Fandom Writing: The Importance of Trigger Warnings

WARNING:  This post mentions several triggering subjects in the course of covering Trigger Warnings.  

There has always been a debate on the use of trigger warnings..  Triggers are words and or images that can trigger adverse reactions in people who have suffered trauma or have various anxiety disorders. It also extends to things that people know, without having the anxiety, that they don’t care to see/here because its just not something they want to digest/handle.  People over the years have developed the idea of ‘Trigger Warnings’ to help people who have issues with these things avoid them, or at least be prepared to handle them if they still continue on.

Trigger warnings are important.  The debate on trigger warnings is that some people believe they are over used, and warning about things a person should be able to handle.  Others believe that not using it is showing a lack of compassion against those who have problems with triggers.  I am in the middle on this argument.  I believe common sense warnings about possible triggers is important and should be done.  However, if someone doesn’t write a trigger for something its not right to say they are not compassionate.  Perhaps it something they are unaware of being a trigger.

The common sense triggers are often built into archives.  Violence, character death, etc.  And it is already common to put tags to express when a fic has sexual content.  Its important to put these messages because not everyone is okay with everything.  Even if its not a trigger, some people simply don’t want to read smut, or want fluff only and no violence.  They might not want to read something descriptive in gore, or deals with a particular event or activity that makes them uncomfortable.

One of the generic ones is gore.  Some people don’t like the sight of blood or any other bodily fluid.  Sometimes its because an particular event, and sometimes it is just something the person knows they don’t like to see.  I used to have trouble remembering to tag these on posts because I wouldn’t think something was gorey, but then I would get messages asking for the tag.

If you are writing something that includes a sensitive topic, its a good idea to tag it, or make a warning in your chapter notes.  While you might not have a problem with it, or feel its important to your story, some people may just need to avoid that for their own personal reasons.   I have known people who refuse to tag stuff like this because they feel it gives the story away, but it would make it so much easier for people to avoid situations where they might be triggered.  It’s a courtesy to your readers. At the vary least it allows those who are picky about what they read the time to decide if your story will be one they choose.  It will also help those who have severe reactions to certain triggers to avoid them.

I think the fact that I have an anxiety disorder myself I understand the trigger system.  I am not triggered by anything written, but I can sympathise with those who are.  Sometimes surprise is not a good thing. So just take a few moments when you post your stories to think if there is anything worth tagging, anything that might trigger anxiety in people.  Things you should tag include sexual violence (including dubious consent), fertility issues (like miscarriage and stillbirth), detailed violence and torture.  Respect requests for added tags as well.

 

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Reviews, Flames, and Kudos

Like with most of the topics we have gone over, the post-publishing part of fanfic mirrors the professional writing world, but has its unique terms and looks on things.  In this post, I will discuss the different kinds of responses that readers can make to your fic, as well as things you can do when you get a responce.

Kudos/Likes

Most archive systems, particular those made especially for fanfiction (like Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own) have a system where the reader can show how they like what you are writing by leaving a Like or a Kudo.  This usually only involves a series of clicks, and is what you will get the most often.  These allow the reader to tell you they like it without making an actual review.

Some sites have pages where you can track the statistics of kudos/likes and see what stories got the most likes and the like.  I like this because it sometimes is nice to see a story that might not get a lot of comments, yet many left kudos.

The Comment/Review

Depending on the site, you may see reviews called, well, reviews or comments.  Sometimes replies.  This is what we all wish for.  That occasion when a reviewer has decided that they were interested enough in our story to let us know in a way that takes more then a simple click.  These range the gamut from the simple “This is awesome/This Sucks!” type of comments to long paragraphs.  One of my happiest moments in writing was when someone wrote a long long email with comments and suggestions on how to improve my writing.  I was 15 at the time, and it was the first time I had gotten any input other then “This is great!”

Comments and reviews that are lengthy usually come in three forms:

  1. The Critique
    The critique is where a reader has criticism and writes you to help you improve your writing and your story.  These are one of the best reviews a writer can receive because we can always improve.  It also means this person took the time to really take in your story. Respect this reviewer.
  2. The Discussion
    These are fun.  I had a review on a story that started a back-and-forth discussion on a canon plot arc in Doctor who.  By the time we were finished (actually probably by the second or third reply) it no longer had anything to do with the story.
  3. The Flame
    Ah, the flame.  This is a negative review that has no constructive criticism.  Most of the time if someone doesn’t like your story, they just won’t review and move on.  But occasionally you get that one person who just wants to tell you how much you suck.  Half the time nothing they say will make sense, and you’ll wonder what they were reading.  The other half of the time its just disheartening.  Often times flames can be really short (the “You suck!” type) but they can be longer, depending on much effort the troll is trying to make.

    Usually the longer ones come from people who hate the character/pairing you write and make you wonder why they clicked on it to begin with.  The Answer:  So they can write bad reviews and make you feel bad.

Responding to Reviews.

To the short reviews, just a quick thank you is usually good.  The longer the review the more there is probably to respond to.  Just remember to be polite.  Being rude to a reviewer usually does no one good.

If its a Flame, feel free to ignore them.  They aren’t worth your time.  Just recognize that a negative review is not automatically a flame.   NOt everyone is going to like your story.  If they write a review and say they don’t like it,  its not a flame.  If they write a review saying “You suck!”  it is.  Constructive crit is always a good thing, so if they say they don’t like it, and explain why, that’s not a flame, its a critique and you might find yourself finding tidbits of things to improve upon even when people hate your story.

