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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To Spoil or Not To Spoil

That is actually the question.

I recently read an article about spoilers not being a bad thing. It asserted that, instead, spoilers make you enjoy stories more. Obviously, I won’t repeat the article verbatim* (I’m not into plagiarism), but what I took away from it was the concept that if an audience knows what’s coming, they can focus more on the actual story as it develops, rather than try to guess what’s around the corner.

I found this soothing. You see, I’ve received a few reviews recently which contain spoilers for a twist which -while I thought it was predictable- a few readers have said they didn’t see coming.

Before I continue, I want to be very clear that this blog post is in no way an indictment of the reviews I’ve received, because those people cared enough to take the time and make the effort to leave feedback, and that is awesome. I value every single reviewer, and thank them from the bottom of my heart for leaving their thoughts for me and for other readers. The feedback is deeply, genuinely appreciated. (Yes, even the handful of 3 star reviews. They are fair, and valid, and I appreciate them, too, and I will use them to improve my writing going forward.)

I firmly believe it is a reviewer’s right to put their feelings and opinions of a work out there however they choose to. Spoilers or no spoilers. Even though I’ll admit it – I have never really liked spoilers.

In Handle With Care‘s case, some reviewers have -on Goodreads- ticked the box that declares that they’re doing just that, which then gives the option to hide the review from people who mightn’t like reading spoilers (like me). Amazon doesn’t (as far as I’m aware) offer the option to do that. And that’s okay. It’s an Amazon flaw, not a reviewer’s.

However, I know that as a reader/viewer myself, a courtesy “Spoiler Alert” at the beginning of a review is helpful to me, because I personally detest reading them before I’ve read a book/watched a movie so I will skip that review…but, according to the article I referenced above, there’s a chance that spoilers might actually make me enjoy the story more.

So this all got me thinking… when it comes to Handle With Care, the ‘twist’ that has been “spoiled” in these reviews actually puts my novel into an additional trope category than just the ones I’ve been advertising it under. It’s a trope that I know a lot of readers enjoy. Some even specifically seek it out.

With that in mind, I’m now wondering: should I embrace the spoilers? Lean into them and change my blurb? Market this additional trope as part of the novel’s appeal? It’s very tempting to do it.

If the article I read is right and spoilers don’t actually ruin a reader’s enjoyment, I can’t see why I shouldn’t embrace them. Especially if I’m going to potentially market to a new group of readers who might not have given my novel a chance otherwise, not realising that I tick their trope boxes after all.

But it’s daunting. Just like every other decision in this self-publishing adventure. Every time I start thinking that I’ve started to wrap my head around it, something new pops up to challenge me. (Or maybe I’m overthinking again.)

But, with no magical guide to tell me what to do, I’m off to write a list of pros and cons.

I’ll let you know how I go.

(If you’d like to give the article that inspired this ramble a read, THIS LINK will take you there.)

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Quick Update – Amazon Paperback Quality

I received my updated Amazon copy of Handle With Care yesterday and the cover print is now nice and clear! (So I must have done something silly the first time I uploaded the file.) The colour is still off in comparison to IngramSpark, but I am so much happier with the overall quality now. I can breath a bit easier knowing that people aren’t going to be presented with an amateur-looking product if they purchase the paperback via Amazon.

On a side note, I’m now considering doing a short price promotion via Amazon to encourage a readership boost (in conjunction with some targeted advertising and possibly collaboration with some established/professional romance novel promotion) to try and encourage a few more reviews. (I have also set the novel up for some ARC reviews as well.) I’m thinking I should add a page to the epub with a link to reviewing on Amazon or Goodreads, too. It can’t hurt, right?