Lola’s Ramblings: What do you think of Trigger Warnings?

July 21, 2016 Lola's Ramblings 40

LolaRamblings

Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.

I recently added a book to my to-read list that had a trigger warning and it suddenly got me thinking about trigger warnings, their uses and pro’s and cons. The book that sparked this topic is Cornered by JA Belfield. Which has a very vague trigger warning and doesn’t make it clear what kind of scenes it contains, probably to avoid spoiling the actual scene. The topic also reminded me about a really good post I once read about trigger warnings years ago, but can’t remember on which blog that was. So I decided to make it a topic for one of my Lola’s Ramblings post. I think trigger warnings are a very tricky topic. On the one hand I am all for it and on the other hand I think they never can be fully effective and wonder if it’s better to not use them at all. There isn’t one standard for trigger warnings, some authors add and some not. And should there be one standard for this? And even if there would be how would we decide what the standard is?

The good thing about trigger warnings

On the one hand I like the concept of trigger warnings and see their uses. I know I can be quite sensitive to some topics, there are quite some topics like animals death, torture or gruesome details I rather not read about and even some topics that are triggering for me which I would like to avoid at any costs. When I start a book that has one of those it can become a quick DNF just because of that and if I had known in advance I wouldn’t have picked up the book or accepted the review request. So in those cases I definitely see the benefit of trigger warnings. There also have been books I stayed away from because they had a trigger warning. Even reviews can work in this way by giving me a feel of what to expect and basing whether I want to read the book based on that. And I would say I like how reviews can warn me in advance about topics I might want to avoid. I’ve also seen books where the reviews include actual trigger warnings even if the actual blurb might not include it.
So overall I think trigger warnings do have a function, they warn people away from books that include topics they rather not read about or might be triggering for them. Getting triggered by a book, movie or anything else is unpleasant and I think trigger warnings can do a role to prevent that from happening by warning you in advance. On the other hand I also think the way trigger warnings are handled is far from ideal and undermine the benefit they could have and I don’t think there is an easy solution for this.

The difficult part of trigger warnings

I mentioned that I also think trigger warnings aren’t fully effective and I listed below the reasons I think why this is the case and to illuminate what makes the topic of trigger warnings so complicated and tricky.

  • Not everyone has the same standard. There is not one standard for trigger warnings. Some books do have them others not, some are very specific and others less so. There is not one standard for trigger warnings, which also makes it difficult to know what a trigger warnings means. Does the absence of a trigger warning means there is nothing triggering in the book or does it mean the authors didn’t want to include a trigger warning in their blurb? How can you interpret a vague warning that doesn’t explicitly mention where it’s warning for? Or is that better than something specific which might be a spoiler? So there isn’t one standard on how trigger warnings currently are being handled, everyone just does what they think is best and I think there is nothing wrong with it, but if want to depend on trigger warnings the lack of standard can be troubling. On the other I also think that it’s hard or almost impossible to make a standard for trigger warnings.
  • The risk of spoilers. When including a trigger warning in your blurb it also means you include a potential spoiler for your own book in the blurb. And I know many readers and blogger don’t like spoilers and might not want to know that thing which the trigger warning refers to beforehand. Say main character X has a secret and you only find out later in the book and the trigger warnings warns for that, then it also spoils part of the plot. So including a trigger warning in your blurb sometimes also means spoiling something.
  • How specific should trigger warnings be? The previous points brings me to this one, how specific should a trigger warning be, should the warning be generic or specific? The more specific a warning the easier for a reader to judge whether it’s a trigger for them or not, but also increases the risk of being a spoiler. And while a mention of abuse can already be triggering for some, for others only an actual scene or even only a long scene with lots of details is triggering. And mentioning the book has violence doesn’t tell you what kind of violence. I can be okay with violence in movies, but can’t stand torture or things involving needles for example. There are so many gradations when it comes to triggers. It’s not exact science, everyone is different. And it can be hard to know how specific a trigger warning should be to be effective.
  • The inability to warn for everything that could be a trigger. What is a trigger for one person might not be a trigger for another person and people are so different that trigger warnings can never warn for everything. Ofcourse you can warn for the more common things, but that still leaves a lot of topics that could be triggering that you can’t warn for. Every topic basically could be a trigger and you can’t possible warn for every little thing that’s included in your book.
  • Might scare readers away. While a trigger warning can be effective to let potential readers know to stay clear from that book if topic X is a trigger for them, it also might scare potential readers away. When a trigger warning says it contains some dark scenes or scenes that make people uncomfortable I usually have a hard time knowing whether that will apply to me or not. I have read books with a trigger waring were I thought the trigger warning was right or it was even worse than I expected, but I’ve also read books with a trigger warning where it wasn’t necessary for me and where I might have avoided the book for that warning, while in fact I did enjoy the book. I think most authors wouldn’t want to scare away potential readers who might enjoy the book, but you also want to make sure the people who wouldn’t enjoy said scene are warned.
  • Does it help to be warned in advance? Then I also wonder if it actually helps to get warned in advance. Say you decide to read a book with a trigger warning anyway as you hope it’s only one scene or you can read over it. Then the fact that there was a trigger warning might make you more alert and on your toes while reading the book. While if the book didn’t have a trigger warning you wouldn’t have that effect. I think trigger warnings can influence people their expectations. Either in this way, but also maybe the other way around where someone likes a certain topic and expects it because of the trigger warning and it might not turn out to be such a big deal afterwards. Just like covers, blurbs, reviews etc I think trigger warnings can influence your expectations of a book and whether that’s a good or bad thing? I don’t know.

