The recent brouhahah over Stephen Fry saying asinine things about trigger warnings has given me an idea.
I’m going to add something to my website. I don’t know yet how I’ll arrange it in terms of code and presentation, but I’m going to provide content warnings for my fiction. Because I’ve had parents email me asking whether my book would be suitable for their kid (my inevitable answer: depends on the kid, and I don’t know yours, but the book contains XYZ), and readers asking whether my book contains a particular type of thing because they just don’t feel able to deal with that right now. So why not make that information publicly available? Yes, spoilers — but nobody will force you to read the content warnings. They’re there for the people who want them, and everybody else can go their merry way, exactly as they’re doing right now.
It will take me a while to write all this up (because I want to include my short fiction, not just my novels), and like I said, I need to figure out where I’ll put it on my site and how to code it (if you’re there to check the warnings for Work A, you won’t necessarily see all the warnings for Works B-Z). But apart from the labor involved, I see no reason not to provide this information. Also, I figure it would be good to ask: what kinds of things do you think it would help to see warnings for? I’m thinking major common ones, rather than trying to pin down every little thing — triggers can be very idiosyncratic. I’m also thinking of the kinds of things parents worry about, which aren’t so much triggering as inappropriate for kids at certain ages. So far I have:
- Non-graphic violence
- Graphic violence
- Sexual violence
- Major character death
Mild sexual content (i.e. reference to sex, but no direct depiction)
Drug use (not including tobacco, but including alcoholism)
Mental illness (PTSD, depression, etc)
Harm to children
Harm to animals
- Mild profanity (i.e. “damn,” “hell,” etc)
- Strong profanity (i.e. “fuck”)
I’m not including things that haven’t actually shown up in my fiction, e.g. graphic sexual content [edit: also domestic abuse, torture, parental death], and obviously people’s boundaries for things like “non-graphic violence” vs. “graphic violence” differ. But if you can think of anything major I’ve left out, do let me know. (I’m also probably going to include special notes where necessary, e.g. “In Ashes Lie covers a period of plague in London, and gets quite grim and detailed about that event.” Because I don’t generally think I need to warn for illness, but I feel that’s one of the most horrific things I’ve ever written, and people might want to know it’s coming.)
Basically, I can go on providing this on a one-at-a-time basis — which requires people to do things like ask me “is there sexual violence in this book?,” thus possibly disclosing their own history in a way they would rather not do — or I can just put the info out there. I think the latter is the better way to go.
EDIT: good lord, self, have you written anything that doesn’t have non-graphic violence? (Answer: yes. But not at any length above novelette.)
Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.