Should Novels Carry Trigger Warnings?

Is this the future for books?

How would you react if you found warning stickers suddenly appearing on covers of novels? Or you saw notices stationed alongside displays of the latest releases, alerting you these books have “emotional content” or “contain scenes of violence”?

I’ve been following a Facebook group discussion on these issues in response to a question by the author Louise Beech. Louise explained that she’d been contacted by someone who’d been “triggered” by content in one of her books and questioned whether there should have been a warning.

Most of the group members (a mix of authors, readers and bloggers) were strongly against the idea of “trigger warnings”. A few people pointed out that they could spoil key plot developments and ruin the suspense. Others questioned the practicality of including warnings: would they have to be on the cover, or would it be enough to place them on the copyright page or somewhere at the back of the book?

More than one of the author members said they would find it impossible to cover every eventuality since different people are affected by different things.

As Louise said it’s a tricky question:

I fervently hope the concept of trigger warnings doesn’t gain traction. It’s not simply a question of aesthetics though I don’t welcome the thought of buying books emblazoned with warning stickers. It’s more a concern about what’s often referred to as the law of unintended consequences. That you take an action for the best of intentions, but the outcome has far wider impact than anticipated.

Authors are not irresponsible people. They don’t set out deliberately to offend or cause distress. But many do publish content that challenges attitudes and opinions or draws attention to issues that might otherwise be over-looked. If their publishers had to ensure “suitable” warnings were inserted into the resulting novel, isn’t there a danger that they become more cautious? Less inclined to take a risk with “challenging” material, particularly from debut authors.

There is also the issue about what to include and what to exclude. There are so many topics that could be considered triggers. What disturbs one reader, will not have the same effect on another.

I fully accept that someone who has been the victim of domestic abuse, for example, would not want to read about that type of situation in a novel. No more than someone who has been the victim of rape, or suffered abuse as a child, or endured a severely traumatic incident, would appreciate those scenarios replayed in fiction.

Some publishers do try to flag these topics with a message along the lines “this book contains content that may upset some readers.” But what I’m sensing now, is a suggestion that this is not enough; that more specific and visible warnings are required.

But how does a publisher know where to draw the line? To anticipate every possible scenario, and reflect them all in warnings is surely impractical. Yet if they leave something out, they’re exposing themselves to criticism – and in extreme cases – potential litigation.

The experience of the food industry shows what can happen when a key piece of information is omitted from ingredient labelling. In 2018 the Pret a Manger chain was as at the centre of controversy following the death of a teenager from an allergic reaction after eating one of their baguettes. The label failed to list sesame (to which she was allergic) as an ingredient. Though the company was not required by law to provide a comprehensive ingredient list because the item was made on the premises, Pret’s reputation still suffered.

In a highly litigious nation, like the USA, would the requirement for trigger warnings, make publishers considerably more risk averse? Afraid to leave anything out just in case at some point, a reader threatens to sue because some content, about which they were not warned, caused a severe reaction?

The problem we’re faced with is how one of balance. How do you safeguard vulnerable people without trying to wrap all of society in a protective shield? How do you reconcile a well-meaning desire to avoid causing distress to one group of readers, with the principle of freedom of choice for other readers and freedom of expression for writers ?

Not an easy question for sure. And one I’m still wrestling one. I’d love to know what you think.

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BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

61 thoughts on “Should Novels Carry Trigger Warnings?

  • November 1, 2020 at 10:18 am
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    A recent interview with Frank Gardiner (on Graham Norton Friday night) reminded me of this conversation. You may recall that the BBC’s security correspondent, and his camera crew, were ambushed by terrorists in Saudi Arabia about 17 years ago. The camera man was shot dead and Frank, having been shot many times was left for dead but survived. He has recently recorded the story of those events and his treatment and recovery, a programme to be broadcast in the near future. In the interview he related that a friend brought him a movie on video to entertain him in hospital. I can’t remember the name of the movie but it contained a scene in which somene was shot. Surely a trigger if there ever could be one. As must have been remembering the original event for the forthcoming programme. I appreciate that not everyone is as resilient as Frank, but I can’t help feeling that I’m right to ridicule the notion of ‘triggers’ in literature.

