Books Including Trigger Warnings: Let’s Discuss This

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I am very open to graphic content in books, as I have mentioned in my post Graphic Content In Books: Can It Add Value? Because I do feel that a lot of times, it does add value and helps to deliver powerful messages when utilized properly. I will also admit that I have an unusually high tolerance for such material. I grew up on horror, and later became a fan of watching films and reading novels that challenged me even in the most uncomfortable of ways. But like any reader or viewer, I have triggers and limits. I believe we all do.

So what happens when we stumble upon those triggers unexpectedly?

An entirely otherwise ideal reading experience can come crashing down within the matter of a few mere sentences or one traumatic scene. Let’s face it, awareness is often a huge determining factor in how negatively or positively we are impacted by something challenging. While I am open to exploring topics that are outside of my comfort zone, like many other people, I prefer to do so at my choice.

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 Why does awareness matter so greatly?

Because preparation is key. As readers and individuals, we deserve the right to be informed. We dedicate varying amounts of our time to the act of reading for various reasons ranging from escapism to actively seeking out knowledge. Our choices should be made accordingly with the appropriate information to do so. Life hands us enough situations where we do not get to select our comfort levels or easily avoid triggers, but picking up the next book should maybe not be as risky?

I’m not talking censorship, I’m talking accessible content warning labels.

I firmly believe in freedom of speech and will advocate against censorship strongly. But doing so, I also understand that there comes a responsibility to use those liberties wisely. And educating yourself and being informed are the first steps. Multiple sources of media present ratings and warnings for viewers and listeners to make educated decisions (I am going to refrain from dates and specifics here as I feel most of us are very familiar with the MPAA, etc). Television and music carry rating systems and explicit content warnings, while video games also offer consumers the same. So why not books?

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Possible dilemmas or challenges to including warning labels?

I have no doubt that there are many! I would hate to see audiences limited and do not feel that age restrictions should be placed on titles, but maybe there are some who would disagree. However, adding such labels will probably impact sales and marketing. Parents who are not reading the books children pick up, might suddenly find themselves second-guessing those purchases when they realize that there is graphic content included. And informed readers will likely pass on certain titles when given the choice to make an informed selection. This could lead to a loss of sales, although how significant would be hard to say.

Labels would also come at production cost. While maybe insignificant for larger publishing firms, would smaller publishers be able to maintain them? And does this responsibility ultimately lie with the publisher or the retailer?

Perhaps though, the biggest and most important hurdle would be determining what topics warrant such labels. There would need to be clearly established guidelines that spelled out the full encompassment of each warning/topic listed. This process alone would be no small undertaking.

And then we run into the issue of preexisting material. Are retailers responsible for labeling?


While I love the idea of including trigger warning with books, I am aware that is not something to likely happen overnight. But I do not see why this could not be part of our reading future. What are your thoughts on including labels to help consumers make informed selections?

Let’s Chat!

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129 thoughts on “Books Including Trigger Warnings: Let’s Discuss This

  1. I think it would definitely lead to a loss of sales because it would scare off many readers picking a novel up so I don’t see this happening soon. I think the best thing is to warn other readers by mentioning it in reviews in our blogs and on Goodreads and Amazon because it can give more information than just a rating without any explanation… Readers who are careful what they pick up will probably check out some reviews before buying them. I’m reading a book now that should definitely come with a trigger warning (nothing too graphic but it results in a plotline that some might find not appealing thinking about it). Interesting to think about!

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    1. It definitely is something I could support, but also understand why it is not exactly ideal. There are many potential upsides and downsides. I do agree that I feel loss of sales would be the biggest hurdle. And most do try to inform themselves. Which is a great point about readers checking reviews beforehand Inge 🖤 Thank you!

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  2. Very interesting topic to discuss. I believe that using trigger warnings on books would lower the sales of books but it may help readers choose wisely what they read. But then come book blogs, Goodreads reviews etc which can help the reader choose the book. I think that before choosing a book people should research it using these platforms and avoid content which may be harmful to them.

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    1. Excellent points and Inge was mentioning the same! Many readers will and hopefully parents. Although, I guess we could say the same for movies. Or would we say since they are visual that it is more important. I feel that MPAA fell into place and has ultimately leveled out to where I do not believe film sales are hurting. In fact, I guess the opposite possibility is the likely increase in sale for specific genres maybe 😉 i.e. horror titles might sale better if they have warnings? But there is so much to consider and so many potential benefits and risks that it is hard to say. Thank you Nikola!

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  3. It’s hard to say because, although I wouldn’t want a person to pick up a book and feel completely emotionally harmed by the topics, I also think we should confront things we find challenging or difficult. I think putting warnings on books would just end up meaning people don’t read them because they don’t want to challenge their pre-existing beliefs or fears. Personally, I think it’s better for reviews to discuss these difficulties rather than putting warnings on books.

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    1. Yes, I can see this point for sure. I also prefer to explore the topics that challenge me. But feel we should all have the option do so at our choosing and as informed readers and consumers so I am completely open to the idea of warning labels. Reviews are are an excellent starting point, but I follow hundreds of bloggers and am active on goodreads and am still amazed at how often I pick up a book and encounter something that was never addressed. I feel it would also be greatly beneficial to parents (as a parent 😉 I pay attention to what my kids read but will never complain about being given additional info). I do find it interesting that so many seem.ok to see films and music labeled but not books. I have to ask myself why. Thank you so much!

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      1. I have no wish to read about child abuse or animal abuse *ever*, even if it could ‘challenge my pre-existing beliefs or fears’. But I also know that neurotypical people don’t understand that reading certain things may be seriously harmful to some readers.

        I don’t think TWs would result in lost sales – as mentioned in other comments the labels would attract certain readers, and push others to buy other books. It’s nice that Goodreads exists, but as long as reviewers don’t always remember to include a list of TWs, there’s a good chance I’ll read the first five reviews out of 500, and none of those people will mention there’s a child abuse subplot in the book.

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        1. Triggers are so important to address, and like you I agree that there are a lot of reviewers who fail to include warnings or cover these in their reviews so I do not feel that we can solely rely on them for this information. It is important as readers, consumers and individuals to be informed and have the option to make educated choices! I am one who can tolerate very heavy themes and content, yet I greatly respect how detrimental or harmful these topics can be to others. I even have my own triggers. So I personally would love to see labels or warnings implemented. I know it cannot be done without hurdles but the benefits would be tremendous. Thank you Ray!

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  4. To be blunt, and no disrespect to you 🙂 , over my dead body.

    That would be just one more way for control by an overreach culture that already misuses what power it does have. Now, if a publisher wanted to do this voluntarily, on their own, at their expense, that is their business. But as soon as you step into “regulation” territory, yeah, dead body territory.

    I don’t particularly like when I stumble across something that sets me off, but at the same time, why should that be enough to start censoring?

    Because while you state you’re not talking about censoring, that is exactly what that would turn into and we have history to back that up again and again. Over reach and regulation are never happy with what they are given. They are always trying to get more. I can see SJW campaigns to have a book from ever being published because it contains a “trigger” that they don’t like. That IS censorship.

    This is not a road that I think we should take even one step down. It is too dangerous.

    I don’t even like the voluntary participation by publishers themselves because it will be used as virtue signalling and then misused as a social pressure for those who refuse to conform.