Occasionally you’ll get reviews that make you just shake your head.  I once got a review for a fic I called “Photographs” because it had the main character looking at a series of pictures.  Someone reviewed and asked me where they pictures were.  I still don’t know how to respond to that, but that is probably one of my favorite reviews simply because off its oddity.

Keep in mind this is all for fun

Don’t take negative reviews completely to heart.  Or the fact that you never get reviews.  It might seem like no one is reading, and that might be disheartening.  I know that since I have fics in small fandoms where no one is writing anymore and no one thinks to go reading it either.  Its a little depressing, but I keep in mind that I wrote the story because I felt inspired by the original story, or felt that something was needed.

Fanfiction should be primarily for yourself.  You are its primary reader.  You are the audience you are writing for.  Now, taking into consideration your audience is always  a good thing in writing, but with fanfiction you can afford to be a little more self-centered about your writing. And like an original writer you don’t have to take every suggestion your readers/betas give you.

Enjoy yourself.

One | Two |Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Pre-Production

The work that goes into writing fanfiction is not often different from the work that goes into making original short stories and longer novels.  The main difference is that fanfiction has material and a world it is already based on.  Professional fanfiction is an actual thing.  The hundreds of Jane Austen continuations and adaptations alone could prove that.  As mentioned in an earlier section, the Aeneid is basically fanfiction of Homer.  But I don’t anyone would tell Virgil that he hadn’t put his share of work into that story.

There are different things people do before writing a story.  Some people have a scene or story so clear in their minds that they sit down and write the whole thing in one go.  Others need planning, and some need research to develop its unique elements.  The ‘pre-production’ stage of writing may include some of the following:

The Plot Bunny

The Plot bunny is not exclusive to fanfiction, though that is where I hear it most.  Its that spark of a story that is stuck in your head that you want to develop or get written down.  The what if voice.

I was once part of a college writing club and one of the members decided to draw a plot bunny once.  It was a drunk plot bunny because sometimes it seems like that idea is a little drunk at first, especially when its only pieces and you aren’t sure how to figure it out quite yet.

I actually have a file on my computer just for the random ideas, both fanfiction and original fiction, that pass through my brain.  Some will never be written.  Others will be picked up down the road.  Its sometimes useful just to get the general idea written out to clear out your mind and let you focus on the stories you are actively working on.

Sometimes carrying a notebook with you to jot inspiration or notes down helps too.

The Outline

Sometimes an outline is useful.  There are many different kinds of outlines out there, and maybe one day I’ll write a whole post just on the different kinds.  Some just do bullet points, others do outlines in such detail they could hand those notes over to someone else and let them do the actual writing.

For me it depends on the story.  Some stories, particularly short one-shots and 500 words or less drabbles (we will get into that next post) don’t really need an outline.  It is helpful if you have a long fic planned and need to meet certain elements along the way to the conclusion.

Outlines can also be helpful if you need to do research

Find out what is best for you.

Finding a writing nook

Well, that is a little misleading.  What I mean by this is finding a spot (or spots) where you can write comfortably.  Everyone needs different things.  I like to write with music, so I go find places to settle down where I can play my music.

Some people need fresh pencils, others need their laptop.  Find out what works for you.  If you are uncomfortable its not going to be a good writing session.

Once you find a spot, and know what you are writing, then its time to get writing.

Part:

One | Two | Three

Four | Five

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: The Disclaimer

You may have noticed amongyour travels of the fanfiction archives out there that many stories had disclaimers.  Sites that fanfiction only tend not to have them as its generally known that the site is a collection of trans-formative works.  But its important to know what a disclaimer is and why you should use one, especially if you are posting a site that is not purposely for Fanfic

A disclaimer is a message where the writer reminds whoever is reading of several things.  One is that it is done for enjoyment, not profit (fanfiction is primarily a volunteer/non-paid hobby).  Two that the writer is giving credit when credit is due.  Three, That the writer respects other writers enough to know how to source material.

So in more depth: Continue reading “Fandom Writing Starter Kit: The Disclaimer”

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Lets Talk Canon

As I mentioned in my previous article, each fandom has a canon.  It depends on the fandom itself what is considered canon. In sports, their canon might be the rules and regulations that the sport runs by.  In a fandom such as Star Wars some fans may consider only the films canon, others might include the extensive extended universe tie in novels.   Game of Thrones fans might consider their canon either the show or the books, or attempt to meld the two.

There are other choices other then strict canon, such as fanon, semi-canon, Alternate Universe, and of course non-canon.

Continue reading “Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Lets Talk Canon”

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Terminology

Whenever you first start reading fanfiction, you’ll see various terms used to describe what you are about to read.  Its important to understand some of these terms, especially when you are posting your own stories.  People look for certain things when they are reading, and its always good to describe your story in a way that will make them understand what they are looking at.  Here are some multi-fandom general terms.

Gen
Continue reading “Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Terminology”

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: An Introduction

I started this series on Bubblews, but instead of a direct transfer, as I actually lost the copy, I’m starting a new.  So it’s  fresh version of an old post.

For those who are newbies to Fandoms in general, a fandom is a collection of fans who share a similar love for a show, movie, book, band, sports team, etc.  Although you often don’t hear people refer to sports as a fandom, it essentially is one.  Any time a group of people gather and enjoy the same entertainment, it’s a fandom.

Fandom writing therefore is fan created works relating to the be-fanned subject.  This is more popular in fandoms that are based on books, tv shows, and movies then other fandoms, but they still exist.  And it usually comes in two types: Meta & Fan-Fiction. Mainly in this series of articles I will be focusing on the latter. Continue reading “Fandom Writing Starter Kit: An Introduction”