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  • October 31, 2020 at 1:57 pm
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    Books are meant to be an altogether different experience. They should not contain trigger warnings because that will ruin the element of surprise. If it must be included then i think they should be added at the end of the book so that the reader can choose whether to read or not.

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    • October 31, 2020 at 5:54 pm
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      Thanks Arooha, it seems the majority of people commenting here have the same view

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  • October 28, 2020 at 3:57 pm
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    I think books should have trigger warnings on the chapters that contain them

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  • October 25, 2020 at 9:52 am
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    Hi,

    regarding Pret not labelling allergen resultun in 15 year od Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s death and Pret got away because they didn’t break any law, most forget (or ignore) that after Natasha died another customer, mother of 5, Celia Marsh also died from hidden dairy traces in a vegan wrap.

    And most peope don’t know that Pret got sued in New York in 2016 by a man who ALSO suffered an allerguc reaction to unlabelled sesame product.

    Pret WON the case, but it STILL did not give them a warning sign to start labelling their foid worldwide.

    And then Natasha died.

    In fact, Pret STILL ignored customer complaints & warnings re: labelling before & EVEN AFTER TWO deaths occured and several injured (new lawsuit coming up November).

    Pret ONLY started acting slowly on labelling when the deaths became public via the press and Natasha’s inquest.

    I write extensively about Pret as a former employee having survived systemic bullying under HR & top leadership.

    I wotked at Pret when 2 people died, I was a Team Leader responsible for health & safety. But not only was I, were we staff NOT informed about the deaths, there wasn’t even as much as a HINT to be more cautious on allergen info or more diligent with labelling.

    Absolutely NOTHING was done.

    I try to write creatively, but the issue is dead serious:

    > https://expret.org/2020/08/29/escape-from-pret <

    .

    Reply
  • October 22, 2020 at 2:04 am
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    A really interesting issue to think about and discuss, thank you for raising it! I think that trigger warnings have their place (as with everything, context matters). In my view, for general readers, that place is in reviews and recommendations, rather than on the book jacket/marketing copy. If a reader knows that they’re particularly sensitive to an issue like, say, domestic abuse, to me they would logically seek out reviews of a book that might have that element to check, and a reviewer’s note will help them make their decision as to whether that book is right for them. I know that, personally, poor treatment of animals is really difficult to read – but I wouldn’t expect a publisher to warn me about that. If I see a book with a dog on the cover, I either avoid it completely or do some research to get an idea of what to expect.

    Another context in which I think trigger warnings are responsible and helpful is in academic settings, where readings are required. I recently completed my Masters, and really appreciated when the lecturer took the time to say “just be aware that this week’s readings include depictions of X, please let me know if that’s going to be an issue for you in completing the readings”. While it wasn’t an issue for me personally, I had classmates who – for instance – had recently lost a loved one to suicide, and that heads up was helpful for them (they still completed the readings, but they weren’t blindsided by them). It was never a matter of students avoiding readings that would challenge them, but simple consideration for the fact that people’s personal circumstances are varied and ideally we want to avoid causing unnecessary distress with course requirements.

    And welp, I’ve accidentally written an essay – sorry!

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    • October 23, 2020 at 9:53 pm
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      I’m so glad to hear that the lecturer took that balanced approach. It counters stories I’ve heard where students have campaigned to have certain topics removed from the curriculum.

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  • October 19, 2020 at 7:32 am
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    It will sound very hard-hearted, I know, but my feeling is that the responsibility should be with the reader rather than the author or publisher. Only the reader knows what is likely to be a trigger for her/him, and every book is extensively reviewed these days on online forums. On Goodreads, you can ask the question from the online community of people who’ve read it. Warnings are too often spoilers – I avoid reading trigger warnings in blog reviews, for instance. And books are meant to challenge us – I don’t want a world in which only cosy books are seen as safe.

