View Full Version : Promoting work that may trigger some people...what to do?

December 29th, 2013, 11:39 PM
Hey everyone. I have a little issue that my editor brought up to me yesterday. The main character in my novel has been through a crazy amount of abuse, and there's a lot of references to it in the story. The problem is, that there are people who have been through abuse and may be triggered by some of the scenes. As an abuse survivor, I know a bit about triggers and would hate for anyone who read the book to experience any amount of flashbacks because of it.

According to my editor, this is usually something that a publisher takes care of. Since I'm self-publishing, that responsibility falls to my shoulders. My editor is going to look into it to see what should or shouldn't be done (we both fully agree that taking those scenes out of the book would completely change the story...their a main point.

She suggested that if something were said that it would be done somewhere in the promotional aspects, rather than a disclaimer in the book itself (she seemed to think that would be a bad idea).

I'm going to do some research as well, but I was wondering if anyone had advice. This is an issue that I haven't heard of people contemplating, so I'm a bit lost. lol


December 30th, 2013, 01:00 AM
Triggered? To do what? Re-experience memories? jmo, but...if I come across something I find unpleasant enough that I don't want to read it, then I stop. Your readers, there's no one twisting their arm to keep going.

Your content, is it gratuitous? Is it there to exploit? Then why feel any guilt? Mightn't your readers relate? (I'm just asking...I don't need or expect an answer).

'Important to the story'. So somewhere in a synopsis (back cover etc.) a mention of what sort of abuse would be enough to alert anyone who'd gone through similar(as they're probably quite sensitive to those cues...more than the average). Then it would be up to them to choose.

December 30th, 2013, 01:26 AM
This isn't something you should worry about. Ever. If we took that standpoint as writers, we wouldn't write a word. There's always someone, somewhere, who will have experienced something similar, if not identical, to a storyline we're writing. That's not our fault. The story needs to be told, and you stand to lose integrity if you censor it to appease a reader that may never exist.

Write the story the way it needs to be written. Always and without deviation.

December 30th, 2013, 01:43 AM
While I agree with Sam as to the effect this should have on the story telling, it certainly would not be amiss to intimate this aspect of the contents on promotional materials--including those on the book itself. This is what promotional material does anyway, so interested readers can more easily find books they will continue to read and buy. I count on it to avoid texts that I might find excessively romantic, for instance. The promotions which allow me to do this are by no means disclaimers, rather the opposite.

December 30th, 2013, 10:06 PM
Usually this wouldn't be something that I would even give a thought about (how someone might react to content in a story I write). However, I do know what it's like to be accidentally triggered by something you read. The main character in my novel has been through a ton of abuse. Although I don't go into details, there is enough for you to know what happened to her. Those who do not suffer from PTSD have no idea what a flashback can be like. It's not simply remembering, but rather reliving what happened. Reality falls away and you're stuck in the past, reliving whatever trauma you experienced. When I was starting to heal from my own traumas, I found that there were certain forum posts I couldn't read because they would trigger a flashback. Now, I've healed to the point where I can read about certain things, but still cannot watch it on TV (or hear it). I think this is why I'm a bit hyper-aware about the subject of triggers. People are more familiar with flashbacks as they pertain to military veterans who had been in war zones. It's the same thing, just with childhood abuse rather than military combat.

Naturally this won't effect what I write in the sense that I write what comes to me. That's why I'm talking about when it comes to promotional materials. I mean, the whole point of my self-publishing is because I don't want someone to tell me what to write about. lol

The back cover does hint at the abuse ("Abandoned by her parents to live on the streets... Sadie never knew kindness without first paying a terrifying price. The lessons from her childhood fuel a paranoia that makes it impossible to trust anyone, or accept their help..." are the first few sentences). The tag line is "A blind traumatized teen learns of love, and becomes the catalyst for a revolution." and that also hints at a history of abuse or at least that something horrible had happened to her. So, on the book itself I'm not too worried.

However, when promoting it on my blog or facebook, or anywhere else I might promote it, should something more be said? I've been going over it in my mind, and I think most people who have triggers are very aware of them. If they are triggered by things they read, they'll look very carefully at the descriptions of books. Since the abuse is an integral part of the story, it'll be mentioned in some form as part of the description. So, I don't think there will be a need to say more. But, I want to make sure all my i's are dotted and my t's are crossed. I don't want to learn the hard way if I should've done something more, legally or ethically speaking.

Thank you guys for the advice. :)


January 29th, 2014, 09:26 PM
AS someone who also suffers from PTSD I agree that flashbacks are horrific. What about including a 'rating' in your promotional materials - something like - the subject matter includes scenes of intense violence and may not be suitable for all readers. That would give fair warning to those of us who may have an issue with that type of scene. It might even help you sell more books. Good Luck!

January 29th, 2014, 10:46 PM
i've had 2 different women who have read my book so far who have made known to me that the writing disturbed and sickened them to the point
they had to put it down for a number of days, before picking it back up and finishing it. to me, this was a great compliment that it "triggered"
such a reaction. there have been a couple women though i know personally (those others i didn't) that i have actually discouraged from reading it,
for those reasons, though. but to me? if your writing has the power to trigger such emotional reactions in an audience? you've done your job well.