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.

 

Ship & Let Ship

This post is actually linked to my last writing post.  The villainization of characters is a common trait among ship wars, and that is a part of today’s post.

Fandom in general is a fun, happy place for people to join together and enjoy something.  Be it a sport, a book, a movie or a TV show. If it’s a collection of fans of something, its a fandom.

However, particularly in the fictional work driven fandoms (Tv, books, movies etc) there is a dark element that pops up from time to time.  It’s called a Ship War. A ship, for those who are wondering, is a term for a pairing you prefer to see in a relationship. Most people have ships and have no problems letting others have their own ships.  Some, however, do seem to have a problem and make fandom less friendly, less happy and less enjoyable.

My first experience with a ship war was in the Doctor Who fandom.  I was late to the game, having watched but not been sucked in till I rewatched season 1 of the second series (or Nine’s tenure if you prefer) after catching an episode of Torchwood and Season 2 of Doctor Who.  I found myself really enjoying it, and immediately started shipping Rose/Doctor. I found that the Doctor Who fandom is thriving and has many little niches and sub fandoms. There was a lot out there, from fanfic, to fan made videos, and academic meta.  You can find a lot.

But one day, while surfing through various social media and fanfic sites, I started noticing something.  A strange undercurrent in the fandom. It turned out there was a division in shippers who prefered Rose and those who prefered Martha, his next companion, as a romantic interest.  I personally love Martha, though I found her season a little hard to watch. I found fanfics where either Martha was downgraded to a women who clung and became obsessed with the Doctor, totally ignoring the kickass character you saw on-screen or Rose likewise turned into a caricature of her characterization.  It just depended on what the author/video editor decided was the ship of choice. People took it further than that, and it made me back off for a while and want to rant about the fandom.

Sherlock, a television series based on Sherlock Holmes, was another fandom I saw this in.  However this fandom war made me completely drop the fandom. It made me uncomfortable enough that I have yet to go back and watch the show after season 2.  In particular one following of a ship decided to not only be horrible to other fans, they were horrible to actors whose character had, in their point of view, got in the way of their ship.

More recently I have come across a shipper war in The 100 fandom.  I came into the show, enjoying it. I liked the show, liked the books.  I was (and still am) a Bellarke (Bellamy & Clarke) shipper. I could argue why I felt they were the endgame couple.  On the screen, Clarke and Bellamy both had various other love interests. In particular, Clarke fell in love with Lexa, a character I didn’t care  for that much due to some writing issues. However I saw shippers on both side go to extremes to fight each other on it. Bellarke fans would exaggerate Lexa’s bad qualities, and Clexa shippers would state that Bellarke shippers were homophobic (whether they are or not as individuals can be debated.  It’s a poor generalization of a ship following however). They threw petty insults towards each other, but not in a fun “we all love each other anyway” sort of way. To the point I avoid the main 100 threads and tags because I’m always finding something happening.  And I’m not alone. I have heard stories from various fandoms where someone choose to leave or just stick to very specific tags because of overall tension due to a ship war.

There is a difference between good-hearted debate between shippers and shipper wars.  I have had conversations with my friends who have had different ships. For example, one of my best friends and I often disagree on shipping Jack & Gwen in Torchwood.  It’s good-natured debate. I have several friends who ultimately hate Trip/T’Pol from Star Trek: Enterprise. Yet when I write it/talk about it, they shrug and it’s the same when they talk about their prefered ship (Trip & Hoshi is a popular one).  The point is – we ship and let ship. We have our ships, our OTPS, our crackships and our “they are cute, so maybe” ships. They aren’t always the same. But we enjoy the same fandom, enjoy our friendships and our mutual love for whatever it is we are fanning.   We don’t go warring against each other over a disagreement with a ship. We don’t attack the actors who are just doing their job for getting in the way. We don’t let our shipping take over our lives, and our fandom enjoyment.

If you do not like a ship, do not read it.  Don’t write it. Treat your fellow fandomers with respect, and let others ship what they want to ship.  Yelling at them won’t change their mind, abusing them certainly won’t, and abusing characters in your writing will just make people avoid it.  It can also make people just peeking into the fandom run away from it.

If you don’t like a type of ship (be it slash, femslash, or het) don’t click on fics that use it.  Don’t target authors who write a ship you hate and give them bad reviews. I actually had this happen to me as a writer.  I saw a review, and got excited that someone had taken the time to leave one. When I opened the review up, I found a rant on how my couple was disgusting and how I should be ashamed to ship them. I was bewildered, and I know of others who have gotten similar reviews.  Once a friend and I decided to do a fic exchange. I wrote (well, am writing as I never finished it….meep!) a Jack/Ianto fic while she wrote a Jack/Gwen fic. She got a review that called her a homophobe for writing a bisexual character with a woman. Beyond the fact that it wasn’t even changing the sexuality of the character, it was confusing as to why this person took the time to seek out a Jack/Gwen fic and berate someone.  

So in the end, enjoy your ships and let other people enjoy their own.  Fandom is supposed to be fun, not somewhere someone is made to feel uncomfortable, or berated.