A discussion on a previous post has raised the flag again. This flag is a question:
Should novels/fiction have trigger warnings to indicate the potential risk to the reader?
I’ve seen it discussed in reading groups, in social settings, in the library, but I don’t understand a couple of things about the need or desire to put trigger warnings on stories.
One of those is the use of genre to indicate the most likely reader for the story. If I see a book with zombie as part of the genre, I don’t open it. I don’t like zombie stories. Or vampire stories. Or historical stories (except the adventure ones). Never have. I like ghost stories, though there are some paranormal ghosties that go too far, so I might read the blurb and the first few pages to see if it’s going to meet my need for a fix (that will come up later).
I know some stories will trigger me in ways I don’t want to be triggered. Some of those stories are romances — weird, right? But if it’s a romance with a baby, I don’t read them. Not since … well, not since then. It might take me days to get over one of those. Sometimes longer. A mother never forgets.
Why? A story is an emotional connection from word-images to reader. That’s how it’s supposed to be. I sit down, tuck the blanky around my legs, and delve into another life. There will be ups and downs, conflict, tension, pain (at a distance, vicarious, safe). I may even cry and enjoy that release of pressure.
The fix (told you that would pop up later) is an emotional need to live within a moment that creates those highs and lows without risk. We learn through experience, but what we experience in our mind is as strong as what we experience in the real world.
Maybe not exercise, but if they keep telling me it’s possible, I will believe! (maybe I should write it into a story? Hmmm.)
Why do I need to put a warning on the story if the genre is going to reflect the type of story?
Will some readers be offended if I do that? I worry about that.
Will they think I don’t trust them to figure it out? I worry about that, too.
These are my fears. If I put a trigger warning on a dark fantasy and say it’s scary or dark and likely to induce anxiety, even knowing that most people read that genre for that reason, will it have the effect of saving someone, or will it push more people away because I don’t trust them?
I’m not being funny about this. It’s as serious as cultural appropriation (maybe another post for that nugget).
What do you think?
Should writers put trigger warnings on their stories if there’s a chance someone will be overloaded with a nasty moments of anxiety?
How about: Ongoing incidents through the series may evoke anxiety (thanks for the example, L).
Tell me what you think, but remember this:
All comments are monitored, so nasty stuff won’t make it past the gate-keeper, and will be replaced with blank space. I’m a bit wary of posting this discussion, so if it gets too interesting, it will be removed.