    Great discussion topic though! Should definitely get the comments going 😀

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    1. Ok these are fair points. And I am definitely open to discussing them! Because I do not support censorship and this is the type of productive discussion I love! So do you believe films, games and music are being censored now due to the current rating systems in place? Because I am sure it does occur in the sense that you have them being edited to meet specific ratings, which I could see happening with some books, particularly in younger titles. See you have me thinking 😉👍

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      1. I vacillated all day about whether to post this as a comment or send it to you as an “contact/email”. Obviously, you all can see my decision 🙂

        Just so I won’t get sidetracked, I won’t be going into films, games, music etc except to say that yes, I do believe they are being censored. Now, people accept that and it is a fait accompli.

        And I understand what is trying to be accomplished and in many ways are things I want as well. I don’t want to ever see an R rated movie when I think I’m going to see some family friendly movie.

        But it all leads down to accountability and responsibility. People are now holding others accountable and shifting the responsibility from their own shoulders to others. That whole “R” and family friendly movie thing I mentioned? It is MY responsibility to know what I am walking into. It is ALSO the studio’s responsibility to put out an honest blurb. Neither of these things are taking place in today’s society. The quick and easy fix is the Rating.

        But yes, it does cause Censorship. The One, a martial arts scifi film starring Jet Li, was on the level of the Matrix for violence but whenever someone got shot, they didn’t die, they were just “wounded”, thus bringing the rating down to pg-13 instead of R like the Matrix. That is playing the game and not honest. I know that, you know that, the studios know that and the people setting the ratings system know that.

        And that is me trying not to get distracted, hahahaha.

        On to books. Books are some of the last bastions of freedom left in this world. Freedom of thought, freedom of enjoyment, freedom of ideas.
        As soon as a label or a rating is put on that, that Freedom is gone and I mean dead as a doornail. Part of Freedom is that things are going to happen that I don’t like. It is my responsibility as a partaker of Freedom to put up with the things that are intrinsically linked to Freedom that annoy me or bother me or that I even think are wrong. Defining those things is a whole other debate though and THAT I won’t get side tracked with 😀

        I guess if I had to simplify my previous comment and this bit of, I’d say that ratings and tags DO limit the Freedom of the medium they are being used on. Living in a society with other people, we all have to give up freedom to some degree or another. I can’t walk outside onto my balcony and fire off my 9mm pistol into the air. So there are certain freedoms we reign in for the good of the all. Books however, I do not believe fall into that category in any way, shape or form.

        I realize I’ve written rather strongly but I want to hasten to assure you that I am in no way transferring my thoughts and feelings on this issue on to YOU. I’ve tried to write in such a way as to make sure that “you” are not part of the equation. If I failed in any way, please let me know.

        I think this is a very good topic for discussion but I can see it going off the rails very easily. Knowing myself, all it would take would be one comment and bam, I’d be reacting and feeling instead of responding to an idea. So I’ll only be talking to you so that that can’t happen. If you’d feel more comfortable through email, I can always be reached at Bookstooge@gmail.com as well.

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        1. I want you to know that I am one hundred percent okay with how you are responding here and comfortable with it. This is what discussion is and I feel you have shared your opinion in a very civil and honest manner and I am “A” ok with that!

          And even if our views vary a bit on this, I am actually very understanding of what you are saying here and admit there is truth in it which makes this a topic I could go back and forth on for days. But you are right, it can and will most likely derail (not on your end, but I am waiting for it). And as someone who suffered a traumatic event with triggers, I realize I need to remain open and tread slowly.

          But I really have no problem with your thoughts on this. They make sense. And I appreciate that you are not trying to downplay that some people have real triggers, so thank you so much for that!

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  5. Graphic content doesn’t bother me, either, but I am not opposed to content labels so people are informed. It would have to be on the publisher, though, and not on the retailers. I think retailers wouldn’t have the same standards from one to the next, so a book with, say, and R rating at one store might get a PG-13 at another.

    I have read a couple of things about film ratings. Studios want as wide an audience as possible, so some critics say they have been toning films down to get a PG-13 rating and so that’s why so many films aren’t as smart/good as they used to be. The directors who want to tell deeper/more violent/more complicated stories are going to television, hence the rise of all the amazing tv shows we’re getting these days. It sounds logical, but I don’t know how much if an effect the ratings have, myself. Hollywood doesn’t put out new stories (just sequels and reboots) because people keep falling for the same old story formulas.

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    1. You know, as a parent and consumer I support the idea because I promote informed decisions. But Bookstooge mentioned how this would lead to censorship and he may be correct. You also touch on this with how films are toned down to reach large audiences. And I can see books being edited to avoid labels or warnings the publishers might feel would limit audiences or sales? This would be a huge downside. But maybe for horror writers, they would see a boost in sales with the inclusion of labels as readers would find them to be a reassuring sign? There are so many aspects of this to consider I am currently on the fence.

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      1. Yeah, it could definitely tone down books that wiuld be better if they had the darker scenes left in. Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister would not be as good if it was toned down to meet the level of, say the Throne of Glass books. The current categories- middle grade, YA, new adult, adult, are pretty good labels for maturity level. But I, too, am on the fence for content warnings.

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  6. Interesting discussion! I also grew up on horror and am not too bothered by gore. My parents aren’t readers, though, and if they had known how much horror I read as a kid, they probably would have freaked out. If horror books had trigger warnings, my parents would have just looked at the warning and refused to let me read the book. They refused to let me see certain movies because of the ratings. I think warnings in books might hurt sales, but a trigger warning website could be useful. I wonder if Goodreads can be expanded to include something like that? There are a lot of reviewers who talk about a book’s graphic content in their reviews. The reviewing community could probably make a trigger warning website, if we want one.

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    1. Ah, a database would be a wonderful idea AJ! It would allow consumers and readers access to the necessary information but possibly decrease the impact on sales. I do think to be effective though, it would have to be an official and regulated site. Like you, I follow hundreds of reviews and feel I rely on them and GR to keep informed as much as I can, and I have to admit I still constantly stumble upon content in books that is unexpected. I am always surprised by the number of reviewers who choose not to include trigger warnings or mention such content. Live the idea of a site! Brilliant Aj 🖤

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      1. Random follow-up comment! Have you heard of the publisher Hot Key Books? They might be in the UK. I’m not sure. I haven’t seen many of their books for sale in US bookstores, but I’ve seen them online. Anyway, they have a “key” printed on the back covers of their books. The key says “what’s in it?” and then has words like “love,” “terror,” “politics,” “family,” “health.” Stuff like that. If you look up Hot Key Books on Google Images, you’ll probably find the keys. A content warning system like that might be less objectionable to readers than movie-style ratings.

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        1. Oh thanks so much! I will pull them up. I actually do not support ratings on books, just content and theme inclusions such as you are mentioning to allow an educated/informed selection 😊 I feel like I wrote the post a bit poorly and everyone thinks I feel books should come with ratings. Thanks so much Aj. Looking them up now!

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  7. I’m reading a book at the moment where on the back it has a little list of some themes in the book like one of them is first love and another is grief so maybe that would be an idea just to have a list on the back of books outlining themes and include violence/scenes of violence/horror etc. (I’m concentrating on violence because that’s something that can make me feel uncomfortable if i’m not properly warned) on there just to inform people of what they’re getting themselves into. It might also stop people from being put off if the trigger warning is included alongside other themes from the book because people might see something they are interested as well as the warning and/or understand the context of the graphic stuff and maybe why it’s in the book? Great post!!