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    • October 19, 2020 at 5:46 pm
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      Interesting perspective. If I knew that reading about certain subjects would be a trigger I think I would want to make sure I did some basic homework about the book before buying it

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  • October 18, 2020 at 6:44 pm
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    I really have a hard time dealing with animals being put into books just to die a horrible death for a plot point. I get anxious when I encounter an animal in a book. But I’m not sure I’d want a label in the book: I will go to reviews or to people I know have read the book, and when I review, if I have read on, I will always discreetly mention that the animal survives or there are upsetting scenes. I think people who read my reviews regularly will know I do this. Other stuff is usually covered well enough in the blurb or genre or signposted in the book.

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    • October 19, 2020 at 5:52 pm
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      Several people have commented about looking into reviews etc before buying a book, which is a very sensible approach for someone who knows they would be stressed to read about certain subjects.

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  • October 18, 2020 at 2:41 pm
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    If a mention of something in a book triggers a seriously distressing reaction in someone (presumably suffering from post traumatic stress), isn’t the solution to provide that person with the proper psychiatric treatment to help them get over it or deal with it? If a mention merely upsets someone, because they don’t want to read about it, they can always stop reading.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 3:28 pm
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      If the person is indeed suffering PTSD then yes we’d hope they are getting support and help but it can take years to recover I’m told. The issue is really those people who get “upset” by things they read about, like the law students in one university who said they shouldn’t be taught about rape cases because they found them upsetting.

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      • October 20, 2020 at 5:39 am
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        You’re right Karen – if someone has a history of trauma (which is the purpose of trigger warnings, and is distinguished from something that a person finds ‘upsetting’ or ‘distasteful’) it can take decades of therapy for them to manage their trauma. What people don’t understand, is that for those with traumatic history, their response when triggered is a whole body response and saying that they can simply stop reading or think about something else is simply not possible.

        For the record, I ALWAYS include trigger warnings in my reviews if the book includes any mention of child abuse or rape.

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        • October 21, 2020 at 5:53 pm
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          I have a feeling that you have good knowledge of the effects of trauma (I don’t mean through personal experience) so your distinction between the trigger of a previous traumatic experience and a feeling of being upset, is very helpful. I was talking to a former police officer earlier this year who had retired because of PTSD and even though that was 15 years ago he says he still cannot deal with loud noises. The sound of a car backfiring sounds to him like gunfire. For him it isn’t a case of being “cured” but of trying to find coping strategies.

  • October 18, 2020 at 1:24 pm
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    I have strong opinions about this and feel that if I shared them, my comment would require a trigger warning. Picture me staring at the computer screen for twenty silent seconds, slowly shaking my head as my eyes go to my copy of 1984. I wish someone had put a trigger warning on that book! It inspired me to want to keep my eyes open when it would be ever so much easier to have my head patted while the state swaddles me up in blankets and does my thinking for me.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 5:37 pm
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      Now I have a wonderful image of you holding head in hand with eyes rolling for extra effect.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 6:29 pm
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      With “triggered” stamped on my forehead. 😛

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      • October 19, 2020 at 3:02 pm
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        Hey everyone. It’s been a day since my comments here posted, & I don’t know if anyone but Karen will ever see this follow-up, but I wanted to apologize for being flippant above. I do that when I get angry & when I don’t want to go deep. It’s easier to make a joke. A self-defense maneuver, I imagine.

        It’s tempting to simply ask Karen to delete my words above, but I think I will explain.

        Society is so quick to label what makes no sense to them. To simplify it — bring it down to a tangible level. Society doesn’t like emotions. Society likes you to remain useful, tidy, quiet, orderly, and efficient. If you cannot be that, it likes to label you. If you are not left-brained, it wants to refer to you as some anomaly. If you cry, it wants you to stop. If you protest, it wants to explain you. If you faced something, it wants to make a tidy box for you, & it is so so so tempting when you come out of something to ease into that box.

        My dears, that anguish you feel is not an anomaly, & you are not alone in it. That is your human depth. You lived. You survived. And now you can speak to how it feels. You can touch the flame of your candle to another human’s, & say “I lived. I saw it, I faced it, & I lived.” And it is so private. It is so precious to you — I know that. Not to be touched. Not to be tainted by outside interference.