Conclusion

All in all I find it every hard to form an opinion on this topic as on the one hand I think they have benefits, but on the other hand I believe the system or topic of trigger warnings isn’t handled in a way that will ever fully work which always makes me wonder if it helps to have them at all. Which probably brings us to the way it is currently handled. Every author or publisher decides for themselves whether to include trigger warnings or not. I’ve also seen some sites out there that judge trigger warnings, but even then I think trigger warnings can never warn for everything, that’s just not possible. So as a reader who wants to avoid certain topics I think you still have to be careful and use all the resources you have if you really want to be sure, like asking people who have read it, read the blurb or even ask the author. And maybe that last one might be the most effective of them all as you know best what you want to avoid and the author or another reader knows what’s really in the book. I actually have included a note on my review policy page asking authors to let me know if their book includes certain topics, but even then I reach only the authors who send me review requests after reading that page.
So I can’t fully give a answer or stance on this topic as I see something for both sides, for the argument to include them, but also for the argument to just remove them all and have people who might get triggered figure out themselves if the book is triggering for them or not before they start reading.

What do you think of trigger warnings? Do you find them handy or not?

Authors: do you include trigger warnings in your blurbs or not?

40 Responses to “Lola’s Ramblings: What do you think of Trigger Warnings?”

  1. J.A. Belfield

    Obviously I’m going to comment as mine was the book used as an example. 😉

    Normally, I don’t use trigger warnings, as you already know. Cornered is the first book of mine where I considered it to be necessary, and I’ve even had readers come back to me and mention the trigger warning and their appreciation of it being there.

    And you’re totally right about what requires a trigger warning. I think a lot of the decisions to include a trigger warning, where that decision is made by the author, depends on either the personal experiences of the author, or on what the author, themselves, is comfortable with reading. Personally, there are certain topics that I’d appreciate seeing a trigger warning for. This doesn’t mean I don’t pick up a book because it has a trigger warning, but when I reach the scene the warning is directed at, I appreciate the head’s up and can skim if I feel it necessary. I’ve found, in my own reading experience, that being aware of an upcoming trigger *hasn’t* really affected whether or not I enjoy a book, and doesn’t really even play on my mind as I’m reading.

    With regards to being more specific in the trigger warnings, you’re right in mentioning the spoiler issue. If the trigger scene is a twist or turn in the plot, the author is definitely not going to outright state what the trigger scene consists of. That would be unfair to both the author and the readers who prefer surprises. However, in some cases, for example, where rape or sexual assault are the triggers scenes, this element of the story is sometimes included within the blurb, so it’s either a) okay for it to be specified in the trigger warning, or b) is pretty obviously what the trigger warning refers to.
    I think the closest authors could get to narrowing down a trigger warning without giving their plot away would be something like: Contains scenes of a *sexual* nature that some readers may find distressing / Contains scenes of a *violent* nature that some readers may find disturbing <<would that be more helpful?

