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The use of Trigger Warnings is kind of a hot topic in the book word lately. Should authors include trigger warnings in their synopsis? What constitutes a trigger for readers? What types of warnings do readers want? What type of warnings are authors willing to give?
I have a lot of my own thoughts and opinions on this topic, which I can’t wait to share. I also reached out to the author community to see how they felt about trigger warnings to get some differing view points on the topic.
So, What is a “Trigger Warning” exactly. According to Merriam-Webster, it is a statement cautioning that content (as in a text, video, or class) may be disturbing or upsetting.
As a reader, I think there are times where this type of warning can play an important role in a book synopsis.
Personally, I feel like a book that includes either extreme violence or graphic sexual encounters should come with an 18 and older warning . . . just like a rated R movie or a video game that has mature content.
Having been a victim of a sexual assault, I also appreciate a warning when a book includes a graphic rape scene or sexual violence. That being said, that type of warning has never caused me to avoid a book. However, knowing that type of situation is involved allows me to mentally prepare myself when reading.
Honestly, those are the only trigger warnings I feel an author needs to post. I feel like those coincide with what we expect from visual media such as tv or movies as well as explicit lyrics warnings for music that is not appropriate for those underage.
While I do not feel an author is obligated to post the following, I can see how readers may be appreciative:
-School Shootings (I understand that falls under extreme violence, but feel that falls in a category all its own since it is typically children involved.)
-BDSM / Erotica / Dark Romance – These are genres many readers choose to avoid. And, I even cringe at calling it a “warning” as it really is a genre.
And, my personal pet peeve, cliff hangers! While I never expect an author to include spoilers in their blurb or give away their plot, having a cliff hanger can be a huge turn off to readers. I personally avoid them whenever possible unless I know the next book is already out or in the works.
Here is what the authors I chatted with had to say about their use of Trigger Warnings.
Amber Lacie said she uses trigger warnings to a certain extent, but doesn’t want to give to much away by giving warnings because it can act as a plot spoiler. While she does not feel that trigger warnings are required because books are listed by intended audience including age range. 18+, she always warns to some degree, because she know what it’s like to experience the anxiety of being set off by a trigger or a situation.
For dark reads, Amber uses the following warning. “Due to the dark and explicit nature of this book, it is recommended for mature audiences only.”
You can check out Amber Lacie’s books by visiting http://amzn.to/2gn9vHN.
Shannon Youngblood said she will put minimal trigger warnings on books, but no longer includes whether or not they are an HEA or not. She does feel there are certain subjects (graphic violence, abuse, rape) where trigger warnings are appropriate.
You can view Shannon Youngblood’s books by visiting http://amzn.to/2eJabHC.
J. S. Frankel’s newest YA novel includes some gruesome violence near the end and some unpleasant descriptions. (For YA, it’s pretty intense). His editor felt he should include a warning that only readers 16 and up should read the book. He has also included a trigger warning for a rape scene in a book, even though it happened “off camera.”
You can check out J. S. Frankel’s work here: http://amzn.to/2wWew4F
Sharon Johnson shared that there is an attempted rape scene in one of her books. It doesn’t last very long but it’s very intense and feels real. She debated if she should put a trigger warning. In the end she did. Sharon said “I didn’t want to be responsible for even one woman freaking out or bringing back bad memories.”
You can find Sharon Johnson’s work by visiting http://amzn.to/2wWduFU.
Lyssa Cole said she uses a small trigger warning, which is “18+ explicit sex.” She will also include there is “sensitive subject matter” in the blurb is she is worried someone may be upset, but does not go into detail on what the subject matter is. She doesn’t feel like she needs to include any additional warnings such if the book is an HEA because she wants people to be surprised by the book.
You can find Lyssa Cole’s work at https://www.amazon.com/Lyssa-Cole/e/B01N5ND2FL.
While I truly appreciated the candor of the authors above, I was a bit surprised at how many mentioned whether or not the book had an HEA was a possible trigger warning . . . I was glad to see that most felt they dd not need to include it.
As a reader, I absolutely adore an HEA, but I don’t feel like that should be a warning, as it can really give too much of the plot away for an author. Is that a warning that readers really expect nowadays? Do they not want any surprise at what is coming for the main characters? Are readers really not willing to buy a good book if it does not end in a happy ever after?
Well, that is my take on Trigger Warnings. I would love to know how you feel about them. Please leave a comment and also let us know if you are commenting as an author, reader or both!
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