Writing Ranting – Content Warnings vs Trigger Warnings

Warning: This gets ranty because of jerkface bigots, but I left that part for last.

I know I’ve covered this in a previous post about pushing boundaries, but after a fellow writer asked about it, I thought I’d break down the differences. I’m sure there are people who would say something different, but these are how I’ve seen them and what makes sense to me in what I expect as a reader.

Content warnings often align with the age category (but there are exceptions) and include…

  • Violence – 
  • Sexual content – Consensual only and always specify if it’s erotica.
  • Mentions of death – Non-violent and not too close to the MC.

Trigger warnings are for anything traumatic that might affect the readers emotionally, (beyond sympathising or relating to a character) such as…

  • Sexual abuse/assault
  • Domestic abuse both physically or emotionally
  • Child abuse
  • Death of a child, including miscarriage and abortion (regardless of your opinion on this topic, it’s upsetting to a lot of people)
  • Violent deaths, especially characters close to the MC
  • Substance abuse 
  • Self-harm and suicide
  • Torture – emotionally and physically

It’s up to you as a writer to prepare your readers for the themes in your book. If you’re not sure, ask your beta readers or critique partners for their thoughts. Most are happy to answer questions like this. 

It’s also up to you to put these warnings in a place your readers can easily see. I may have been too careful covering my bases by including them with the blurb on all websites and the back of the book. But I strongly recommend you put them in the book somewhere like the preface or copyright page.

Explaining my intro warning… A while back, someone on a writing forum asked about if they should use warnings for their adult romance. The general responses included pretty much what I mentioned above. But one “C word” added when it included homosexual content since it was considered offensive. 

Well, you can imagine the outrage from LGBTQ+ writers and allies who saw that comment. Mr. C (as I’m referring to him as) decided to argue that it was his right to be offended by the existence of people in the LGBTQ+ community at that it went against the bible. To which I responded… Your bible is offensive to me since it says women aren’t supposed to speak in church. 

I want to be perfectly clear, that I said that to make a point, and I’m not actually offended by the existence of religions. But I did mean to show Mr. C that life changes along with people’s ideas of social equality and acceptance. And to say that homosexual content requires a warning was the same as saying that it’s inappropriate for some readers. 

As a teacher, I wouldn’t let a comment like that go unpunished in my class, so I’m not going to let someone get away with that when it comes to writing.


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