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    1. That is an excellent idea really! Yes, I was thinking of just including the information on the books be it label or cover somewhere so readers can feel informed making selections. I think that you are very correct in the thought of possibly including all themes to even this approach out! Thank you so much for adding that!

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  8. I don’t see this happening, and honestly I don’t want it to happen. I personally don’t have any triggers and like to indulge all the surprises (even if they are absolutely horrible and maybe even traumatizing) to truly understand the vision of the author in even including whatever it is in their story.

    I totally understand that there might be some folks out there who have different baggage because life doesn’t offer all of us the same development, and that some things might trigger and potentially destroy them emotionally, but starting a labeling system for trigger warnings would mean that there would be some kind of jury that decides what goes on or not on a certain book. I think the genre in which books are categorized as well as the blurb should hint at the type of story you are potentially running into.

    And the rating system used for games and movies? The number of children who aren’t 13 who watch the PG13 is already pretty insane hahahah I honestly question myself if people still pay attention to the little disclosures written under the label on what exactly are the triggers.

    As for trigger warnings, it should just be the consumers decision to mention them in their reviews or in their discussions (orally) with others, IF they want. If a trigger warning labeling system were to be implemented, maybe the authors themselves should decide on including it within the book (right before the story starts or something). That maybe might be nice.

    Awesome discussion post, Danielle!! 😀

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    1. I am a parent haha, and we rely heavily on those rating systems to guide us when researching media for our kids. But I guess that not everyone is the same. Parents do seem to be too lax anymorw in terms of media. But I do have to say, those labels, I pay attention and appreciate them 😉 they let me know when I need to investigate further before allowing the kids to proceed.

      As far as your stance, I can appreciate and respect it. You touch on the one concern I have. I am 100 percent against censorship so I understand that and would hate to see it happen as a result. But being someone who is a survivor of events I will not discuss here, I cannot say I feel it is baggage per say 🖤 at least I prefer not to view it that way. But I can certainly appreciate both sides. I guess in an ideal world we could tackle issues like this easier without the concern of it turning into matters of control and censorship.

      I am pretty tolerant of graphic content but have also learned many reviewers fail to address it or triggers in reviews. Often if it is not an issue for them, they see no need. So sometimes relying on them to stay informed can also be tricky. They are not all as thorough as you 😉 If you reviewed every book I wanted to read, I would feel completely informed.

      I love your idea of authors possibly including them in the book 🖤 Thank you Lashaan.

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    1. It is nice to be able to make informed selections. It seems the general consensus is that we should rely on reviews for such warnings and information, but I encounter too many reviewers who fail to address these topics. I am not sure if it because they are ok with the content and feel no need or do not think about it, but I would love to see a viable system that does not censor books but supplies such info.

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  9. Hi Danielle 🙂
    I think trigger warnings are very important, in books as well. And I think it work out as well if they were right at the beginning of a book. I’ve read one book where it was like that but I can’t remember which one (urgh). So I guess that would probably be a cheaper option than labels? But trigger warnings in books are only in few, even though it’s really mportant. I’m seeing more and more authors talking about them as well, so I guess there is at least a very small chance at change, though in the end it’s the publishers who have to give a green light and I unfortunately don’t see that happen yet. As for the books already in the world, it’s hard. You could put something in reprints maybe? And we as book bloggers can give warnings when we review books as well.
    Gret post!
    Kat

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    1. Yes! Thank you so much Kat. I do feel that we as reviewers can be more proactive. Many responding seem to believe that reviews are where we should find this information. Which would be ideal, but too often I encounter reviews that do not even touch on graphic content or heavy themes, which is odd to me. I am not sure if maybe it is sometimes that the reviewer was not unsettled or bothered by it so does not think to?

      I love the idea of maybe just a brief inclusion in the actual book as opposed to labels though. It seems the concern overall is that it would lead to censorship which would be terrible. But I think it is important to inform readers and hope more bloggers and authors continue on this path to do so 🖤

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  10. Well, you’ve knocked it out of the park again with a fantastic discussion post. Well done!

    I can see where trigger warnings would help many readers. It would enable them to make a decision that is best for their mental health and peace of mind. For those who have been traumatized, I can only imagine what a great resource this would be for them.

    I’m always been hesitant to put trigger warnings in my reviews because, frankly, I’m not sure how to go about it without spoiling the story. Or how far to go with the warnings, for that matter: what doesn’t bother me might affect someone else a great deal. Where do you draw the line at what to warn about? How do you decide?

    Well, this post has definitely got me thinking… I can’t say for sure that I’ll start adding trigger warnings–or how I’d go about it, if I did–but I can definitely see the value of it.

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    1. Thank you Betty! I tend to include content and themes I feel are possible triggers right under my “challenges some may encounter” and I really appreciate when reviewers include trigger warnings. I do not normally find avoiding spoilers to be difficult I just mention the overl themes (i.e. addiction, suicide, grief, etc) or content (violence, sexual abuse, etc) and this seems to help.

      One thing I find concerning after posting this is that a large number of bloggers admit that the feel labels would be bad (the concern I think is that it can lead to censorship, which is a legit concern) and they feel it should fall on readers to search reviews for this information beforehand. However, a large portion of reviewers and bloggers still choose to omit these warnings for various reasons so we cannot act like it is easily accessible to all.

      I do see a portion of bloggers and authors now making the push though and have seen authors even addressing on Twitter possible triggers in their own work! Which is awesome. So hopefully we are headed in a better direction. But sadly there is still a smart part of the community who are fortunate enough have no triggers and seem to not fully understand how harmful they can be or the emotional toll that they can take on an individual 💖

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  11. Interesting post, as always.

    I have to say I’m not bothered about trigger warnings. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I don’t care for them but I’d just personally ignore them if they were on a book as graphic stuff doesn’t bother me.

    I can see how they would be beneficial though as if you are buying a book for someone and you know they have specific triggers then you’d be able to read the warnings on the book and see if it was suitable for the person.

    I guess if you look at it, music has parental advisory stickers on it, obviously it’s not the same but it warns against swearing and video games have warnings on them, not just the 12, 15 or 18 age rating but the contains flashing images, sex, violence, etc and I’m not sure about DVD/Blu-Ray boxes as I’m too lazy to go and check but when you look at it like that some warnings are already on other forms of media, why not books?

    Finally, no, retailers shouldn’t be responsible for labelling. Look at games, etc, the warnings and ratings are on the cover, surely they would be on the book cover too. You wouldn’t get a retailer sticking labels on books, imagine how long it’d take to stick labels on all the books and then you’d need an info sheet for the books and the warnings they need and separate stickers for each warning. If it ever did come in it would be best to be included at the front of the book or like with games on the back cover and beneath the blurb.

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    1. Very well said and I think we are on similar pages here Drew! Many bloggers feel it will lead to censorship and should be avoided. But I think it is possible to incorporate them. We have successfully done so as you mention in films, etc.

      I personally have a very high tolerance, but also have triggers due to my past. And knowing the content ahead of time completely alters whether or not I can mentally handle it.

      It seems most feel we must rely more solely on reviews for this information. But how many reviewers and bloggers still do not include these warnings or discuss them? A lot on reality. I think the community is getting better and I am even seeing authors make an effort to address possible triggers, but we have a long way to go.