    So, all in all, I more or less agree with the points you've made in your post. It is a tricky one to judge and I doubt we'll reach a point where guidelines can be written up as a one size fits all. :\

    • Lola

      Your book sparked this topic, so I thought it would be nice to mention the book that sparked the topic. Thanks for stopping by to comment 🙂

      I did appreciate the trigger warning for Cornered even though it was a bit vague and thanks to a conversation in the street team I knew it wouldn’t happen till late in the book.

      It depends a bit on the book and the trigger warning whether I still pick up a book or not. Sometimes the trigger warning will warn me away from a book I don’t think I would enjoy and other times I still give it a try even with the trigger warning. In the case of Cornered I knew I probably still would enjoy it as I read your previous books and enjoyed those. But I’ve also have had books where I still gave them a try and regretted it afterwards. The warning does help me be prepared to skim when necessary, but it also makes me a bit more cautious when reading sometimes.

      It seems trigger warnings do involve twists or plot points quite regularly so I get the authors not wanting to spoil things. And indeed being too specific could ruin the book for those who like surprises. When reading it usually will become obvious where the trigger warning refers to. And indeed if the blurb already hints to the topic the trigger warning can be more specific without spoiling things.

      I agree that adding more narrower trigger warning with stating for example sexual nature or violent nature could help give potential readers a bit more of an idea what to expect, especially when the rest of the blurb doesn’t make it clear. But it also makes it a bit more spoiler-y. I find it really hard to say what’s really better or not on this topic as it’s so tricky.

      It really is a tricky topic and I don’t think we will ever reach a point where we can get guidelines. So it’s just an everyone decides for themselves kinda thing.

    • Lola

      I do appreciate trigger warnings and have found them helpful at times, but at the same time it’s hard to know where the line is between warning and spoiling. I think being vague makes it easier not to spoil anyone and JA her idea would be a good middle way between being too detailed and too vague.

  2. Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons

    I’m not a person who needs trigger warnings, but I can appreciate the fact that maybe others do need them. I’ve even included a trigger warning in a few reviews. Mostly, I try to keep them as vague as possible. I will try to say things like “this story is very dark, darker than previous works by this author if you’ve read her before” or something of that nature. I read a lot of dark stories, so it hard for me to know when and how much to share about triggers. I’ve read books that include everything from rape, to cannibalism of a person while still alive (which was in a YA book too), to torture. It is hard to know how much to go into the story and not to give spoilers.

    Here’s the other thing. If the author includes a warning about rape/dubious consent/coercion in a book, it can get the book banned on Amazon. When I was at RT15, I went to a panel with authors who write this genre. It is something they really struggle with. They want to put that warning on their books, but at the same time, don’t want to be banned from Amazon.

    Even if your book isn’t part of this genre, but a character has this in their past or something they go through as just a conflict through the story, a trigger warning might be nice. For example, there is an Urban Fantasy series that is very popular. I wouldn’t call it any darker than any other series out there. The main character gets raped in one of the books. It is something horrible that this character must go through and struggles with it even in the next book. If that author put a trigger warning on that book, the book could be banned.

    Sorry for getting a little ranty. It is just frustrating that Amazon doesn’t allow authors to warn users about this sort of thing.
    Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons recently posted…Wildest Dreams Audiobook by Kristen Ashley (REVIEW)My Profile

    • Lola

      Comparing books in terms of darkness to previous books by the author also sounds like a good way to stay vague and still give people a feel for how dark it is. I usually don’t like too much dark stuff, so those warnings can be helpful for me, but it also depends on how exactly it is dark.

      I didn’t realize authors could get banned from amazon for that reason. But there are a lot of books that include that, so basically they can stay on amazon as long as the blurb doesn’t warn about it? That does sound troublesome that authors have to avoid mentioning it then just to not get banned. That sounds very frustrating for authors. I just don’t get why amazon would ban those books.

  3. Angela @Simply Angela

    Love this topic. It’s actually a topic that I’ve discusses numerous times when I worked at my local library.