        But the idea that society has such a simple view of human experience they would choose to stick a label on a book rather than allow people the dignity and the enormous courage to get up and seek their own experience — terrible, dark, sometimes triggering, sometimes absolutely terrifying — that angers me.

        It’s a sensitive topic — I realize this. I’m guessing that many of those who offer “trigger labels” truly mean well. And those who seek them are doing the best they can. My experience is not everyone’s. But as a writer, and a survivor, and a fellow human, the idea angers me. Not because it might not be helpful to know what is in literature, but because it destroys literature’s power. It destroys the human element. We are all, at some level, victims of something. God bless you if you have faced the worst. God bless you as you seek life. Let the journey be guided by loved ones, and friends. Dare to one day look life in the face. Dare to realize people are sometimes stupid — they use your pain as a plot device. They don’t understand. It has never happened to them. Dare to do your own searching.
        Don’t let a publisher become your emotion police. These people do not know you. They can say a book contains rape, but they cannot tell you how the author treats that topic. Their helpful label may keep you from the terrible, frightening, emotional triggering book that will save your life.

        Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it will make it easier. My question is — for whom?

        I have no credentials and am not prescribing anything here. I am merely explaining why I was flippant above. I know that those who have been hurt could be hurt by flippancy, and I came back because I didn’t intend to make light of you — but of the labeling cloaked as helpfulness. In all honesty, if there is such a thing as triggering, it triggered me. Hand-wringing labels are an insult to the potential terrible “triggering” humanity in literature and to the raw feelings of those who have seen the dark side of life and are stunned by it. I assume they are intended to help, but from one of those they are aimed at, they oversimplify, shelve, and manage what is a private, independent universal experience that must take its own terrible course in order to move at all.

        And you — you people who have lived it. Take your time. Seek counsel about literature. Absolutely do things in your own time. It isn’t the course I object to — it’s the idea that anyone in a publishing house can detour you from a book that might change your life.

        I agree with someone above that therapy is a necessity. Be guided by someone trained to help you — not by some publishing house who thinks that by telling you “this book contains such and such” they have helped you rather than enabled your desire to hide.

        I wish anyone who reads this note the very best of luck in your individual journey. And if anything I say here conflicts with your instincts, ignore me. I speak here merely to explain my flippancy above. My comment was intended, not to sneer at you or your living moment, but at the people who believe they have any idea how to manage your pain. x

        And in all honesty, I object more as a writer and believer in literature than a survivor. It is simply that because I have survived, I know how much damage those labels could potentially do.

        And with that I leave this conversation, having no idea if I have said what I meant to say. Labels — labels, labels. Where did they come from? How is it possible we are so afraid to speak to one another, over centuries, of all that we have seen? Labels to me are padded rooms. Ever-so safe, ever so carefully stripped of life, ever so colorless.

        Even as I write this, I want to list the books that have helped me, and the first one that comes to mind is Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. Immediately as I typed that just now, I nearly wrote, “But watch out — it is full of grief and violence and may upset you.”

        It is so human, to want to protect one another from pain. And possibly I have no idea what I am talking about. x

        Reply
        • October 19, 2020 at 5:42 pm
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          Thanks Jillian for taking the time to elaborate on your original note. Personally I didn’t view it as being flippant but your new comment shows you have a lot of sensitivity to other people’s feelings

  • October 18, 2020 at 1:21 pm
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    While thankfully I haven’t suffered anything that could leave me subject to being triggered, there are things that I prefer not to read about. But what I don’t want to read might not be a problem for another reader. To try and pre-warn people of the myriad of incidents that might bother them is impossible. I use my common sense when reading the blurb, or a sample or other reviews to gauge whether the book is likely to be my thing. If It transpires it isn’t I either skip those pages or decide I don’t want to read anymore. I don’t want a book covered in trigger warnings or labels. I get more annoyed by books that have any labels stuck on them!

    Reply
    • October 18, 2020 at 5:42 pm
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      Those two words “common sense” are spot on Jill. We seem to lose sight of this in these kinds of debates….