      I agree it must fall on publishers too. And while it cannot happen overnight and there would be a lot to consider, I could imagine some form of warnings or theme descriptions included in future books.

      Thanks so much Drew!

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      1. Yes! And I understand the concern that this could put books at risk for censorship or decreased sales, but a small snippet of warning in the blurb like this provides valuable info and avoids the majority of these issues I think. I mean sure, some would still put the book down as a result, but that is the point!

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  12. This is a difficult one because, while I’m on the squeamish end of the spectrum, what is graphic to me isn’t to other people so how do you label for that. Do you go down the film route and say language, violence etc? I can’t see how it would work I must admit.

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    1. I think a simple inclusion of mentioning themes (i.e. sexual abuse, suicide, etc) and whether it contains graphic depictions could go a long way to help those with actual triggers make a more informed selection. There is nothing worse than reading a book and encountering a real trigger unexpectedly. It takes an actual, mental toll on you. But I do agree, it would be a very challenging system to figure out. Thanks so much Emma 🖤

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  13. I definitely say that content/trigger warnings should be normalised. I have quite a few triggers and some days I’m simply not in the state of mind to confront those things. I make sure to included the warnings in my own reviews because I wouldn’t want anyone to be hurt by their hobby. A few authors I know put trigger warnings in the beginning of the books and I find, that on Twitter at least, it really helps their sales since people promote their book and talk about it more!

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    1. That is such an excellent point about it actually helping sales since others promote the inclusion of the trigger warnings! Thank you for bringing that up. I do feel like there would be some hurdles to ensuring it was done in the most beneficial manner, but it is important. I am beginning to wonder how many of the “nay” sayers have never encountered a trigger or known someone personally who has? And I do not mean that as an attack on anyone, but I still cannot help but feel like there is a hug portion of the community that still does not understand the impact of triggering content and themes on those who are affected. I would love to find a book that includes them. If you remember any titles and do not mind, please drop me a line 😊

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      1. I completely agree with you! I personally don’t understand why someone would be against trigger warnings, especially if they themselves are lucky enough not to have any. It is like they’re against people looking out for their own mental safety (the amount of times I’ve been told I shouldn’t read because I have triggers is ridiculous). I just can’t see why they’re so frowned upon! The one author I’ve been reading recently who has trigger warnings at both the beginning of her books and the Goodreads summary is Talia Hibbert! I’ll have a think and see who else I can remember, but I really see it as the author caring about their audience when they include them 😊

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        1. Thank you for sharing the author with me! I will check this out. I think that when you branch into labels and warnings there is a very real risk of crossing into censorship and nobody wants that to happen with books. So I can certainly respect all of the hesitation or those who are concerned with this possibility because it is a real one. But I am also discovering there are still some who may not fully understand the negative impact of triggers on individuals so it can be hard to justify using a system. Today has definitely been enlightening. The community seems divided on this one.

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  14. Interesting post! I think a movie-like rating wouldn’t be a bad idea – especially when it comes to YA books because they can really range in content from G – R. However, I don’t think books (or reviewers)need to give trigger warnings. Life does not give trigger warnings. And I think often times they should include a plot spoiler.

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    1. I have to disagree but do respect your answer. As someone who suffered a traumatic event, I read to escape. And I know just how harmful triggers can be particularly if someone is still recovering. We cannot avoid them in life but should have the option to make informed choices about our hobbies I think. I always try to include any themes or content I feel is a potential trigger in my reviews under my “challenges some may encounter” and have never had to include a spoiler to do so. I went through years of therapy so I think Inreally appreciate when reviewer offer this, as there are times it was a huge set back to be constantly be slapped with that particular topic unexpectedly in media that was supposed to be my outlet and means of escape. But I certainly agree that clarification in YA titles would not be a bad idea 😉Thanks so much Stephanie!

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  15. Wonderful post, Danielle! I totally agree with you here. As a person that has grown up on horror and has a high tolerance for some things in that realm, I think a key difference is when you are picking up a horror/mystery novel you tend to expect certain types of content whereas you may don’t necessarily have those same expectations in a contemporary novel.

    I don’t know what an easy solution would be, because warning labels could lead to decreased sales but I am not overly sure that it did for video games. Certainly the difference in media consumption likely will have a role to play, but I am sure that parents would appreciate knowing if the YA novels their teenagers are reading has sexual scenes or other tough issues.

    I am an advocate for trigger warnings, and make an effort to include them in my reviews when appropriate, but it is also difficult to know all the things that should/could be called out. Creating a definitive list would also be problematic, but I would also like to know if there’s content I would prefer to avoid before investing hours of my life reading a book.

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    1. I think you and I are on point with this really. I have to admit that I had hesitations about this post and now know why. I am getting a strong feeling that a portion of the community do not understand how detrimental or negatively impactful triggers can be, particularly to someone who is still healing or recovering. And this concerns me for a multitude of reasons 😞 I can understand that there are concerns that warnings or labeled being required runs a risk of censorship (because nobody wants that) but to know some feel that trigger warnings have no place in books or reviews at all really is troubling and kind of hurts as someone who spent years recovering. I see a portion of the book community being proactive (authors included thank goodness) but I think we have a long way to go 💖

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      1. *hugs you tight* This post is incredibly well written and I think it is an important conversation to have. Many people probably have misconceptions about trigger warnings from media (such as using them as a negative characterization for millennials), and there are some people that will undoubtedly see any side to them as a result of this post. I think to those that have never had an experience have a difficult time understanding. I think for this reason I prefer using “content warnings” rather than “trigger warnings.”

        I remember back when video games were getting those ratings (thanks GTA) and how unpopular it was. I think people see it as censorship, when really it isn’t at all. Trigger/content warnings are nothing more than a heads up to inform people of content so they can make an informed decision. Heck, some people may just really not want to read about certain taboo topics for reasons other than trauma, and content warnings help there as well.

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        1. Yes thank you so much! I agree (of course I do 😊 ). I do think media has seen some censorship as a result up those warnings and labels though. Films and video games have been edited before to make sure the final rating is lower to include a larger target audience. So in a sense I totally respect the concern. However, as a parent and consumer who likes to make informed decisions I prefer this. No one is telling us we cannot buy or consume these items. They are simply giving us the tools to better educate ourselves to what we are investing in. Let’s be honest, of we relied solely on reviews and blurbs, we would be up a creek. And haha yes, GTA.. good old GTA. It was over the top at the time yeah 🤣😉

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          1. That’s totally a fair point about the movie ratings, I forgot about that! I don’t think content warnings would necessarily do the same thing so long as it wasn’t an MPAA-style rating system. It is definitely not an easy thing to tackle, but for now I am going to continue putting cw in my reviews as appropriate. xoxo ❤

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            1. Yes, I think people need to just keep in mind that we are simply talking including information on themes and content in books (like in blurbs or a small label) to help provide enough to make informed selections and not actual rating systems. But I think people tend to get a tad on the defense and jump right to ratings and regulations 🖤

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  16. I’ve often wondered the same about ratings for books. However, the problem with ratings is that everyone has different sensitivities. Let’s take the MPAA for example and let’s compare that the British rating board, the German rating board, or the Japanese rating board. What’s the equivalent of an R in this country may be a PG or PG-13 in another or vice versa. I once saw a German film that I thought would have the German R rating, but only had a 13 and up rating, but it would have been an R in America. This filters down to an individual level. I have seen American films that are R that I thought should have been PG-13, or PG-13 that should have been R, or PG-13 that should have just been PG, and so forth.

