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FOR READERS: Trigger Warnings



Today’s reader topic comes from QSFer Wendy Rathbone:

For readers and writers: If a book is sufficiently blurbed and tagged for explicit content and dark themes do you still need trigger warnings? Why? And trigger warnings that contain spoilers: yay or nay?

Writers: This is a reader chat – you are welcome to join it, but please do not reference your own works directly. Thanks!

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5 thoughts on “FOR READERS: Trigger Warnings”

  1. I would say yes to trigger warnings. Yes, you might think that you’ve successfully covered the warning in your blurb but everyone one reacts differently, different things can trigger different people for the same thing so you can’t really know if you’ve covered every reader’s trigger in your blurb. I think spelling it out in warnings is thoughtful for everyone

  2. I quite honestly can’t believe that this question is even being raised. No, tag “dark themes” is not enough. I, as a reader, should not have to guess what exactly does author or publisher mean by “dark themes”. If there’s graphic violence or non-con, reader should be warned about it.

  3. You can put all the very specific tags and warnings( including every type of sex act) you want – without giving the plot away – and there will still be readers who will write reviews expressing his or outrage at the content of the book and their ‘shock’ at not having realized what they were getting into. A ‘trigger’ warning, however, may very often compromise the plot- as specific situations developing from the elements embedded in the elements already expressed in the tags and warnings are (or should be) essential to the plot. So, my point is: if the tags and warnings put you off, don’t read the book. If you do, and you are distressed by a ‘trigger’ – too bad.

  4. I’m a little split on this. I have a book coming out (currently in editing) set in an area ruled by what is effectively a gang. Rape is common, and sometimes on display. I don’t write the “blow by blow” commentary, and the first order on business in the book is revolution. That ruling group is violently removed from power (spoilers-) by about a third into the book, lingering followers later to be hunted down by a mass mob of the once-oppressed.

    On the blurb, I refer to the baddies using “abuse” and “humiliation” as their normal methods.

    Is that sufficient warning? I’m a little nervous about how to handle it. In the previous book in the series, I made references to this area’s past, andbI felt I had to confront it, fight through the awful so that series can move past it.

  5. 1984 was a disturbing read. How would we craft a trigger warning for that novel? Torture? Check. Mind Control? Check. Non-con? Of course. When is “real” torture ever consensual? When is torture not violence? Yes, we’d have to classify 1984 with all of those warnings, and since it is such a disturbing story, it seems we might also be wise to add a parental advisory – not for children under the age of… 18? 21? Would the terms “mature content” cover it? What about coarse language? Should we mention that? How far should something like this go? What about two men kissing? Two women? Trans? Could those be “triggers” for some people?

    When we read a book we take our chances. If we’re lucky, the book speaks to us. If we’re very lucky it disturbs us and takes us somewhere we might otherwise not go. When was the last time you read a book that shook you to the core? To ask the authors (or publishers) of works to provide me with a list of reasons I might find myself upset should I read a work, strikes me as being far out of bounds. Now, more than ever, the public can step forward and comment on a work. If there are triggers to be found in a work, without a doubt you’ll find them listed there.


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