Pull my trigger…warning

I’m an amateur. I’m happy to admit that. I’d never heard of “trigger warnings” until recently. Maybe you haven’t either. Thanks, I feel better now. Apparently some authors put trigger warnings in their blurbs, and other places, to warn would-be readers that something that happens in the book may “trigger” a post-traumatic stress reaction in the reader. Oh crap. I thought saying it was 18+ AND had occasional sex scenes was enough. Maybe not. The 18+ rating is for adult concepts. I’m not writing children’s books here. Lots of horrible things happen in my books. When I found out about trigger warnings (and not to ignore that Neil Gaiman has a book called Trigger Warning), I glibly wrote:

“If anything horrible has ever happened to you and hearing about it happening to someone else is going to upset you, don’t read these books.”

It was my first reaction. I didn’t know what else to say, except that there were not enough trigger warnings to cover all the things that happen in my books, and because part of me thought it was ludicrous. I studied PTSD as an elective in my university degree, I have had PTSD, and I like to think I’m a sensitive person, but really… what? How is it possible to put a specific trigger warning on my books? And when I found out that some American colleges are trying to have trigger warnings for course content, I immediately thought “political correctness gone mad”. If PTSD is the basis for a specific trigger warning (e.g. Trigger warning – contains sexual abuse) then all that trigger warning is doing is giving a reader the option to not read a book that contains sexual abuse, but if the basis really is PTSD then a book that doesn’t even mention sexual abuse could trigger a PTSD reaction in a person who has been abused. Someone in a book being assaulted or abused or dying, isn’t necessarily going to be the trigger. It could be the way someone speaks in the book, it could be a smell, it could be a phrase, it could be a sound, it could be a street name, the colour of a shirt, the combination of three words along with a smell and a sound.  It could be anything.

People in my books have been traumatised, people in my books understand trauma, people in my books suffer trauma. They also laugh, and love, and find solace, and have their own ways of dealing with the trauma.  If you read my blog post “I know I’m not you” (and others) then you would understand where my writing is coming from.Without spoiling the plot for you, these books contain a lot of horrible things that actually happen to people every day and while they’re often not described in great detail (I’m not writing horror or dark erotica) they are there.

Interestingly enough, I think most people who’ve read this series are struggling with the polyamorous relationship not the trauma.


3 thoughts on “Pull my trigger…warning

  1. This is such a great topic because I completely agree and struggled mightily with this question for one of my books where there’s a brutal rape. Despite the rape being “off stage,” I found it quite disturbing to write. I put the question of “content warnings” on my blog and got a variety of responses including one person who noted, “Warning, this book has content!” Ha ha. We live in a culture where what’s considered triggering varies. I can see why some parents want to control what their children read, but adults are adults and should be able to self-screen. If you don’t like violence, don’t read violent books, right?

    As I researched the topic of warnings, I came across one follower who shared her recent experience of rape and how she was struggling to regain control of her life and feel safe. Her story was wrenching, and there was no way I wanted her to pick up my fantasy book, get a third of the way through, and be thrust into panic, withdrawal, and depression. My blurb surely points to violence, but doesn’t mention rape. I never considered making a long list of potentially offensive items in the books – that seemed ridiculous. But in the end, I did put a generic warning at the tail of my blurb: “The Bone Wall contains scenes which some readers might find triggering.” I was content with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought the 18+ warning was enough, but maybe it isn’t. When they give warnings for television shows and movies, they too say generic things like “may offend some viewers”, “contains graphic content” or “restricted due to high level sex scenes”, after all they don’t want to spoil the plot. A generic warning may be enough.

    Liked by 1 person

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