seriousness, to help identifying a work you really need to give all the details you can recall. Purposefully withholding information is contrary to this objective.

I suppose you could hide spoilers under spoiler markdown, but it seems to me that many people who haven't read/seen the work will look at the spoiler to see if they can help identify it. This means that people interested in the other parts of the description will end up peeking at the spoiler text, and thus spoiling a work they might want to read/see after it is identified.

  • 4
    +1 for point #2. If you're actively trying to prevent people from knowing information that could help them identify your Story-ID then you're a muppet.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 17:44

As others have said, do include as much information as possible, so do include it somewhere.

But should it be in a spoiler tag?

  • No need if it's routine, something like "hero beats baddies", not a memorable twist, like "Space opera, floppy-haired hero fights man in black and destroys planet-killing super-weapon". You need that info about the planet-killing super weapon somewhere prominent, and it's not a surprising twist that the hero saves the day. Even if someone reads the question thinking it's something else, the fact that in this film the good guys win is unlikely to stick in the brain and spoil anything if they do come to watch it.
  • Do bother if you do remember it being a big, memorable twist, because people will be clicking on the question who haven't yet figured out if the thing you're asking about is something they've seen or not, and these sorts of things are very hard to forget when you see them. But, give as many clues as possible around the spoiler tag, about what sort of twist or surprise it is.

For example:

Space opera, floppy-haired hero fights man in black who reveals shocking secret

I saw this in the 70s in cinemas, I've never heard anything about it since so it probably wasn't very successful.

There was a space hairdresser and a cowboy. The guy has got a tinfoil pal and a pedal bin. His enemy was like a robot dressed in black. He also did something inappropriate with his sister. There's some link with Lego. Maybe they were all made of Lego.

The hairdresser kills the bad guys and finds a way to blow up a big thing of death.

I think there was a sequel where he fought the robot. There was a big confrontation scene with a dramatic plot twist where the robot told the hairdresser:

That he had been dead all along. Or maybe he was his father. One of those two.

The hairdresser didn't like this news very much. Later (another sequel?) he goes to live happily ever after on a planet of teddy bears.

There was also a scene where the cowboy had a shootout with an alien in a bar, but I don't remember who shot first.

With credit/apologies to The Thick Of It

  • +1 for Peter Capaldi and my favourite SW review :-D
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 14:18
  • 1
    Bwa ha ha! Best summary of Star Wars ever. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 11:48

Yes, include spoilers (behind spoilertags if you want).

Spoilers may be necessary in order to correctly identify a story: a particular kind of twist ending might be a story's most distinguishing characteristic. (For example, take Neil Gaiman's American Gods: various elements of the story are similar to Joanne Harris's Runemarks or Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, but the ending is enough to distinguish it from these, so that's what we'd want to see in a story-ID question about it in order to narrow down the list of possibilities.)

Also, anyone who's able to answer a story-ID question will likely have read/seen the work in question, so they won't care about spoilers. As for other people reading the Q&A: if they already know the work, see above; if they don't, they won't recognise it anyway and so won't be spoiled much by a full description of it. So I'm not even sure how useful spoilertags would be. Probably mainly for people who are actually in the middle of the story, so they know how it starts but not how it ends - or perhaps people who get reading/watching recommendations from interesting-sounding ID questions on SE.

  • 3
    I disagree with the last paragraph "anyone who's able to answer a story-ID question will likely have read/seen the work in question, so they won't care about spoilers". Most people won't know for sure if they've seen or read the work being asked about until after they've clicked and read the body of the question. Most details will be easy to forget but not if it's a Luke's parentage / Sixth Sense style huge twist Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 9:59

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