    Different readers will likewise have different subjects that offend them. Trigger warnings also extend beyond sex, violence, and profanity. Just about any subject, political, religious, ethnic, or a type of humor will offend someone, even if such writing is meant to be benign and not meant to shock. It’s amazing how we can all be offended over different things, even at sometimes what could be looked at as harmless. Don’t believe me? Children’s classics are a prime example. Some of the most innocent children’s books have offended someone.

    That said, I’m not trying to tear down your idea. A rating system for books is interesting and it would be nice to know the content. I’m just not sure how to implement it on a widescale level. I will say that I do put little warnings before my books on my blog if the subject matter is harsh enough.

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    1. The ratings system is a great example of how complicated it would be to try to implement something such as that. Although I am not actually for a rating system with books. It would ultimately lead to some forms of censorship. I was speaking more on behalf of individuals who have undergone traumatic events and have real triggers.

      As far as trigger warnings, we can’t really group them into a category of offensive as they are not the same (although you are right about everyone being offended by something). What offends an individual is not the same as a person experiencing a real trigger which can be detrimental to their health (particularly if they are recovering or still healing). I was thinking more of just including a label or mention on books of the themes that will be encountered within (ie. Sexual violence, mental health and addiction, child abuse, etc). Not topics that offend people but actual possible triggers so readers can be prepared that the theme or topic would be discussed and make an educated decision before picking up the boom. I see a few authors are now starting to do so in blurbs which is amazing! I do not see why more could not start doing so in the future.

      Thank you so much for adding to the conversation Jonathan!

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  17. Danielle, I would like to get a hint of what I am going to find inside a book, there are times I may not be strong enough to read about abuse in a story. And knowing it before hand would also help me understand when to read the story.
    As you said, life has many shades, and I am a mood reader so I would like the trigger warnings. I read a book which had mostly child abuse written in detail, but without a warning, so I ended up being disturbed for days. I did get to speak to the author on one occasion, she was completely not bothered asked me not to read her books, if I am so delicate. So I stopped reading her book.
    Inspite of sales and profit and loss issues, we readers are humans with different experiences, we deserve the right to choose after being informed. Since readers make or break the books, I think we deserve that consideration. This is totally my viewpoint.

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    1. I think that even just covering the themes that will be encountered in the blurb or on a small sticker could go such a long way! I am not asking to see ratings on books. I do not want censorship. But I am thinking some people who do not have triggers may not understand how detrimental they can be. They can be a huge setback particularly if someone is still healing (which can be lifelong). I spent years recovering from a traumatic event and everytime I encountered triggers unexpectedly in what was supposed to be my means of escape, it was very distressing. So I appreciate everything you are saying here. And while an author may not address trigger warnings, I do not think I would continue a relationship with one who had that response either. I am sorry she behaved that way 💖

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  18. Great topic, Danielle! I am strong advocate for adding content labeling for books. While I understand that it is not easy feat to accomplish this task, I hope many people will have an open mind to this concept. I for one, feel that a reader shouldn’t have to dive into uncharted waters when reading a book. It would be so wonderful if we were all provided the opportunity to decide for ourselves what content we would like to read. 💕

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  19. Honestly? I’m not sure that labels would necessarily stop people reading books which cover more extreme topics. It’s something I have though about in the past: I think it would be easier to decide which books to read if they were clearly labeled with genre, themes, and content warnings. I’ve read a fair amount of online writing, and where there are labels present, my motto tends to be along the lines of “well, I’ll try anything once”. And couldn’t it be done by having different sections in book shops rather than having it something that’s physically present in the book?

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    1. I am not sure sections would work when dealing with triggers but this is an interesting concept. I do think a simple inclusion of the covered themes at the end of blurbs, inside the cover, etc could go a long way. The idea is not to stop anyone from reading anything but to provide readers and consumers with a bit of additional information so that if they have triggers they need to avoid (because they can be harmful to their mental health and distressing) enough information to make that decision wisely. Too often blurbs will fail to mention triggering themes or content. But I do appreciate the idea of mentioning that retailers could help by being more aware of how they are arranging and presenting titles. Marketing techniques can probably be implemented to assist and I love that idea!

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  20. Dammit I wanted to do a post about this a few weeks lol. I agree with you that trigger warnings are important but have gotten a lot of negativity when even suggesting it to anyone who reads. Some people say that it will mean we’re stopping people, especially young people, from experiencing the realities of the world but I have personal reasons for needing warnings and if the movie, music and video game industries do it, why can’t publishing.

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    1. You go for it! This is a topic that needs to be widely discussed 🖤 I agree and also have personal triggers due to a past, traumatic experience so I know just how distressing they can be. I am seeing that some feel including trigger warnings means applying ratings or censoring offensive content, which is sad because this means a large portion of the community does not truly understand what a trigger actually is and why it is important for readers who are affected to have the means to make informed choices. A few even told me that life gives no warning so why should books basically. Well life is not scripted but books are and as a leisurely activity should not be harmful to someone’s mental health sigh. A few commentors did share a few authors who are now incorporating possible trigger themes in the blurbs which is fantastic 🖤

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  21. This is a great post, I do try to put warnings in my blog post if I feel there were triggers to me or anyone else in the book I just read. You really hope the author covers it in their blurb, however blurbs can sometimes be very vague with not enough information. You know very well there are just some books that I cannot handle at all. I won’t touch them with a ten foot pole.

    I don’t know about putting a physical sticker on the front cover but putting a little star warning on the inside flap or maybe a little thing below the blurb that says contains blah blah blah.. would be easy. I don’t think it’s censorship in anyway and wouldn’t drive down sales. I would respect the author more for putting it on there, then for giving someone an attack in the middle of a book.

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    1. Yes I agree! I think some are confusing trigger warning labels with rating systems. But I do not want to see rating systems on books at all. I think the incorporation of a small list of themes that are contained in the book at the end of blurb or inside the cover would certainly go a lone way to help readers make informed selections and have minimal impact on sales 😊

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  22. I disagree with including trigger/content warnings on books because I see it as a slippery slope. You mentioned the MPAA near the beginning of your post, an organization that I absolutely can’t stand. The movie rating system has evolved to give them a lot of power over a film’s distribution and earning potential, especially when you’re dealing with films aimed at an adult audience. Oftentimes an NC-17 rating is a death knell for movies compared to an R and that leverage has been and will be used to change the content of a film. The rules for what differentiates each rating from the next are fairly arbitrary and usually grounded in a moral system that leans conservative. (There are lots of thinkpieces on how straight vs. gay sex scenes and male vs. female nudity is treated by the MPAA; needless to say, there’s bias!) While the MPAA certainly looks harmless next to the film rating bodies in other countries that may demand serious cuts or outright ban films, they still operate in the same general sphere. Once you start putting labels on something (or someone), you open up the opportunities to control, regulate, and restrict it.

    That being said: in the age of social media, authors have the ability to communicate content warnings to potential readers as well. Booksellers should feel comfortable, or even be encouraged, to discuss the general content of a book. Then you have the abundance of book blogs and online review outlets that host such a diverse group of readers who are invested in discussing potential triggers. I think it’s an important conversation to have, but it’s one that I feel should begin and end with the reading community instead of being dictated by major publishing houses or, even worse, a ratings body like the MPAA.