    As a reader, my reading is very diverse. I read a lot of Motorcycle Club books so I’ve come to expect them to be dark and gritty. Although when reading something like a mainstream romance, I kind of like to know what I’m getting into.

    As a blogger, I tend to tell readers that this book may make some readers uncomfortable due to the content and I normally list what’s in the book.
    Angela @Simply Angela recently posted…Audiobook Review: Unclaimed Legacy by Deborah HealMy Profile

    • Lola

      It sure is a topic where there is a lot to say about

      I read a lot of different genres, I feel like I still have certain expectations for each genre. And things that are more common or normal in some genres then in others.

      I see a lot of bloggers or reviewers listing things like this and I kinda like it as when you look around on blogs or goodreads reviews you often can figure out which topics/ themes a book has.

  4. Ashley Montgomery

    Greta topic! I’ve noticed more and more lately trigger warnings being included with books. I’m also on the fence about the concept as well. I do think it’s a good idea in some sense but damaging in another. And who gets to decide anyways? Why should one book include it and not another? What bothers one might not bother another and in a way I see it as spoilers all around. Unless already stated in the blurb, any mention of cheating, death, love triangle, etc., I consider it all being a spoiler.
    Ashley Montgomery recently posted…#Promo #Giveaway Return to Marker Ranch (Sierra Legacy #2) by Claire McEwenMy Profile

    • Lola

      I guess it does seem more common lately. And I agree it’s good in one sense, at least the idea behind it, but it also can be difficult. And with the lack of standard you never know what no warning means. And it’s hard to know what is a spoiler or not and how much to reveal to help the reader decide.

  5. Greg

    Trigger warnings are pretty subjective I think. To be honest I hadn’t even heard of them before I started blogging, and now they seem to be everywhere. There’s a part of me that thinks we’re overdoing it with stuff like this but if someone has been impacted by something who am I to say they wouldn’t be affected by content? So maybe it’s good they’re there.

    I agree with your pros and cons. I’ve read books that disturbed me, and maybe a trigger/ content warning would help me avoid. At the same time your cons are also good ones- who decides? What is covered? How specific? Is it voluntary? What is a trigger and what isn’t? So yeah…

    Great topic Lola! And important too. I agree with everything you said.
    Greg recently posted…The Girls in the GardenMy Profile

    • Lola

      yes I think that’s one of the problems with trigger warnings they are so subjective. What needs a warning and what doesn’t?

      Like you I’ve read books where a trigger warning might have helped me know to avoid that and at the same time I think trigger warnings can never be fully effective so why use them at all?

  6. loverofromance

    I am a big fan of trigger warnings and as long as the story isn’t spoiled much I really prefer them. There are certain aspects of a story I like to be made aware of beforehand. For example love triangles or cliffhangers or BDSM elements are big ones that I like to have some warning about. I get that some people don’t like spoilers, but I do prefer certain warnings and most of the time I don’t feel like they spoil the story. But when I issue them in my reviews, I do try to be careful about spoilers.
    loverofromance recently posted…Book Review-Rock Wedding by Nalini SinghMy Profile

    • Lola

      I usually don’t mind trigger warnings and even think they can be helpful, but it’s a shame how they can be spoilers sometimes. I agree with you on those elements, I don’t mind it if a book has those, but it would be nice to know beforehand. It also depends on how much a warning spoils. If it reveals a small element I am usually okay with it, but if it reveals a big plot twists I think you can better go with a more vague warning sometimes. It’s hard to know where the line should be between warning and spoilers.

  7. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

    When I first learned about trigger warnings (like, years ago, I don’t actually know when), I always equated them with things like rape and self harm. But I now realize anything *could* be a trigger for someone out there. I mean, someone may have had a traumatizing experience involving a carton of eggs at some point in their life, and now they have a panic attack every time an egg is even mentioned. However, just because every single possible trigger can’t be mentioned, I still don’t see the harm in mentioning the common ones.

