Thoughts About Writing

Hashtag Triggered

My last musings were on spoilers, and whether or not it was worth leaning into them. In the end I chose not to – my own personal dislike winning out over the evidence that suggested it wouldn’t hurt.

But then my brain moved further along down the track, loosely connecting the concept of ‘spoilers’ to ‘triggers’. (Yeah, I know. My brain, she’s special.)

In Handle With Care I attempted to keep my hero somewhat believable. To me, he was swoonworthy, but still human. So, some of the choices he (read: I) made were substantially less than heroic. And, I won’t lie: that might have been a mistake for the romance genre.

He (oh, here we go, breaking my own rules with a SPOILER ALERT!) slept with someone else during an almost year-long stint during which he and the heroine were apart. They were not at all in a relationship at the time. In fact, he didn’t think he would see her again. (And it happened ‘off screen’ as it were.) I kind of put myself in his shoes and went with it.

But for a romance novel, I’m aware that this might have made him just a little too flawed. Moreover, I’ve received feedback that suggests that his lack of celibacy requires a trigger warning.

I’m taking the feedback on board. (And I’m learning a lot about which rules of the genre I can bend and which ones I really should stick to!)

But, as usual, now I’m overthinking the whole concept of trigger warnings. If something like that requires a trigger warning, what else should I be warning readers about? How far down the rabbit hole do authors need to go? Do they really need to do it at all?

Obviously, there are traumatic situations where I understand it might be worth issuing a warning. Deaths, rapes, graphic violence etc…you know the drill. Darker stuff. But I don’t usually read dark romances, and I never write them, so I’ve never taken notice as to whether specific warnings have been issued. So then I wondered, as a reader, would I like to be given advance warning of these things? Would it change the way I approach reading the book?

For me personally, I’ll admit that make assumptions on what to expect from the typical tropes of a genre. And, if I’ve read other books from an author, I also generally know how they might tackle specific issues.

Have I been taken by surprise before? Hell yes. The twist in Frankie Says Relapse by Siobhan Curham got me good. The fact that I read it over 15 years ago and it has still stuck with me -and begs me to re-read it every other year- says something about the reader experience (particularly when ugly crying has been invoked). But would I have liked a warning? I don’t think so. Maybe that’s just me, though.

So, again, this blog post has been more thinking and less decision. Haha. I know that you can’t please everyone (not just as an author, but in any situation) but the last thing I want to do is trigger someone and upset them. I write fluff and happiness, and that’s ultimately what I’d like to impart in the end.

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