    (Great topic, Danielle! It falls right into my wheelhouse as I wrote a term paper on organizations like the MPAA for my constitutional law class and it was fascinating during the class discussion to see the different standards other students had for films, music, video games, and books!)

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    1. I feel like my post came across so wrong haha. I am completely against placing ratings on books or censorship. And I agree, it is a very slippery slope and do not want it.

      But I also think it would very feasible to include a small note on themes and content included in books within the blurb. In fact, someone brought to my attention earlier that hotkey books is already including small labels on the back of books that cover the content. I looked it up and was very impressed with the approach! It certainly seemed like an ideal step in the right direction while avoiding ratings. And there were a few new titles mentioned in the comments where trigger warnings were just addressed at the end of the synopsis.

      My concern is since posting this (and this is not a concern I have with you at all) that some feedback leads me to believe that large portion of the community feel like trigger warnings just fall right into setting age groups and ratings. When they are actually a mental health concern that can affect anyone of any age and occur in books that are age appropriate. There is still a lot that need to be done in this area. But I think you touched on that beautifully with your thoughts on the community and encouraging sellers to be active and vocal 🖤

      MPAA I guess it is a double edged sword huh? I know it has led to a lot of censorship and control (and I actually agree with the points you make as I know they are true), but as a parent I have also relied on it to help me decide which titles I need to really research (but maybe that is just me). I could not imagine trying to find the time to successfully make informed decisions on every single piece of media in my child’s life if I just had to blindly dive into the internet, research, and cross my fingers that the reviewers and sellers were being completely thorough and open. It would not be possible and I fear the result would be me actually censoring my own children more due to being unable to make confident informed decisions. They are a starting point as you would say, albeit also a problem in many ways. So as shameful as it is to admit, I agree with you but also benefit from them in my home?

      I follow hundreds of blogs and only a small handful cover trigger warnings or discuss them (which is sad). I do think it is an awareness growing in the community though, so I hope the trend will continue 🖤

      Thanks for some great food for thought with this one JJ! Sorry if I rambled. Trying to put thoughts together on this phone and daughter keeps coming in. Hope it makes sense haha.

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      1. Oh no, your post didn’t come across the wrong way at all! I actually just made a jump that I think would happen, at some point, if a universal labeling system for trigger warnings was put into use, without actually explaining it. What starts as an initiative to inform potential readers with mental health needs about harmful content could, I fear, transform into the generic content warning and pseudo-censorship of ratings for other entertainment mediums. Since I agree with you and some of the other commenters that warning labels run the risk of negatively impacting sales for a book, an economic imperative to self-censor could develop. That’s why I was mostly comparing the two ideas as if they were the same because, although what you’re suggesting comes from a very different place than what the MPAA does, I think that in practice the two would wind up being very similar if a third party was responsible for content labeling.

        (And that also doesn’t account for the sad fact that some people equate disliking a topic to genuinely being triggered when they encounter it. Trying to take advantage of a language and system designed to help those with mental health concerns only makes it more difficult for the general population to take that system seriously and implement it in meaningful ways.)

        Ultimately I think that the responsibility lies with a consumer to decide what they do and don’t want to read, but that comes with an enormous caveat: the information necessary for making those decisions needs to be easily and clearly accessible! Which is why I also tend to place part of that responsibility on authors and local booksellers as a primary point of engagement, although that still doesn’t account for readers who predominantly buy online, lack regular access to the internet/social media, or who don’t know about/don’t engage with the bookish community for any reason. A complicated issue with no easy solution, like you said ♥

        If authors and publishers want to make changes like those that Hotkey is making in response to feedback from their readership, I fully support it. After all, they are the best advocates for the books they write and sell, so as a consumer I would trust them to keep me informed! I wouldn’t be surprised if a positive response from readers saw other publishers taking similar measures in the future, particularly in the MG and YA genres.

        And circling back to the usefulness of the MPAA, no argument there! I had a very wide latitude in what I watched and read as a kid: mostly my parents didn’t want me thinking that repeating curse words was acceptable (oops) and my dad had the expected hang-ups over his daughter watching any kind of sex scene, but they very rarely told me no. But they still tried to stay informed on roughly what sort of content was in the movies I watched. Honestly, I would prefer that studios provide their own content information on films they produce, with a general age recommendation. It’s in their best interest to keep movie-goers informed, especially parents who might not want their 8 year-old watching a movie produced with teenagers in mind. At least that way, as I picture it in my mind, that strikes a balance between keeping consumers informed while reducing the likelihood of third-party censorship.

        You didn’t ramble at all ♥ While I believe that there are some wrong answers to the question of content warnings in media, there isn’t a single right answer either. One of the most important things is that authors, publishers, and readers approach the matter with a sympathetic mindset, which I think you and all of the other commenters here have done 🙂

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        1. Ah, so well said JJ! And I think that maybe you nailed it with the idea of more individualized approaches such as what Hotkey has chosen to do. This could possibly be a more viable solution to providing resourceful tools and info while avoiding the risks that come with implementing a universal system (which would surely be flawed on multiple fronts).

          And it is so important for others to remember (as you have mentioned) that not all have access to internet, the book community, etc for various reasons. So new means of providing the necessary info to make educated purchases would be wonderful!

          But it definitely won’t happen overnight and definitely comes with no easy solution or cut and dry formula. Thank you so much for all of the thought on this. You really have my brain stewing over the MPAA right now though haha.

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  23. I think it’s a good idea. Reading about graphic child and animal abuse affects me in a negative way for days and days and I don’t need that. I saw people saying it will affect sales in a negative way, and I don’t think that’s necessarily true. It’s like with the album stickers; sales of albums with the advisory stickers on them went up. I think there would probably be just as many readers who would pick up a book for graphic scenes as turn away. And besides it isn’t any worse for an author to lose a sale than it is for us to spend our hard earned cash on a book we can’t read. Plus, different people are upset or triggered by different things. I can read about gruesome things all day long if it doesn’t involve children or animals.

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    1. I can see sales actually being boosted and mentioned this very fact as a possibility to someone else as well. I could see this being particularly beneficial to horror and thriller titles in that regard.

      I do understand the concern of heading down a road that potentially leads to censorship (as I am against that) so it is an area to tread wisely, with caution. Many want to say films are rated and not censored, but they are. They are chopped and edited constantly as a result of MPAA and trying to maintain specific ratings.

      However, triggers are very real and need to be addressed. I think there are some very viable solutions (ie. Include a list of themes and content at the end of blurbs or on book jackets) that could allow readers to make informed decisions. Like you, I am not trying to spend my funds or open a book to escape to end up with a mental 3 day set back 🖤

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  24. An interesting discussion, Danielle. I have always believe that if you are a good enough reader to read it, go ahead. I have never restricted my boys choice of book. I am of the view that whatever is presented in a book is much less “harmful” than a visual presentation such as TV. You can only interpret words and create an idea in your mind within the realms of your own experience and that is a limitation in itself.

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    1. I can respect this and I am definitely against restricting readers. However, as someone who has spent years recovering and healing from a specific traumatic event, I do feel that having enough information to make a selection best for myself is always best. I have spent days fighting off the effects of unexpectedly encountering a trigger because the publisher or author failed to mention the content or theme in a blurb or anywhere when it should have been. It has been a huge set back for me, particularly when I was still recovering at the time. So I think the idea is, that we can do better at acknowledging the importance of providing enough info to allow all readers to make informed decisions 🙂 Thank you so much Robbie!

