Q: What is a content warning?
A content warning, previously known as a ‘trigger warning’ is a small spoiler that warns the reader what kind of potentially traumatic scenes the story contains.
Q: Why would you use such warnings?
A: Because a lot of people suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. Reading about events that remind them of their trauma can potentially cause them real harm. By using these warnings, I give people a chance to decide whether or not this story is for them.
What makes PTSD different from ‘having gone through some difficult periods in life’ is that PTSD is a disorder. It’s not just a few bad memories and unhealthy coping mechanisms. (We all have those.) Post-traumatic stress disorder impacts your ability to function in an everyday setting.
PTSD flashbacks can send sufferers into deep depression, destructive behaviour, even psychosis. I don’t have PTSD myself, but people close to me do, and I know the harm it does to a person.
Q: But these are spoilers! I don’t want my story spoilt before I read it.
A: Then don’t read the CWs. It’s as simple as that. They are hidden on my website and they will be found at the end of any book I publish. In e-books, there will be links either to this website or to a CW page at the end of the book. It won’t affect your reading experience unless you click the link.
If you don’t need content warnings, consider yourself lucky. All it takes is one traumatic experience — whether it’s by the hands of another human or a pure accident — and you may find yourself in the same situation: a victim of your own brain’s dysfunction.
Q: From a writer’s point of view — isn’t this self-censorship?
A: Quite the contrary. By putting CWs on my work I can write whatever I like. Those who rather not read that kind of content know to stay away. I much rather have people just not read my story, than be harmed by my words.
People who don’t mind reading about potentially traumatic events are free to ignore the warnings and read ahead.
- Exposed bones
- Brutal violence
- Death of a parent
- Sharp weapons
- Oppressive/narcissistic mentor/parent figure
The Draugr (A Discovery of Writers)
- Deep water
- Brutal violence
- Animal in danger (escapes unharmed)
- Person in danger (escapes unharmed)