I was recently shopping for a new book. I looked at a review. In the first line of the review was a plot point of the book. No spoiler alert sign, no warning…just a plot point. Because the plot point was a “trigger”.

Thanks to dictionary.com, we know that trigger is to initiate or precipitate. Certain words or phrases bring about certain thoughts or ideas, which are harmful to the person experiencing them.

But what do we think about trigger warnings in books?

I understand the reason for them: some people have gone through traumatic experiences and do not wish to relive them. I completely understand.

However, is it fair for the rest of us to be forewarned of what is going to occur in a work of art?

Do we cater to the 10% of the population that might have a problem?

Or do we let majority rule?

Here’s my thought:

If a book contains trigger warnings, how about we put them in the back of the book. My feeling is if one is worried about the content of something, the onus should be on them to search for it. Make it standard in every book that the last page is the trigger page.

This way, no one starting out the book has any indication of what the plot points may be- they read the book and decipher clues without being told anything.

And in reviews, I think the triggers should appear at the bottom of a review in italicized type so that the reader of the review can skip it if they want.

I know that I want to go into a book without knowing anything other than the briefest plot summary. The joy and beauty in reading a book is discovering what lies on the next page. If it is something horrific, I want to be caught off guard- that is what the author intended. I think you lose the power and impact of a story or situation of you know it’s coming.

I will not read the book that was spoiled by a trigger warning. Instead of savoring the words or the story, I will constantly be on the look out for the “scene” that was described. I will not enjoy the book…

But that’s me:

What do you think about trigger warnings in books?

70 thoughts on “Trigger

  1. I agree with what you said. If the first page has a trigger warning with a list of everything that happens in the book, why bother reading it?

    Although sometimes I am tempted to have a trigger warning for my blog. Seriously, this blog contains adult topics… Or better yet, I should’ve named my blog trigger warning. Now wouldn’t that just kill a lot of birds with one stone?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. OK, forgive me but when I first saw your title, I swear it said, Tigger and I got excited!
    I’m inclined to agree about trigger warnings.
    I may not to read something that’s a trigger for me, but I certainly don’t want to have plot points spoiled for me. Like you, I’d spend all my time reading and waiting for that particular scene. Way to ruin a book, right?
    There needs to be a specific place for those. Or at least something as simple as *possible trigger warning ‘up front’ directing you to the place where you find said plot point.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure!
        Or some standard. Like movie ratings…
        Trigger warning somewhere obvious on the book which directs you to a less obvious place to find said trigger. But then, a simple description without destroying key plot points.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. As you mention having it on the back in italics that it has a trigger (not when it happens, just that it contains a rape scene for example) might help. Although I will say if I came across something that was a trigger for me, I would not finish the book, but would have awhile to live through the trigger.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Wow, the title of this post ‘triggered’ me. 🤔
    I am a survivor of trauma, and I wish the word ‘trigger’ would never be used to describe an emotionally upsetting experience.

    Coming from the Dutch word ‘trekken’ ( to pull ), a trigger is part of a weapon, or a firearm.

    Since the 1970s, it somehow crept into the language of psychology and sociology.
    ’emotional stimulus’ might be a much gentler term than ‘trigger’, since, due to the weapon implication, there is the subliminal suggestion of violence.

    Nevertheless, I see no need for trigger warnings at all.

    The world is filled with potentially emotionally upsetting situations, and trauma survivors must develop coping strategies in order not to be overwhelmed by the world.

    Thanks, as always, for a thought provoking post. 🤗⚘

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I like your idea of a page, or section at the end of book that is dedicated to trigger warnings.

    I find them to be misleading in some cases.

    For example, a documentary had “tagged” the film as “violent” and “scenes of gore” – I almost declined to watch it, but because it was about ancient Egypt and archaeology, I braced myself, and clicked play.

    Through the entire show I was tense, wondering when the violence and gory scenes were going to play.

    They never did. Not even close. There were mummified body parts and one or two suggestions by those being interviewed that the ancient king had met with foul play. That was it. Not a drop of blood. Not one reenactment of a murder. Nothing. Straight forward, without drama good documentary reporting, in my opinion.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I might me the odd ball out on this one, when I start a book, I read everything, front and back, flaps, sometimes flipping through pages to scan for survivors. I hate it when I think someone might die. I’ve been known to skip pages if the scene is hard to read, and I’m ashamed to admit on occasion I read the last page just to calm myself down. I’m what you call a conflict avoider hence I tend to read memoirs and non-fiction. Can you imagine how much fun I am to live with? C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m have had two books in a row that I skipped sections but not cause of triggers, just because they bored,e a little. Ok…some of it was hard to take, but that’s the fault of the author in both cases for how they handled subject matter. And you’re a delight!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not a fan of trigger warnings. Where does it stop? Almost everything these days has the potential to trigger someone, somewhere. I also think there has been a blurring of actual PTSD/triggers and simply being bothered/offended by something.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah…you hit on a good point. There is a difference between something that actually damages your psyche (I watched a tv show last week where the protagonist heard a song that she associated with a death and it caused her to murder someone) and being offended by something. As we know, anyone can be offended by anything at any time