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  25. I think it would be a very good thing if labels existed. Actually, I don’t really understand why they don’t – it’s pretty strict for movies and games, so why not books? Just because you have to make your own visual representation of the content? That’s not a good enough reason… It would be good if they presented content warnings. You can’t unread some things.
    Great post!

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    1. You cannot! But I am discovering that many seem to be under the impression that reading it is less impactful or they do not actually understand what a real trigger is and the damage it can cause to someone’s mental health (this discussion has fell over to my other social media and real life and many just lump triggers right into offensive content which frustrates me to no end because that is not the same!). So maybe we need to work a bit longer as a community to raise actual awareness of triggers and the distress they cause and why? I do think that including themes and content warnings or heads up in the blurb even could go a long way! At least give us enough info to make an informed selection! I have been told readers should relay on bloggers and reviews (wrong! Not all reviewers can be trusted to accurately include this info and not all readers have access to the book community and internet) and that life doesn’t come with trigger warnings (well life is not scripted and not a leisure activity but reading is!). Sorry haha ramble ramble 🖤

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        1. I appreciate the quotes Brian and also fully 100 percent believe in freedom of expression. I am actually anti censorship. So I can get behind them 🙂 But if I may ask, do you understand what a trigger is? I am only asking because you are responding with quotes about “offensive and offending” but triggers have nothing to do with offensive content in any way.

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          1. I do understand the concept of a “trigger” – Urban Dictionary definition = “a term used to describe sensations, images, or experiences that trigger a traumatic memory” – and I appreciate the importance that some have imbued them with. I also actually find the question just a tad arrogant and patronizing. I do disagree with the suggestion that books should carry trigger warnings. I do agree with the points that Bookstooge and Lashaan made in their earlier comments and I do see this idea as the thin edge of a well-meaning wedge whose ultimate destination – when extended and abused by those less well meaning – is someone else’s control of the content I might be able to access. Best, Brian

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            1. I’m pretty sure booksofb is either trolling, or has completely missed the point. Danielle is not advocating censorship. She was discussing the possibility of giving potential readers an option to make an informed decision on whether to read a book/story or not.

              It is not arrogant to ask someone if they have missed the point or understand the original topic when they respond to the discussion post by pretentiously copying quotes from other people that address a separate and unrelated topic. Being able to copy and paste a dictionary definition (a dictionary known for lacking credibility) does not show one has been able to grasp the concept of the term. Trigger/Content warnings are not the same as censorship.

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              1. CJ: I can assure you that I’m not trolling. I also assure that I don’t believe Danielle to be advocating censorship – I’ve never made that assertion. I have argued that well meaning interventions like trigger warnings have the potential – over the long term – to be misused by less well intentioned actors. It’s a perfectly reasonable line of argument and it’s been made in part by earlier posters. Best, Brian

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                1. Brian, you can’t assure me of anything as you do not hold any significant moral or intellectual credibility with me. You have chosen to present yourself as someone looking for a fight, and then used ridiculous quotes from other people to make your argument for you because you lack the ability to articulate your own points.

                  Your opinion on whether trigger warnings can lead to censorship remains valid. (Although I suspect it is an opinion that has been fed to you, rather than being your own, based on your need to consistently quote other people.) But your argument is instantly flawed due to a noticeable lack of logic and reason. I don’t agree with your opinion, but you have the right to be wrong.

                  The way you decided to lash out at Danielle when she asked you a very reasonable question is distasteful and is why I made my comment. You made this an unprovoked, personal attack on Danielle. I felt uncomfortable letting that go unchallenged. There are already too many men lashing out at women who dare to question them online. You are part of the problem.

                  You appear to be a rather unhappy individual. I hope you find the help you need to overcome this aspect of your character, and find peace within. You have the ability to be better than this. I won’t be responding to any more comments from you. I suspect it will serve little to no purpose to use logic and reason to argue with someone that doesn’t use reason to form their viewpoints. Peace and Love to you.

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  26. I was going to post the exact same thing as ItsCJStark. Trigger warning and censorship are two completely different things.

    She was not being arrogant by trying clarify. I could not figure out how the quotes of booksofb connected to trigger warnings. Since you like quotes so much, Censorship is “the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.”

    a trigger warning is “a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content)”

    No one is trying to suppress what people write, the trigger warnings allow the reader to decide if they want to read something that could potentially take them back to relive a traumatic experience from their past. That could potentially cause issues later. You clearly have never read or watched something that caused you a panic attack and made you relive something terrible from your past.

    We also are not being unreasonable here either. If you pick up a book about a serial rapist, then you can expect to read about a rape scene. if you are reading a nice coming of age story and the protagonist is suddenly violently raped, that can cause a trigger for some people that can be harmful to them mentally. You wouldn’t shoot fireworks off in the front yard of a solider with PTSD (hopefully), that is no different.

    You are the one coming off arrogant in this situation here. You clearly have 0 idea what you are talking about. Maybe instead of googling censorship quotes, you do a little research on the impact of trauma to a person and what can make things worse. Educate yourself a bit before you start throwing around terms like arrogant and patronizing.

    BTW my post was written to come off arrogant and patronizing. This is what a patronizing post looks like, Danielle’s was a person trying to continue a productive conversation and get on the same page as someone. I on the other hand don’t really care what your opinion is, and actually won’t engage any further with you if you decide to respond. She is a much nicer person than I am.

    pa·tron·ize
    ˈpātrəˌnīz,ˈpatrəˌnīz/Submit
    verb
    gerund or present participle: patronizing
    1.
    treat with an apparent kindness that betrays a feeling of superiority.

    This one came from the real dictionary, non urban dictionary.

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  27. CJ: Thanks for your message – just a couple of brief comments in response:

    *It’s a trivial point but I can offer you assurances – you can and have chosen to reject them and you’re well within your rights to do so.

    *I do take issue with the suggestion that I presented myself as someone looking for a fight – I tried to present myself as someone attempting to express an opinion and – after reading the entire, extended string and knowing that opinion would not be a popular one – I attempted to present in a non-threatening form using the words of a number of extremely well-educated, well-respected men of letters. I regret that the attempt was not well received.

    *I actually didn’t intend to lash out at Danielle but I did find the suggestion that a well-educated individual in 2018 might not understand the meaning of “triggers” to be subtly arrogant. It’s a relatively simple concept that’s broadly understood. If I could be so bold as to once again offer you assurances, I can assure you that my messages were in no way meant to be unprovoked or personal in nature or an attack on Danielle. I follow Danielle’s blog – I enjoy and regularly like her content – and – as a relatively new writer and blogger – I’ve learned a great deal reading her content. I value her and would not want to alienate her.

