My honors student is planning out her thesis and is looking for enjoyable short stories (that are in the public domain, preferably) that end in a twist. Details (and a few spoilers!) inside.
We are interested in the effect of spoilers on the enjoyment of stories. A study (PDF
) was published a couple of years ago (and made it to the blue
, with much heated discussion) in which it was shown that readers rated short stories with surprise or twist endings (think "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge") as more enjoyable when the ending was given away than when the ending was not given away. We are interested in replicating these findings and testing their limits, as well as seeing what kinds of characteristics or readers might influence the extent to which spoilers increase or decrease enjoyment of spoiled stories. The kinds of stories we want tend to fall into two categories: those in which a character is suddenly revealed to be something that the character (and the reader) didn't realize (like The Sixth Sense
, where we learn near the end that the protagonist has been dead throughout most of the film), and those in which a character's fate suddently (and probably unexpectedly) changes, like in O. Henry's "The Last Leaf", in which a dying woman gets unexpectedly better. Because of our interest in these two types of stories in particular, we don't think we're just going to use the same stories that were used in the original study.
Finally, we'd like each story to be readable by a "normal" reader in about 10-15 minutes. Each participant in our study (which we will begin this fall, with recruitment being done primarily via MTurk
) will probably read three short stories, and we'd like the whole study to take each person less than 45 minutes.
Thanks in advance for your suggestions!