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  • October 18, 2020 at 1:02 pm
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    I’m not a fan. the blurb of a book should be enough. As someone who has suffered trauma, I personally feel that life doesn’t shelter you from triggers and it’s best to work out how to deal with things that come along that cause anxiety, rather than trying to avoid altogether.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 5:45 pm
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      Thanks Cathy, good to have the perspective of someone in a position to know what effect triggers could have. Trying to avoid all mention of the problematic issue would be nigh on impossible I imagine.

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  • October 18, 2020 at 12:01 pm
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    No! No! No! Have perople been featherbedded for too long? All those books about the war that came out in the 1950s – should people who had lived though the war not have read them because it would remind them of the horrors they’d endured a decade before? It’s okay, I suppose, for reviewers to draw attention to content that might upset some. But for many, such attempts at censorship can be come-ons. I remember as a teenager sneaking in to ‘X’ rated movies. The usual trick was for someone who looked old enough to buy a ticket then go to the toilet and open the emergency exit for me and a few others to come in.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 5:48 pm
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      What a rebel you were Frank! But yes, the very fact a book contained something “racy” was enough to make all of my school mates want to read the book – Catcher in the Rye being the key one.

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  • October 18, 2020 at 10:38 am
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    And who would be the warning stickers police? This is purely censorship that rears its ugly head. Under the pretense of “protecting fragile publics” (who decides of someone else’s fragility, btw?) it’s only a way to control what people read and that’s the beginning of the end.

    What I profoundly dislike in this idea, apart from its attempt at killing freedom of speech, it’s that it disrespects readers.

    Who are these people to think I’m not intelligent enough to decide by myself what I want to read? If I’m not sure I’ll like some book, it’s up to me to read online reviews, ask questions to the libraire or the librarian and make my own decision.

    Do we really want pre-chewed thinking on our books? I don’t.

    For me, there’s no middle ground on this. The answer is no, no, no because the other choice tramples the universal principles or freedom of speech and free will.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 5:53 pm
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      Exactly so Emma, there’s a troubling question about who makes the decisions and on what basis. Do they decide that a book containing harm to a person needs a trigger but one that contains harm to an animal is ok. On that basis most of crime fiction would come with warnings but a book for children like Black Beauty wouldn’t. I can imagine a large part of the world’s reading population would struggle with that.

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  • October 18, 2020 at 8:38 am
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    I choose not to read about certain subjects, but do I want a big label screaming from the cover – not really. I do find it annoying when there is no reason to think it is coming and then wham it comes out of the blue, but at that point I can choose to either continue or to stop reading.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 5:55 pm
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      Right, there is a choice we have to make on an individual level since the effects of certain topics vary so much from person to person. I have a strong dislike of snakes for example so wouldn’t welcome pages of descriptions involving snakes, but someone else wouldn’t have a problem. Whose preference would prevail??

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      • October 18, 2020 at 6:24 pm
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        Snakes come on TV and I just close my eyes! Which brings me back to the subject in question; just don’t open that book if the cover image, blurb, first few lines suggest bad memories. And there are also the reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc. to indicate any problems to a reader.

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  • October 18, 2020 at 7:09 am
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    I do hope the idea of TW doesn’t gain momentum.Most of us come across many situations, conversations, discussions, whether in society or television, that can bring back unpleasant memories, but surely we can’t be cushioned from them all. Nor should we expect to be. It’s enough that books are put into genres (I include those who cross genres).Let’s leave it at that and trust that people see the cover images, the titles, the blurb, the first few lines of a book… and judge for themselves. No more censorship in our lives – please.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 6:01 pm
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      I’m with you Judith. I despair at the trend for wanting everything uncomfortable or unpleasant to be obliterated.

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  • October 18, 2020 at 3:42 am
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    I’m not sure I agree with you about the good intentions of authors. I get through a lot of crime fiction listening to audiobooks as I work and I think many of them include graphic violence against women in particular, because they or their readers get off on it. The most recent, Odd Jobs by Ben Lieberman had a woman of no importance to the plot stripped and raped in front her husband who had had his knees smashed by a baseball bat before they were both murdered. The blurb says The Sopranos meets Animal House in this darkly comic coming of age novel.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 6:05 pm
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      Fair point Bill. I don’t read a lot of crime fiction myself but I’ve seen a number of other bloggers comment on how much of that genre depicts violence against a woman. The example you give seems particularly gratuitous.

