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When your readers guess correctly

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Aug. 28, 2021

So you have uploaded your latest page, and it's one of your best.

The story is at a point where the suspense is cranking up to eleven. The plot thickens. Everyone wonders what is going to happen next…

…and then that one fan GETS IT RIGHT. Right there in the comment section!

What do you do?

Whatever you do, DON'T change your plot simply to make it so your webcomic's fan guessed wrong after all. If your plot has a logical and well-built sequence of events, no matter how typically unpredictable, and if you have set up that sequence properly with foreshadowing or cues or clues to what is going on, there WILL be someone who picks up on them and gets it before the reveal.

And that's good. Frustrating as it may be, it's a sign that the plot is well made. It is bad writing to make it impossible for your readers/audience to predict what will happen by simply not buiding up the ‘reveal’ and not giving any clues as to what it may be. And when the reveal happens it doesn't feel earned even if the audience doesn't realize the purposeful omission of substantial buildup.

And yes, there are the stories where a lot of well-worn tropes are used and people can foresee the outcome due to that. But if you do decide to do a story like that and write the tropes straight then you're not going for suspense and people predicting what is going to happen shouldn't be a concern. If it IS a concern, you most likely won't rely solely on tropes or their subversions to build your plot.

So, you have built a genuinely suspenseful story, the Fan That Guesses Right has written out the outcome in the comments, and now you have to handle it somehow (especially if you are in the habit of replying to comments). What would be the way to do it?

The easiest route in my opinion would be to simply reply with “we'll see!” in ALL predictions made in the comments or any theories suggested by the fans. That way it won't be obvious if someone has it right until the reveal, so suspense isn't actually lost. The Fan That Guessed It will simply have bragging rights that they did.

Alternatively, if it's really eating you up that the reveal is there in the comments, you could privately ask the Fan That Guessed It to remove/edit their comment because that's actually correct. I wouldn't go delete it without explanation though, because that would be rude and unfair, possibly making that oh-so-clever-and-dedicated fan who pays attention feel pushed away.

How do you handle it when your readers guess correctly? Have they ever?

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skyangel at 9:50AM, Aug. 29, 2021

I feel it's a nice connection between writer and reader and I don't mind at all when a reader guesses what's coming next but I don't acknowledge they are right until the following page goes up as it could spoil it for others who aren't sure. A little trick I often employ is to give the reader something else to think about on an upcoming page or pages to keep them distracted from focusing too hard where I don't want them to!

PaulEberhardt at 5:48AM, Aug. 29, 2021

Often enough it's a lucky guess, and if it's an informed one, so what? It shows that your readers follow your story closely and like it enough to invest some amount of thought into it. It'll be satisfying for them when they see they guessed right on the later page with the reveal, so why take that away? There will be more plot twists to come and that way you know you can make the foreshadowing a bit more subtle without unduly confusing people. - It used to happen to me several times that readers saw certain gags or what I'd previously thought of as surprises coming, but I learned not to be upset about it and take it as a kind of acknowledgement that we think along the same lines. In the long run it made me more confident, because I stopped worrying so much that people wouldn't get certain gags.

hushicho at 4:41PM, Aug. 28, 2021

I agree entirely with what you've written -- changing the plot because someone happened to guess correctly is a silly thing to do. Not only is it a compliment to your writing and setup that they were even able to do it, but it looks unbelievably petty to try and change something just because someone guessed. Plus, it will usually be more detrimental to your writing than it ever makes you look clever, so it will also be obvious that you changed it at the last minute! It's usually just so much better to keep going as you were.

usedbooks at 3:40AM, Aug. 28, 2021

I love when fans guess right. I love if they try to guess at all. I'm rarely able to engage anyone like that with my writing. I tend to reply with a "we'll see" or "could be" to any guesses, right or wrong. Or, if they go in depth with a theory, I might say it's an interesting assessment. Tbh, that would be the very best "problem" to have. It just doesn't happen to me (maybe twice a decade?).

KAM at 3:35AM, Aug. 28, 2021

In a way stories are like roller coasters. Few people are surprised where the ride ends, but they usually enjoy the ride. ;-)

bravo1102 at 2:40AM, Aug. 28, 2021

Hi, I'm The Fan That Guessed. Just because I figured out WHERE it's going doesn't mean I know HOW it'll get there and the ride is where most of the fun is. As for my stuff? "We'll just have to see but strap in 'cause it'll be a bumpy ride."

MOrgan at 1:51AM, Aug. 28, 2021

There's only so many logical ways a plot can go. The question isn't will someone guess correctly, but how many. ;-) Years ago Toshubi did a fair play murder mystery. But I figured it out by thinking 'which character would have the biggest impact on the story?' I didn't post a guess because I wasn't using the provided clues, but talking to him later he said I should have, he wouldn't have minded that I solved it from a completely different direction.

plymayer at 1:51AM, Aug. 28, 2021

Yep. It's cool in a way but you don't want to spoil it for those who haven't guessed. .''we'll see.'' works or something to that effect.

cdmalcolm1 at 1:31AM, Aug. 28, 2021

Like a game of poker. Which writer will have a poker face to a comment… hummm…

jerrie at 1:22AM, Aug. 28, 2021

I have this one reader, that ALWAYS sees where my stories are going! LOL! my standard answer...''we'll see.''

Kou the Mad at 1:07AM, Aug. 28, 2021

'Stares at the Mass Effect 3 Writers.'

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