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’ve actually encountered some conflicts with our publishing company when it comes to trigger warnings. We have one book that I included a warning in the description. I don’t consider it a trigger warning, but something was necessary to keep it from getting banned (again) from Amazon. I don’t want anyone to feel bad or have a truly negative experience reading any of our books, but I just can’t get on board with warning about every little thing. It’s a line I can’t cross.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have read a lot of books that have trigger warnings in them. The majority of the books I’ve read that have them do a really good job of noting them in a way that wouldn’t give away part of the plot. Most will state that the trigger warnings are listed on the next page and to skip it if you don’t want the spoiler. Those are always at the front of the book, most likely because that is where people that need those warnings are going to look for them and where they will show up in a “look inside” feature for a digital book. I’ve even seen them below a potential spoiler note in a blurb. I do think that they are important. If you have not experienced any kind of traumatic event that has left you emotionally vulnerable, you cannot begin to imagine how devastating it is to have a reminder of that sneak up on you when you least expect it. The majority of people that need those warnings have PTSD type issues, so having those warnings makes it possible to know before they ever pick up a book that it might cause a problem for them. It gives them the opportunity to make an informed choice. And I’d say that your estimate of 10% is a huge underestimation. As far as reviews, it ticks me off when a reviewer writes about spoilers in a book without noting it ahead of time. This includes triggers or anything else that might give away a plot point. As a reviewer, you should always note if your review contains spoilers so that someone can opt to skip it if they don’t want those, but too many still do it even if it is kind of expected that you don’t. The difference between expecting books to be spoiler free, either from reviewers or from trigger notations in a book, and someone wanting those trigger warnings is that, for you, all you’d get is a spoiled plot of a book. For the person needing the warnings? It is being able to avoid any number of seriously unhealthy emotional or even physical reactions to subject matter that is problematic for them. I’d rather err on the side of spoiling a book for someone than to send someone into a traumatic emotional event.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Let’s take this in parts. I’ve yet to read a nook that included trigger warnings as explicit as you state, though I have read books that had a small blurb on the second pages that states some contents might be disturbing. I don’t want to see these things in the front of a book. If I were to notice an author or publisher doing that I would stop reading their books. But that’s me. I have not watched any movie or tv show about 9/11. I have only read one book in the past twenty years that dealt with the subject, and I read that book for the firs5 time a few years ago. When I wrote on my blog about my 9/11 ptsd I got a whole bunch of hate in both comments and emails. So I get the ptsd thing. However, as I still live in nyc I have learned to deal with my feelings regarding this subject as I can’t possibly avoid it. The problem with triggers is that they can be anything. A friend was sexually assaulted and her trigger is Burger King because she remembers the flashing light of the sign as it was happening. I don’t want to see anyone e Peridance additional trauma ever. However, I think the world sucks and we are faced with it no matter what. That’s why I suggest a compromise in books. Have a specified page in the back that lists the potential triggers, and pages if need be. This way those that don’t care aren’t faced with it up front, and those that worry about it know exactly where to look. And spoilers of all sorts are bad. I will not read a book if someone has spoiled it in any way

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I’d like to pull the trigger on triggers… (am I allowed to say that?) I mean where’s it all gonna stop? Frankly, that museum I visited in DC should have had a trigger warning.. one of its “pieces” was an old, disgusting mattress that had pee on it. I kid you not..this mattress was propped up, on display..modern art I guess.. Well..think about all the bed wetters that may have been triggered by this piece of trash (am I allowed to say that?)..again, where does it all stop and what’s the end goal here?… to protect people from old memories and emotions? Well, we’d better ban music.. and perfume.. and..

    Liked by 3 people

      1. We are going to end up in a frozen society if we aren’t careful..no music, no art, no books, no dating, no opinion, no teaching, no talking….no thinking….no freedom.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve never seen a trigger warning on a book -yet. I dislike those reviewers that give the whole plot sequence though…those books I just don’t read considering I’ve just read the review details. And that’s a trigger to me…because they’ve given away the entire book!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. There’s ample information at our finger tips, so that an individual who might be triggered by a certain element can do their homework beforehand. I don’t have an issue with including these points somewhere, but like you said, they certainly shouldn’t be front and center.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Good point. I never read book reviews before I read a book, so I didn’t even think about this until I read your post. I think it’s up to the reader to seek triggers out, if they want, and therefore they can live in the back of the book. That works for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t usually read reviews in full. I look at my tbr, then I look at overall rating , and I skim one or two reviews to get the gist. But I can’t stand spoilers in the first line without a warning!

      Like

  13. I get why trigger warnings are important, however, I also agree that they should be put in a spot in the book where those that may be concerned about being triggered can check, and everyone else can disregard them. Create one system for all publishing. Like you, LA, if I read something or see something about a book that gives me too much info, I won’t read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is an interesting topic (as usual). As a writer of reviews, I do occasionally put warnings, but I try to not make them too specific. Generally, I have already filtered books that have things in them that would be offensive in some way to me, so most books I read would not have warnings. If I find “surprises” in books, I do put a warning so that readers who have similar tastes can make informed decisions for themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ok….similar to the statements on tv but those are a generic general warning without specifics. I guess I haven’t encountered that yet in any books I’ve read….but disturbing describes many murder mysteries which I love to read if they’re not too gruesome. I don’t need to be forewarned – it it turns nasty I can always close the book.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m all for a rating system for books. Recently, I looked into whether one was appropriate for my son to read and all I found was every single site parroting the same paid-for promotional ‘review’ from the publisher’s efforts. Thankfully, there are blogs!! So, yes, I like warnings. Yes, they can warn you without giving away the plot.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I think trigger warnings are ridiculously overused. I suffer from PTSD (domestic violence) and guess what? I still read books containing it! I’ve had one book that “triggered” it. I put the book down for a while, worked through it, and finished the book. Some of my novels have graphic sex and violence, and I try to make that clear in the description, to the point of adding *contains graphic sex and violence. Not to take anything away from actual survivors of abuse and other horrible things, but a lot of this is not actually that some people are triggered, but how easily offended society has become. Also, do you mind if I reblog this post on my blog in the future?

    Liked by 1 person

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