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  • October 17, 2020 at 11:19 pm
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    Personally I get enough information from reading reviews and the publishers blurbs. What’s next? Newspapers? The nightly news? Magazines? I think adults can figure things out for themselves and I’d be against it completely.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 6:06 pm
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      Nightly news sadly has already succumbed – it’s rare to get a news programme now without at least one message, where the presenter/newsreader has to adopt a sad looking/concerned face and tell us that there are helplines available if we’ve been affected by anything in the programme.

      Reply
  • October 17, 2020 at 9:04 pm
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    another trend of living in a bubble.
    read the synopsis if you need, that should be enough. and as Lory said, if you run into something that’s becoming uncomfortable, just stop reading. read an except first if you need, or check it at your library if available. or ask a friend who knows you well what they think about you reading it. anyway, it could be a good growing experience.
    if there are such things, I would totally ignore them

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    • October 18, 2020 at 6:07 pm
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      If the warning is discretely placed inside the book, it will be easy to ignore (though obviously if they are too well hidden, then they won’t be seen by the very people who want to be warned). If they start appearing on the book jacket though I’ll get very annoyed

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  • October 17, 2020 at 8:36 pm
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    This is down to blurb writers, isn’t it? They are often the front lines, along with the cover designers and artists, that help the reader to decide if they’ll pick up the book or not. Also reviewers. Trigger warnings? No! As much use as Three Tiers of lockdown…

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    • October 18, 2020 at 5:58 pm
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      Oh now we are getting controversial indeed 🙂 3 tiers of lockdown is unlikely to be around for very long though, whereas once trigger warnings start to become more of a thing, they’d be very hard to eliminate

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  • October 17, 2020 at 7:38 pm
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    I think trigger warnings are something the next generation is loudly advocating for. I’m on the fence about it. Everyone has their own specific triggers, and something that triggers one reader may not necessarily trigger another. Also, maybe it’s the type of books I read, but I rarely read something that bothers me. I think triggers make sense for shows and movies, where the violence and sex is in your face, and sometimes graphic (especially in these streaming shows), but not necessary for a book.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 6:10 pm
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      I do often come across things in books that I’m not comfortable about, but if they are a key part of the theme, or the issue, then I will want to read on, to understand the point of view or deepen my knowledge. If they are there just for the sake of causing a thrill for example, then I don’t feel like I want to read the book further.

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  • October 17, 2020 at 7:22 pm
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    I believe in Trigger Warnings and include them in my reviews ( I even wrote a post of pros and cons). I think the big ones need to be put on back covers…..suicide, abuse, graphic violence, etc.
    I noticed one blogger hid the trigger warning behind a text that said “click here for trigger warnings”……I asked her about it and she gave me the code but I haven’t tried it. I think this might be the way to go for reviewers because only those who are concerned would click and see it.
    There was a bookstagrammer who was ranting about the fact that not one review she read had given a TW about Ove and his suicide attempts….she was severely triggered when reading the book. Reading about her experience made me even more determined to provide TW. I guess I error on the side of mental health rather than spoiling a plot. But I agree that we can’t know all the possible triggers.
    Also, I always put a spoiler alert just before my TW.
    I agree that readers need to do due diligence. I scan reviews for subjects I’d rather not read about. Child abuse or stolen children…no thank you!
    Maybe an acceptable compromise for bloggers would be to say “ask me about TW in comments” ???
    For me, I think I’m going to experiment with the coding to hide them behind a click!
    Great discussion!

