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On Warnings Before Stories

 

The other day I wrote about writing “hard topics“. I had a discussion about taboo subjects with a few creatives since then and we came across another issue.

Warnings… Yes or No?

Something has come to my attention, recently, that a lot of people are asking for content warnings or trigger warnings on books that have a scene that can be harmful for people who have experienced the specific tragedy/event themself.

Some of the authors that I’ve heard from aren’t very enthused with the idea of having to put such warnings on their books. Some agree that if the reader reads the blurb (the back of the book) and there’s a mention of whatever that could trigger them in that blurb, that it’s enough to let the reader know this might not be a book for them to read.

Other authors comply and say they put a “warning” page in the front of the book if there’s anything that can be triggering. They mention the warning page in the blurb, so if anyone who isn’t interested in the warnings can go ahead and skip it. I’m leaning towards doing this for my own work.

Anyway, a lot of people who are requesting the warnings to be on the books feel that just a synopsis isn’t going to be enough for the reader to know whether or not they’re comfortable with reading the book. Warnings should be made available at an easy access area of the book so they can decide:

A) that they’re ready to read such a scene and

B) that they’re prepared for this scene to occur.

Reading and watching films are, to most, an escape from reality. And if they somehow come across a scene and it triggers a memory of something horrific that happened to them, it can be very overwhelming and hard to continue.

I’m not sure where I really stand on this issue.

On one hand, I understand that people need to be prepared for something that could possibly damage their mental health even more than it already is. I wouldn’t want to cause any more harm on someone who is trying to recover or better themselves. I also don’t want to plant any ideas in people’s minds that are already vulnerable.

But on the other hand, I feel like it’s a form of censorship. You are potentially putting up a spoiler on the first page. Also, having to constantly think about adding a content warning after writing a certain scene* could put the author in an awkward position of whether or not they should even write what they’ve planned to avoid being offensive.

*Side note: I’d also like to know what constitutes as a trigger? What if I didn’t know something I wrote was a trigger and I didn’t put it in the warning list? Would that get me in trouble?

ALTHOUGH…

The most recent film that came out, INCREDIBLES 2, had a special warning because of flashing lights that could cause an epileptic episode. Those warnings were PLASTERED across all doors leading into the theater and at the ticket counter. I feel like that warning was needed and justifiedAnd one could argue, so are trigger warnings for people with living PTSD from various tragic events.

As you know,

I’ve put Trigger and Content Warnings above my posts so I can make sure my readers are okay and prepared for what they’re going to read. I want to be reader inclusive when it comes to my stories. So, I know if something could upset someone; I’ll put it out there as a heads up.

My warnings don’t contain spoilers just one or two words that categorizes a certain trigger.

For example: Content warning: Suicide.

Final Words:

I want to put my final thoughts with an artist’s perspective: I’m okay with putting up Content Warnings and Trigger Warnings as a precaution.

But, will we stop at warnings? Will there be more restrictions that certain topics should not and cannot be written or filmed about?

How far are we willing to go and are we willing to stifle people’s creativity?

Those are just my thoughts and I would love to open a discussion with you about what you think should be happening in the comments below!

Thank you for reading!

-Emi

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