Re: How to deal with comments/questions that would involve spoilers?

So, I recently had someone who probably was just innocently and harmless asking a question on the first chapter of a story I submitted, which normally is all well and good.   However, the seemingly simple question actually had a rather complicated and spoiler response if I answered honestly.   So the first thing that lept into my head (so that no one sees the unanswered question, because even leaving it unanswered or vague might cause spoilers), was PM the person who posted with a vague answer just for him, adding a question on if he wants to know more knowing the spoiler danger, and then remove the comment itself.

But I was just wondering if that was the best way to go about it, or if someone else here has even better ideas for how to deal with questions that if answered honestly, might spoiler things?   

Re: How to deal with comments/questions that would involve spoilers?

This happens to me a lot. More so on Wattpad than on here, but also with my beta readers. Sometimes, it's best to admit you can't answer the question without giving away spoilers.

The author Brandon Sanderson has a common reply to these questions: RAFO, which stands for "read and find out". Basically, it means the reader asked the right question at the wrong time. To answer the question directly would either give away too much information or create even more confusion.

In my case, I get a lot of questions about the magic system. I can usually answer part of the question, either because it's been answered in an earlier chapter, or because the answer exists in my headcanon but hasn't made its way to the page yet. But then another aspect of the question might be part of a planned plot twist later on. In this case, I might answer, "As for the rest, it's too soon to say." :)

Re: How to deal with comments/questions that would involve spoilers?

I'd say answer it. If someone asks a question, it is very likely that others have wondered the same question. Consider the silent majority. Personally, I don't leave that many comments. But I do like reading the comment section, it can be very instructive (and it's often pretty funny). 

That being said, not everyone wants to be spoiled, and everyone has access to the comments. So the best way to answer is with a spoiler tag. That way, those who absolutely want to understand something will have their answer, and those who are willing to wait for an explanation won't be spoiled. Never spoil the entire thing though.

Try not to ignore questions though. Readers, especially those who comments, like interacting with others, including the author. It would be a shame to lose an active reader because you didn't answer their questions (some will drop a story if something doesn't seem to make sense, even if it is explained later on, which is why it's good to at least tell them that there is a legit answer to their question).

Re: How to deal with comments/questions that would involve spoilers?

there are basically only three possible answers, but which way to go should depend on a specific case - all have their advantages and disadvantages.

The first option is to answer in spoiler tags with a comment that people should open the spoiler only if they have no problems with that.
This would allow everyone to decide whether they want to read the spoiler or not.

The second option would be to say that the answer to that question would be a spoiler, and not providing the answer exactly because of that.

The third option is to not answer at all.

Which option to choose would depend on how strongly you feel about answering comments - if you have dozens of comments then ignoring one would be better hidden as if it is the only comment in ten chapters.
And it depends on what is exactly spoilered - the main point of the entire story or a small side-quest joke?