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      • October 18, 2020 at 7:57 pm
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        Debbie…I’ll copy at end of this message what she shared with me….but I don’t know coding so I need to find someone to help me…but with Covid concerns I’ve delayed asking my tech guy to come over…….

        to hide trigger warning and reveal with a click : It’s with two html blocks called details and summary

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    • October 18, 2020 at 6:15 pm
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      I knew there was at least one blogger who had written about this – just couldn’t remember who it was. Sorry Carol.
      I thought at first you were saying you included trigger warnings about the content of your review, but I just took a look at your reviews and can see that you are referring to the book content. The way you’ve done this is very discreet.

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      • October 18, 2020 at 8:00 pm
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        There is one blogger I follow that includes a trigger warning for her actual review as the first paragraph of her review!

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  • October 17, 2020 at 7:15 pm
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    This seems to be something that I find the younger readers are voicing their views on. I’ve recently been sitting on a book judging panel and the entry requirements for books had so much of a heavy emphasis on the authors providing accurate trigger warnings that I know if put off some very good writers from entering.

    I personally don’t need them or want them. A well-written book blurb does or does not ‘sell’ me on the book. I want to be entertained and am happy to go down the rabbit hole with all the ‘risks’ it might involve.

    There’s more exposure to horrors on the internet, social media and 24 hour television than I ever had growing up, but reading books that occasionally contained things that may or may not have made me emotional was all part of growing up.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 6:17 pm
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      Using triggers as a judging criterion is taking this into a whole different dimension. I can imagine authors feeling this is onerous and maybe even wondering if the more warnings they include, the less favourable their book will be viewed? If something gets mentioned in one phrase does that have to be included or did it have to be a substantial element of the book?

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  • October 17, 2020 at 7:08 pm
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    I do appreciate that some people have become extremely sensitized by their experiences and may need to take extra care. However, with books isn’t it relatively simple to just stop reading if you come across something uncomfortable? It’s quite different with movies, I think, which are much more direct and overwhelming. Not to mention life-threatening allergies!

    I suppose one would not want to have spent money on a book that turns out to be unreadable. But that’s why I get most books from the library first.

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    • October 18, 2020 at 5:56 pm
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      Even with a movie, you can escape the problem scenes (cushions come in very useful for me when I see people perched precariously on the edge of a cliff or tall building). I don’t mean to sound frivolous, just echoing your point that we can skip the offending content usually.

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      • October 18, 2020 at 6:33 pm
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        I find the images of movies get in quicker and are harder to eradicate than with books, since they are generated from the outside and don’t involve my own will and imagination. But yes, it is possible to avoid them to some extent too. For those with real trauma, though, even a brief sight or sound can cause flashbacks and panic attacks. And maybe in extreme cases even reading a few words can have the same effect, but I hope that condition is rare.

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  • October 17, 2020 at 7:05 pm
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    This is indeed a controversy. I think Debbie and Malcolm (comments above) and both on the right track. A look at the publisher’s descriptions should alert potential readers of the general subject matter, and, yes, people have been reading for centuries without trigger warnings.

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  • October 17, 2020 at 6:34 pm
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    If you have trigger points (and, really, who doesn’t?) be sure to read the synopsis, go online and find reviews and discussions about the book. Do your due diligence.

    Often when I come across content that “resonates” with me, I find that I can be more empathetic to the situation being described. If I find I’m becoming to upset, I stop reading that particular material. That first little bit isn’t going to kill me as a physical allergy would.

    Leave off the labels. (Excepting – please tell me when your “historical fiction” is really just a romance in historical costume )

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    • October 17, 2020 at 7:23 pm
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      Totally agree with you about romance disguised as histfic!!!😂

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    • October 18, 2020 at 1:16 pm
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      (Excepting – please tell me when your “historical fiction” is really just a romance in historical costume )

      *shakes your hand*

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  • October 17, 2020 at 6:18 pm
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    Did anyone in the Facebook discussion know why, after people have been reading books for centuries, we suddenly “need” (according to some people) these trigger warnings?

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    • October 18, 2020 at 5:41 pm
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      It saddens me that increasingly people feel they should be protected from absolutely everything in life that is not pleasant. Or that we have to have messages at the ends of programmes along the lines of “if you’ve been affected by some of the issues raised, call….. ) even if the issue was barely mentioned.

      Reply

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