Let’s talk about trigger warnings. They may be a hot topic in the book community. But they’re important to readers.
I know several people who believe they’re more politically correct. I disagree. People forget why others need them. They’re similar to the film and TV rating systems. You don’t see viewers complain about the system, now do you? Probably not. The systems help adults decide what their children should or shouldn’t watch. So why do people complain about trigger warnings?
Perhaps political correctness does come into play here. Maybe people have had enough warnings and being conscientious of other people’s thoughts or mental stability. Heaven forbid we people try to be, I don’t know, proactive to prevent a trigger. Their primary reason is to inform potential readers of subject matters that may adversely affect them. A good example is sexual assault in literature. I had a hard time finishing Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander because the assault and torture of Jamie Fraser are almost too much. I wish I had paid attention to some of the warnings, but I didn’t.
So in my next discussion post, I want to discuss why I believe bloggers should use trigger warnings and why they’re essential to the reading experience.
Warning Readers Who Have Faced Abuse Can Prevent a Harmful Response
I have a hard time reading about any type of abuse in books, especially sexual. I am dealing with my past, and it’s hard enough to wade through my memories. But when a book contains a trigger, sometimes, I may remember what happened to me. Since I have PTSD, depression, and anxiety, I need to know how severe these scenes are in stories so I don’t need to add another outside force into the mix. I have my mind to do that for me.
Many other readers are dealing with the same issue. And they deserve to have some warning, even if it may have been seen as a spoiler so they can avert a potentially damaging reaction. But what is a reaction though?
Triggers aren’t simply a bad feeling from reading a scene in a book. A trigger can lead to suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, depression, relapses, and self-harm. As a blogger, you need to realize that it’s your responsibility and job to tell readers.
They Help Readers Decide if They Will Either Read or Purchase a Book
I have followed trigger warnings from other bloggers when I decided on buying a book. They gave me that warning. And if I have more concern than normal, I’ll ask for more details. I appreciate that notice. Sometimes, I don’t immediately read the book I’ve recently purchased. So if I’ve waited past the return policy, I’ve wasted a lot of money when I could have spent it on another book.
Not Every Author or Even Publisher Will Inform Readers of Negative Topics in Books
When I first cracked open Girls of Paper and Fire, by Natasha Ngan, I let out a sigh when I saw the trigger warning in the book. I don’t see that in most books. And most of the time, I don’t see authors telling readers about anything. Now, I’m not saying I don’t see warnings from authors at all. In fact, I see them in the reverse harem community. And I love how readers and authors are informing new readers.
Trigger Warnings Are Personal, so You Don’t Decide Who Does or Doesn’t Need Them
Yes, when people prevent themselves from seeing/reading triggers because they have a mental illness, that action isn’t always a healthy coping mechanism. They can’t heal from their trauma when they avoid it. However, that doesn’t mean you get to decide when they process and handle their trauma. You don’t give them a deadline. They need to make that decision, not you, the author, or the publisher.
Trigger warnings will always be personal. So do not insert yourself into someone’s decision.
They Will Never be a Spoiler
Do you know what a spoiler is? Someone yelling “Snape kills Dumbledore!” Trigger warnings are not. At all. Get that out of your head. They warn readers. No, they do not go into detail about topics or situations in the book.
11 thoughts on “Beyond the Blurb | Do Bloggers Need to Use Trigger Warnings?”
This is such a great post! I know I’m not the best about this, but I’m trying to remember to put a warning in my reviews.
This is a great post. I always include them when I can, but obviously sometimes things slip past me but I will always do my best to include them
I agree with you on all accounts. I definitely don’t need as many triggers as other people. However, if I had gone through sexual assault there are several books that probably would have triggered me because none of them had a warning. I was definitely shocked/stunned. I will also say that I hate that people look at sexual assault in fiction as a plot twist! It’s not.
I think some writers unconsciously, or even consciously, use that sort of trigger as a plot device. There’s a book called The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavendar. The entire book seemed to be set up for a specific moment to act as the climax. When I finally finished the book, I realized there was nothing more to the story except something awful had to happen to her to make us care about the character. I feel like with GoPaF or Speak, those things happened for a reason, not for “shock factor”.
I like to see them and I prefer to use them in my reviews as well. I’m most sensitive about sexual assault triggers and that’s what I highlight most if I come across it. It is hard to know what may or may not be a trigger but nothing is wrong with a little effort in that department.
I absolutely agree that trigger warnings are vital for a lot of readers. I am fortunate enough that I don’t tend to need them before reading a book; however, the opposite side of this coin is that I don’t often recognise things that may be a trigger warning for others when I am reading, so it can be hard for me to identify and list these when I write a review. Additionally, while bloggers might get some of the trigger warnings they may inadvertently miss others.
To combat this and help others, I wish something like Goodreads had a section on each book where readers could add in trigger-warnings. If they were catalogued on a site like this, then bloggers could easily copy/paste or link to the goodreads book title.
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I always appreciate trigger warnings and there’s no downside to including them in a review. It gives people a fuller idea of the book. Honestly I wouldn’t mind if all books included them before the story starts. Like you said they aren’t really spoilers!
I’m lucky enough not to need trigger warnings but I 100% feel that they need to be there. I read Ivy’s Poison by India R Adams recently, she gave PAGE numbers in her warning to help readers avoid potential triggers. Her empathy for and care of the reader really impressed me – it was a pretty good book too.
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I generally believe trigger warnings can be a good idea for people suffering from some kind of mental illness or trauma. But I also believe they are being over-done by book bloggers. I see a tendency where people are warning against everything. I think that is wrong. Also because the meaning of trigger warnings is lost in itself. I believe in trigger warnings for mental health, assault and rape etc. I don’t see why one would trigger warn death or grief if the book is about let’s say loosing a sibling or parent. I do believe reading the synopsis would be enough. :))
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