    I think, however, the true or original purpose of trigger warnings was to warn people about content that might truly disturb them or set them back if they’re trying to overcome something or make them relive something traumatizing that happened to them, etc. I think there’s a big different between a trigger and something that someone merely dislikes or even is afraid of. For example, if I read about someone having blood drawn, I’ll get uncomfortable, I might squirm a little, I might skip a paragraph or two to get past it, but it won’t have any lasting effects on me. Or if someone reads about cheating, they may not enjoy the book, but again it doesn’t actually traumatize them. But someone else might read about self harm and relapse into harming themselves or something. Or read about abuse and have a panic attack. And I think those kind of legitimate trigger warnings can be really helpful and important for some people. Though I do get what you’re saying about how not every book includes them, so it’s hard to know. If there’s no warning, it could mean there are no common triggers in the book, or it could just mean the author/publisher decided not to mention it.

    As for warnings in general, like about graphic sex, violence, language, etc., I think there’s probably nothing wrong with including those since it helps get the book to the right readers rather than having a bunch of people read it who are just going to hate it, even though you already know from my discussion that I think it’s super subjective. If I were an author, I’d include a brief warning about sex, violence, and language content. And other things like cheating, love triangles, and just things that some people generally dislike, I guess it depends. Those are the types of things I feel like reviews are for, so that just doesn’t seem all that necessary and seems like it’s going a bit far and possibly getting spoiler-y or even unnecessarily turning people off from the book. And as you said, if you REALLY want to avoid something, you can always ask other readers on GR or even the author.

    Luckily I don’t have any triggers and there’s not a whole lot that I avoid or can’t read about, but I imagine it must be tough for everyone out there who does have certain things they can’t handle in books.
    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Book Review: Teeth: The First Bite (Teeth Book 1) by Chele CookeMy Profile

    • Lola

      Good point, just because you can’t mention all the specific ones is no reason not to mention the more common ones.

      I have topics I prefer not to read about, things that make me really uncomfortable, things that can negatively impact my enjoyment of a book and even a few that are actually triggering for me. Although with books I usually deal better than with movies, with books it’s usually easier to skim things. Still I often do appreciate the warning if possible and else I can always DNF or skim, so I usually don’t worry too much about it.

      And the fact that no warning can mean there isn’t anything to warn about or the author didn’t decide to include it one of the things that really makes it difficult to know what it means. Sometimes the blurb can hint about topics, but not always.

      And I also think warnings about sex and violence can help the book in the right readers their hand and out of those who don’t appreciate that sort of thing. But even that is subjective as well. And indeed often those things will be mentioned in reviews. With warnings you always risk going too far and unnecessarily warning people away. And if you really want to know if there’s something in the book or not I do think asking another reader or author is the best action.

  8. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    Interesting topic. I’ve seen these warnings before, but they tend to be added by the blogger at the end of a review. I think they are fine to add if it doesn’t give away anything in the book. If it’s a spoiler, then I guess people will have to just go in a bit blind. I feel like most book summaries have a feel to them – so if you aren’t into darker topics, you might get that just from the summary and not necessarily with specific details like “rape” or “child abuse” or something like that.

    -Lauren
    Let’s Get Beyond Tolerance recently posted…Teach Me by Sloan JohnsonMy Profile

    • Lola

      Yes I’ve seen some bloggers who do that as well. Sometimes the authors add them to their blurb and other times bloggers or reviewers include them. I do think in some circumstances it’s better to go in prepared and get spoiled a bit than go in blind,s but it really depends on the specific situation. I usually stay away from books that are described as too dark as I rather not risk it sometimes.

  9. S. J. Pajonas

    I feel like I’ve gone through your exact same thought process on this topic! Like I’ve gone round and round as to what to include or not. While I appreciate why trigger warnings exist and I also want to be sensitive to those with PTSD or those dealing with trauma, I also feel that truly specific trigger warnings are unnecessary. BUT the warning on the book that you gave as an example was WAY too generic as well. I feel that if your book contains scenes of rape, torture, child abuse, then you should probably come out and say as much in the trigger warning without being specific as to when it happens or to whom.

