I’ve been thinking about trigger warnings. That’s when you say “Hey, there’s gonna be some rape.” (Or child abuse, spousal abuse, war, torture, etc.) That way, people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder over these things know to avoid it or can at least make a conscious decision about whether they want to see, read, participate, etc.
I get it. I really do. I’m not in any way demeaning the practice.
But how do you handle it in fiction? Do you slap a label on it like an “Explicit” sticker? Do you just let people assume that it’s safe until they hit the bad parts? Would it be ruining it for other people to have “spoilers”?
Why am I thinking about it? Well, as I’m on the brink and becoming serious about this thing that I’ve been practicing all my life and thinking about things that I’ve read and wasn’t prepared for, either mentally, emotionally or whatever. Usually it was more of a grossness factor than anything else (I’m not really comfortable with graphic kinky sex on the page- I’ll just admit that now). If I had a real, PTSD reaction to things like that, would it have helped to know about it? Or have the option to avoid it? Would I have missed out on anything else?
For example, Chaser (in progress) is about teenage drinking. It’s basically a bunch of true stories modified to fictional characters. I don’t get very graphic, but there is basically a gang rape. How do I present that or any other awful scene without making it seem like I’m saying “Hi. I write about rape!”
What do YOU think is fair? Should I dedicate a page to trigger warnings and update it whenever a book comes out? Should we come up with a special icon that signals people to possible trigger warnings? Does anyone seek them out or is it something relegated to therapy groups and feminist podcasts?
Let me know.