On Trigger Warnings

This is something I have wanted to stay as far away from as humanly possible, partly because I’m reaching the conclusion that there is no way to approach it that doesn’t have me come across as either a hateful bastard propagating a culture or a reactionary who flinches at the slightest hint of controversy or off-color behavior.

I have recently been asked to include a “trigger warning” to the Second Gate due to the events of the Sultry Siren within the novel, as the events that occur are demeaning and border on sexual assault.  I won’t deny this is true… it has the potential to be a degrading scene, and the “hero’s” response to it isn’t exactly the most thoughtful.

On one hand, I understand how it could be troubling to someone.  It’s not meant to be a kind scene… it is meant to be a bit troubling.  Timothy’s calculated response is also supposed to be a bit unsettling to the reader.  That’s the way I intended it to be.

It’s part of the growth of all the primary characters involved.  We don’t always make the “best” or “most noble” choice.  That’s just as true in life as it is in my fiction.

But as much as I feel for those who might be bothered, I’m not going to try and police myself by adding trigger warnings to my work.  I honestly believe if I were to do that, I would never stop.  In “Worlds Apart”, we see one of the main characters being a target of a violently racist group.  Should I add a trigger warning for those who have been on the receiving end of such prejudice?

Homosexuality is going to be a particularly strong theme in The Endtimers’ Legacy, and it’s not always going to be a positive experience.  Should I add that trigger warning to that?  What about the violence in most of the stories I’ve written so far?  Someone who has been abused by the church probably would be troubled to read the very strong religious themes.  Does that deserve a trigger warning as well?

I do apologize for anyone who is reading this and thinks I’m being heartless, because in all honesty, I think I’m being exactly the opposite.  If I were to start down this path, all I would do is worry about who might be traumatized by the particular passage I am writing.  That’s not somewhere I want (or can afford) to go.  I can’t make an exception for one person, and tell others “I’m sorry, but your bad experience isn’t as important as this other person’s bad experience.”

It’s either all or nothing; and I simply don’t have the time for all.

I feel that writing is our challenge to the world, and that goes for the warts and wrinkles as well as what we think is good.  Yes, I am going to show those rough parts of our lives.  I am going to describe (likely in detail) some very troubling events; because that is how a writer invokes a response… that’s part of how he gets readers to feel and care about the lives and actions of fictional characters.

So perhaps it would be simplest to say that there is a very high likelihood that something at some point in the works I have written or will write in the future will trouble you.  It may very well trouble you profoundly, and it will also be very likely that it was my intent to do so.  That is how I write, that is what I feel is part of the point of writing.  That’s not going to change.

Thank you for listening.

~Thomas Knapp

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