a hard pill to swallow: if an audience can pick up on where the story is going, it’s a good story.
A kinda related note i hope you don’t mind me adding on: one of the most life-changing bits of story advice i ever received was actually in a class on “Revenge and Vengeance in the Ancient World,” if you can believe it. The professor was talking about how everyone in ancient Greece knew all the Greek myths back to front and told them over and over again - and someone asked why they would keep retelling the same stories if they already knew they ended.
She explained that basically it wasn’t the ending that was the most suspenseful or exciting part, but how you got there. This is why The Iliad spoils its own ending in the opening lines. This is why we have so many different retellings of Shakespeare, of Arthurian legends, of fairy tales.
There are no truly original stories or truly unpredictable endings. So, IMO, it’s better to focus on how you as a writer/filmmaker/artist/whatever can bring something new to the body of the story rather than trying to shock and mislead your audience.
We have this misplaced focus now on “preserving the surprise” that comes out in really obvious ways like the Game of Thrones finale and Marvel’s slow decline as they refuse to tell their actors or composers anything that they could actually use to add depth to the story… but I find it really interesting the subtle ways this focus has affected our media without us even realizing as well.
I’m currently catching up on an Animorphs podcast by @dorkbajirchronicles, and a ton of places online recommend to new readers to read two of the books out of publishing order in order to preserve this one big reveal, so that’s what they did… and it fell SO FLAT. The casters ended up concluding that maybe it’s just because the series is geared toward kids and they’re adults, but I think the real explanation is that the reveal ISN’T what people think it’s meant to be.
When the readers find out with the characters (out of publishing order), yes it’s a huge reveal… but it feels cheap, because it’s not meant to happen in this way. We are meant to find out ten books prior and spend the next chunk of time positively WRITHING with this giant chunk of knowledge that the characters don’t have!! It is so much more weighty that way!! The pull for us isn’t the surprise of finding out at the same time as them - it’s the intrigue of ‘I know this thing that they don’t know and WHEN are they going to find out??? HOW are they going to find out??? ARE they going to find out??? How will they react???’
And I think that set of questions - the I SEE IT COMING BUT WHEN AND HOW - are what we’ve slowly lost in recent years. The best stories are re-consumable even when we know what’s going to happen. If the only hook is that people don’t know where you are going, and there’s no foreshadowing so they can’t even try to predict it… you’re doing a bad job.
also attempting to make your ending always a surprise tends to result in either your ending just coming off as really dumb, or it not actually being that much of a surprise, which makes all the hype about the twist feel pointless.