    I decided last year to warn about profanity, sexual situations, and drugs (as you know, there’s one scene of pot smoking in FACE TIME) because I was tired of hearing from the people who can’t even handle those things. I didn’t want to put those warnings on my books because my viewpoint is that we’re all adults and those are pretty normal and non-traumatic But I swear, the amount of pure whining over a swear word was too much for me and now I just declare it. Sigh. So yeah, I believe in trigger warnings for the heavy stuff (be somewhat specific) and only warnings for profanity and sex if your audience turns up their noses at it. They have been warned that way!
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    • Lola

      That’s interesting you went through the same thought process as me. Makes sense that as an author this is just one more of the things you have to think about.

      Once I started reading the book it was obvious to which scene the trigger warning referred to, but it was a pretty vague warning. On the other hand if the warning was more specific it would’ve been obvious who it happened to probably. Hard to say.

      And sadly animal abuse/ torture is one of those specific things no one would think to put in a trigger warning that I can’t stand to read about. So now I just mention in my review policy page that authors should warn me if their book includes that.

      I never would’ve thought you had to warn about those things in face Time, but I guess better be safe than sorry if people complain about those things. At least this way you can warn people so they know what to expect before reading the book. And I agree none of those scenes in Face Time were traumatic and they all are easy to skim, but I guess people still don’t want to read about it. If people mention it in their reviews that also can serve as warning for others without the author having to warn for it.

  10. Sophia Rose

    Excellent breakdown of this topic with your pros and cons. I would say that about covers it.

    I still don’t know that there is a hard, fast rule for it and I recognize that authors and reviewers are mostly doing the best they can.

    In my own reviewing, I’ve gone with what I can live with (i.e. I never want to cause someone to have a traumatic experience due to reading my review and thinking a book sounds fantastic nor do I want someone buying a book they’ll hate b/c I was too vague about stuff). I know this is subjective and will still not make everyone who reads my reviews happy, but I truly don’t think a reviewer can ever be all things to all people.

    Personally, I like trigger warnings regarding extreme things like the book contains torture, dub con/non con, severe BDSM, etc and I wouldn’t mind hints that there is a secret baby or love triangle plot or that the book can’t standalone (cliffhanger or serial). I’ve gone ahead and included such things in my own reviews. I address it more specifically when I review a Young Adult by mentioning that there is language, violence, and/or sex present and whether IMHO it’s mild, moderate, or severe.

    I guess we just do the best we can and what seems right by both readers and authors. 🙂
    Sophia Rose recently posted…A Summer to Remember by Marilyn Pappano #ReviewMy Profile

    • Lola

      Glad to hear you think I covered the topic well as that was my intention 🙂

      And yes I think doing the best we can is the only thing we can do and handle things like how we think is best. There is no right or wrong way to handle something like this.

      And reviews and reviewing style are subjective, that’s what reviewing is for. I think the way you handle things in your review is great.

      I usually like trigger warning on the extreme things like the ones you mentioned. Those are the topics I usually see trigger warnings for.

  11. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    This is a fabulous topic! I love how you talked about both the pros and cons, and I agree with you on them completely! So, my stance is this: on a purely selfish, personal level, I don’t like trigger warnings, for all the reasons you mentioned. I have found them to be spoilers more often than not, they are definitely NOT consistent, and one person’s triggering standard may be totally different than another- there’s no real way to protect people from everything. Plus, I don’t really use them, so yeah.

    BUT, when I think about others, I DO completely get the value. I would never want to see anyone having to relive trauma at the hands of a book that they wouldn’t have picked up if they just knew about said trigger. So in that respect, I get the usefulness 100%. The problem is, how often do they help? I guess the BEST way to use them, in my opinion, would be perhaps to put a trigger warning under spoiler tags somehow? Like “Possible trigger, click for more information”? That way it’s up to each person if they want to know. It’s so hard because it’s such a difficult thing to qualify, but you’ve done a great job listing both sides!
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    • Lola

      Thanks! I can see the use of trigger warnings, as I definitely have had a few books were I would appreciated the warning and even the book I linked to in this post was one were it helped to know something bad was going to happen and I ended up skimming through most of the scene. But I also get why they don’t work or can be spoilers. You never know what’s triggering to everyone and I dislike spoilers as well, so what it the right way to handle it?

      If there would be a way to use spoiler tags that way to hide trigger warnings it would be great. Then you don’t have to read them if you don’t want to. But not sure how that would work on sites. I could see Goodreads using something like that, I’ve even seen a blogger who handles warnings in a similar way, but on vendor sites like amazon it probably wouldn’t be as easy. I do think that would be a great solution to make trigger warnings optional to read.