    *Finally – while I appreciate your concern – I would ask you not to worry about the state of my emotional health or my soul. I am 57 years old, have lived an incredibly productive and meritorious life, I’ve served my country honorably, I’ve worked as a Diplomat overseas, I’ve served as a leader in more than one company where I’ve worked with amazing men and women who I respect and whose respect I’ve earned, I’ve raised amazing children – boys and girls – who are well on their way to success in their own lives, I’m married to an amazing woman who is my partner and equal and I’ve secured our financial future. I have never been so happy or content in all my years. I can only hope that – when the time comes – you’re able to say that with as much conviction. Best Regards, Brian

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  28. CJ: In hopes of closure – your acknowledgement that my point regarding the possibility that trigger warnings might lead to censorship is valid was all I’d ever hoped to accomplish. Best Regards, Brian

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  29. I’m not inherently against the idea of trigger warnings. People decide whether or not to read books based on content all the time, even if it’s something “irrelevant” like “I don’t want to read another book set in NYC right now” or “I heard the main character is annoying” or “I hate mysteries.” It’s not necessarily that different to say “I don’t feel like reading a book with child abuse in it right now.”

    I just always get caught up on the practical question of trigger warnings. Some things are obvious like “I will put a trigger warning for a graphic rape scene.” But other things are not obvious, and there are going to be gray areas in terms of what “counts” for a trigger warning. What topics count? What “level” of graphicness counts? Some people would say just mentioning certain words is a trigger, even if there’s not an actual scene with the action. I can see how people/publishers might balk at being “responsible” for determining what’s a trigger in this way. Once things have “official” trigger warnings, the implication is that something without a warning is safe–and the publisher might face a lot of backlash for missing something that some readers felt should have been labelled with a trigger warning.

    I don’t really know what a fail-safe solution would be for people who want trigger warnings, though. Maybe a flawed system is better than no system?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Briana! This is such an excellent point and one I have kicked around multiple times with other friends who have real triggers. It is a true grey area to true to develop an all encompassing system would be impossible I think and maybe as you mentioned, really detrimental when it comes to encouraging publishers to getting on board (rightfully so because it is not without concerns in terms of responsibilities).

      I do think that a “flawed” system is perhaps the initial step in a good direction. I would welcome just seeing more publishers and authors opting to include some form of content or theme notes in blurbs or somewhere on the cover to assist readers in making informed choices. Just an individual exploration. Another blogger commented and introduced me to the UK publishing firm Hotkey and they are already doing just this. I pulled up some of their books for examples of the system they were using and was impressed 🙂

      But I can see how it would be territory most would be very hesitant to explore and rightfully so. It does not come without many challenges ❤

      Like

  30. Good post!

    Perhaps book reviewers should be more proactive in including information about potential triggers in the books (many are already, of course). There’s generally a lot of information about a book on Goodreads. Most publishers are going to send out ARCs to reviewers ahead of time; it’s really rare these days to pick up a book and NOT be able to find out information about it ahead of time.

    I would hate for publishers to encourage writers to alter the contents of their books just so they could fit into a certain rating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes that does seem to be the biggest concern and an understandable one. I do agree that the community is moving into a better direction in terms of including them in reviews for readers. I guess the downside to relying on bloggers and reviews, would be the readers who do not have access to online reviews and book communities would miss this advantage and information. I have seen a few authors now inclu7them right in the blurb and someone shared a UK publisher Hotkey who has implemented their own system, but no easy solution is present as well definitely want to avoid censorship or limiting content 😊 it will be interesting to see how it evolves over time as more awareness arises. Thank you so much Brooke!

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  31. I have no issues not having them or having them. My concern is where do you draw the line on trigger warnings? I also can see the big can of worms, with readers crying there was no warning about this or that. I barely read the synopsis for fear of spoilers. I think when you read a certain genre you have to go into expecting there could be a bit of this or a bit of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I can certainly understand those concerns. They are very valid points and are what make it a most complicated topic to tackle. As someone who survived a traumatic event and went through a recovery and healing process I know how distressing and real triggers are. But I also understand exactly what you are saying. It is rocky territory that does not come without risk depending on how it is approached for sure. I do think it is possible to incorporate themes and expected elements into blurbs without divulging spoilers (some authors and pubs have actually done so recently) but trying to define triggers is as you say, a potential can of worms. Thanks so much Kimberly for added more insight to this. It has been an incredible discussion to touch on all sides!

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  32. * pushing glasses up my nose * I can count on one hand the amount of books I´ve read that didn´t have some sort of warning label on it. I think warning labels are important for readers who appreciate a heads up. Warning labels for me are worthless, though. I´m the first person to buy a book that has the whole package ( graphic scenes & content that support themes like adultry, suicide, self injurious behaviors, kidnap ) But I´m the type of person who´s not easily offended or triggered, hence the reason for my indifference towards warning labels. The only 2 topics in novels I stay away from are novels with small children and religion. Not because of fear for being triggered- I just don´t prefer to read about those two. When I read about a book that has ALL warning labels I´m often disappointed after reading. Maybe I, too, have a high tolerance. Or maybe I just enjoy the shocking stuff. Who knows. But when a book carries the adultry theme and has a warning label bigger than the state of Texas and I end up reading about a woman who fantisized about another man…. I´m sorry. That is not adultry. That´s called being human. Imagining something and acting it out are two pairs of shoes. See the problem? For me, it´s not adultry. For someone else, fantisizing about another person might be adultry. It´s often a case of how someone defines certain topics. Warning labels are ( for me ) like tagline reviews. “Watch out, there´s a whole lot of bed sports that may be disturbing for sensitive flowers”. For me, that´s not a warning. That´s an invitation. HAHAHA.
    I truly love this post. You´re so good at discussion topics. Big envy moment. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I see what you are saying. The majority of the mentioned content would not fall into trigger warnings thankfully. And some books depending on the blurb and genre are good at supplying an idea of what to expect. The problem is those that throw the random, unexpected actual trigger scenes in and readers have made what they thought was an informed choice only to now find themselves in an actual distressed state. But finding a balance with it all is such a complex task and one that may never have a clear, defining answer.

      And girl, you give me way too much credit!!! 🖤🖤🖤

      Like

      1. You’re right. It would be a complex task to find a balance. I’m sure it will never happen, either. Not because of lack of trying but because you simply cannot pinpoint what a trigger could be or not.
        I’m just thankful for not being an author or someone who’d be in charge for adding warning labels. I’m insensitive that way. 🙈😂 Warnings are important If they’re justified. If there’s an abuse theme then that deserves a mention. And about the majority of trigger content not falling into trigger warnings- that’s true. But can you really blame authors for trying to save their necks? It’s easier to mention a hint of something rather than deal with an unwelcomed outcome. Better safe than sorry. It just sucks sometimes for me to encounter careful warnings when that’s the exact content I want to read about. Lol.
        I recently saw a warning label for a LGTB+. Now, that deserves to be mentioned in a synopsis. A weaved in hint. I find it ridiculous for LGBT+ to have a warning label, regardless if i like it or not. But that’s me. I can’t speak for others. 💜

        Liked by 1 person

        1. As a bisexual female, I would send the publisher a letter if I saw this warning you speak of and it would not be a kind one. I would blast them hard 🤬 WTF.. I cannot right now.

          As for the.rest, you are so right. This would be one of the biggest problems, good intentions would spiral out of hand and everything would fall under a blanket for the sake of “better safe than sorry”. But this is why I feel we should be challenging publishers individually to be more alert of providing more accurate blurbs. They can include difficult themes in the blurbs while avoiding spoilers and the need to slap labels on books. This provides readers the info they need and avoid the mess other options would surely insight 🖤

          Liked by 1 person

  33. Such an interesting discussion, I’m not sure where I land on it though. I like warning, because I need to be in the mood for certain topics. But I fear that publishers would start putting warning about religions, sexual orientations, things like that rather than violence. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

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