  12. Verushka

    This is a really good discussion, and you’re right, there are points to each side that make sense. But, part of me can’t shake the feeling it’s better to be safe than sorry than trying to figure out what to say or what not to say.

    • Lola

      Thanks! I think sometimes it’s also impossible to say anything and by including a trigger warning with lots of details you might spoil the book for those who don’t like that.

  13. Got My Book

    I include what I call Content Warnings in my reviews, but have definitely run into some of the issues you have mentioned. Some there’s nothing I can do about them (the fact that I can never know what might bother every person who will read the review etc). As for spoilers and level of detail, I go for the vague end if it might be a spoiler.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a topic that can ever be hammered out into a specific set of guidelines. Although I love reading articles like this, since it gives me ideas what might bother other people.
    Got My Book recently posted…text: Love & Friendship: Ten Swoon-worthy Moments | My MusingsMy Profile

    • Lola

      I think going for vague in things like book reviews is usually a good idea to just play it safe and people can always ask for clarification.

      I also think there never will be one way or guidelines to handle trigger warnings, it just isn’t doable. But it is interesting to talk about the pros and cons.

    • Lola

      I don’t do well with gore either, especially when there are a lot of details. Sometimes it helps to be prepared and know what to expect.

  14. anna (herding cats & burning soup)

    I’m rather against them. Mainly because once you start you can’t stop. Anything can be a trigger for someone. I’ve seen people want them for all kinds of things. If a character has cancer…they want a trigger warning. If there’s violence or sexual assault, or animals being harmed, or bad accidents or a character being called names or whatever. It can be anything. Being vague about it usually just has me rolling my eyes. I think they’re very spoilery as well. Personally I think if you have issues with something you should take the initiative and check out reviews/ask questions of those who have read it. I’ve had others do that before. Someone not long ago commented on a Goodreads review I did asking about something specific that sets her off. That worked I thought.
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    • Lola

      I agree, that’s one of the things that is so tricky about trigger warnings. Everything can be a trigger warning or make someone feel sad. And they sure can be spoilery as well, although when it comes to some topics I rather be spoiled. And animal harm is definitely one fo those things I don’t want to read about, but it’s usually something you can skim over in a book.

      And yes if you have something specific you don’t want to read about, asking the author or someone who reads it, is the best way to find out. I once had a book that didn’t work for me where I asked someone who read it if it would get less dark and gruesome. She said no, so I DNF’d it. And most bloggers and readers wouldn’t mind answering such a question.

      I think trigger warnings are most effective/ necessary for topics or themes a lot of people have trouble with. In one of the other comments an author mentioned a lot of people took offense about a few scenes in her book and she just added a warninn in the blurb so people know what to expect.

  15. sjhigbee

    The other interesting aspect about trigger warnings is that over a lifetime, our own sensitivities can change. After emerging from a messy relationship with an unfaithful partner, I absolutely hated any book with a viewpoint from ‘the other woman’ to the point the book would go flying across the room. Now, years later and happily married again – while not my favourite pov and not one I’d go looking for – I certainly react with far more moderation.

    • Lola

      Good point! Yes sensitivities can definitely change and get worse or lessen as time passes or when new things happen to make you more sensitive to other topics. I can imagine that after a messy relationship with an unfaithful partner books from that point of view would be very difficult to read. And it’s also one of those things that’s not always mentioned in the blurb. Glad to hear nowadays you can read those books even if they aren’t your favorite pov.

  16. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I totally agree with you that it’s hard to come up with a hard and fast rule about trigger warnings. Some people really want to know before they jump into a book what they’re getting themselves into, but other people would consider these warnings spoilers. I guess putting them behind spoiler tags would be the best solution, but you’re right that it’s still really subjective.
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    • Lola

      It would be nice if there was a way to add trigger warnings in spoiler tags on sites like amazon and goodreads as well, although I don’t see that happening anytime fast. That would solve the issue that those who want to see them and those who don’t won’t have to. And yes they stay subjective, there’s no way around that.

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