The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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warnings, spoilers, and everything
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
A few more links on the warning debates:

Anonymous and Shopfront talk here about triggering, automatic thinking, and the effects.

shopfront goes into more detail here.

Warning: Both these contain links to and descriptions of mental illness, self-harm, and suicide.

Like impertinence's essay Sexual Assault, Triggering, and Warnings: An Essay (Warning: Very explicit discussion of sexual assault and the nature, anatomy, cause & effect of triggers. Is itself triggery.), both are frank descriptions of how triggers work for them and the effects of this kind of mental illness. The first link I've been following since the thread started and highly, highly recommend reading the conversation; the second link I read this morning and am still thinking about.

All of these reflect, with specific examples and reasons, why a warning system for readers with triggers is so important and the absolute necessity of writers making sure people have the tools to choose whether to read their fic.

I recommend reading both of these.

Added Thoughts

Months ago, someone did a review on a fic of mine that surprised me regarding how I structure a story (I am not one to give away information early in the story if I can piecemeal it out in drabs before dropping the major arc right on top of the reader). It wasn't something I'd noticed consciously, but suffice to say, the fact I tend to use a single line or two from a story as a summary should tell you how much in general I loathe giving away anything I don't have to on a fic before it is read. I really hate it. It drives me nuts. This is where I admit, yes, apparently I do have a goddamn artistic temperament about this sort of thing, and you have no idea what it cost me to say that, because I never thought I did.



I do not warn, I barely summarize, and sometimes I leave out pairing codes if they aren't important to the major plotline (yes, in fact I have gotten some comments about that before). If I could get away with it, I'd leave out pairing codes, spoilers, and possibly the title, but ASC habits are impossible to break. I can barely leave off Archiving in my headers, it's that ground in.

I would not have said three days ago that it would be easy to stop, go back, stare at my fic, and decide if a warning is required. I was wrong; it's shockingly easy to do so.

The reason we have a spoiler line in headers is twofold: one, so the person reading doesn't get spoiled for a future episode of a show/spoiled for the movie/spoiled for the book; two, at least for me, so they have context if I'm depending on either some fairly obscure canon or something specifically in canon is being used extensively. Very few people argue spoilers destroy stories, even though spoilers are more likely to make me skip a story than a warning. It's also something we rarely argue. As a group, we slam down on that sort of attitude kinda viciously, which I am all for.

Having a spoiler line does not destroy your story. Somehow, strangely enough, giving the reader that much context does in fact improve readership. They can find what they are looking for. And if they aren't ready to read it, they can skip it for later/never. They get excited if it is about Trinity or Eye of the Storm, if you are in SGA and like that sort of thing.

The reason we have summaries is to tell the reader why they should read the story. I'll be honest--I am not good at this. I am bad at this. I grab a line that looks interesting and throw it up there. I cannot summarize. But even doing that tells the reader something of the story before they read it. I am more likely to skip a story based on the summary than the warnings.

Having a summary, unless you do a plot analysis in three sentences, does not destroy your story. They can improve readership. They give the reader a taste. They get excited if you mention the Slash Dragon or Arthur's Quest for a Goddamn Special Flower While Merlin Moans (aka seriously, this is canon? Thank you, BBC) if you are in Merlin and like that sort of thing.

I could repeat this with title, pairing code, fandom; if you continue to think warnings are some kind of be-all and end-all to make or break your artistic vision, then it's not a structurally sound artistic vision. Warnings, like title, author, pairing codes, spoilers, summary, aren't a law. You leave off a spoiler warnings, someone finds out that Chewbacca is actually Luke's father. That's worst case, and fandom goes to war for it. Worst case scenario in warnings...

Wow, I just went to check something. I can tell you what that is. For me, it was done on December 3, 2007. I posted a fic with implied violent sexual assault, fairly graphic torture, mind control, and some really creepy temporary mutilation along with drug use and this, this was my summary:

Shifting his hands weakly, John stares up at the forcefield lines that cross below the ceiling and wonders what the hell happened.

Worst case scenario, someone read that who wasn't ready for it and suffered because I am just that artistic.

Warnings are easy.

I've been trying to say this for a WEEK and failing miserably. Yes, yes, yes, exactly.

I've been trying to frame it for days and kept staring at my headers until something clicked. *g* Thanks.

You do the best you possibly can for where you were at the time, which is all anybody can do.

Summaries and warnings work on a positive side too - I've seen both on stories that I ended up reading and might NOT have (because I didn't know the writer, for example)and BUT then they have a "WARNING: Mpreg, kids, Fluffy, take insulin" and I will be WOOHOO COUNT ME IN. Same thing with summaries - if the summary is interesting (and there's a pairing listed that I like) I'll give the story a go. If I don't know the writer, there's no pairing, no summary and no warnings, I go on by. If fact, if there's no pairing and no summary and no warnings, you are one of the only writers whose fic I WILL read, because I like your style that much (and I don't think I've never been disappointed...well, there was that one John/Ronon fic...I think it was John/Ronon...and except for THE TRIPLETS who still languish out there, with Lex *G*).

As my therapist says "Don't beat yourself up too much over the past, just learn and get on with things."

Edited at 2009-06-26 05:04 pm (UTC)

I hadn't taken it entirely personally until I started thinking and remembered that fic. And when I went to look, holy God.

and I don't think I've never been disappointed...well, there was that one John/Ronon fic...I think it was John/Ronon...and except for THE TRIPLETS who still languish out there, with Lex *G*

*giggles* I remember that!

I tend to be terrible at summaries also, and generally use a pull quote that seems fitting to me (or amuses me), but I definitely think you can do something even there without doing a rote plot summation (which I find is often not what the story is actually *about*).

I wrote a story where the summary is "It takes Harry a while to notice that no one leaves him alone with Sirius." It's the first line of the story, and coupled with a pairing label of Sirius/Harry and an adult rating, I think it conveys the wrongness right out of the gate.

It currently doesn't have a warning on it (though I'll be adding one for 'consent issues' this weekend), but it's the sequel to a story that has a "mature themes" warning on it (and a link to that story), but I think that kind of summary, coupled with the pairing label/rating (and even where the story is set in canon*) can certainly provide warning-type information to a reader without giving too much away.


*e.g., if I say a story is set during Mystery Spot, it's likely it will contain death in one way or another, since the episode basically consists of Dean dying in many many ways

I remember that you were doing it on WolverineRogue and that's when I started; it was like BRILLIANT I NO LONGER HAVE TO SUMMARIZE.

I will do better. And hopefully, others will do the same. *crosses fingers hard*

This is where I admit, yes, apparently I do have a goddamn artistic temperament about this sort of thing, and you have no idea what it cost me to say that, because I never thought I did.

You are my hero. I'm serious. And I have an idea what that costs.

I think everyone who writes and puts it out in the universe has a "goddamn artistic temperament" about something. Maybe it's not specifically about spoilers, maybe it's about something else, but imo we all have them. Not all the time, not on every issue, but everyone who writes has a blind spot or a quirk or gets upset when someone criticizes something they wrote, or... I mean, writing is--it's *hard*. There is part of me in what I write, no matter how much I tell myself I'm all distant and have skin of steel. We are invested in our vision, yes, our goddamned artistic vision -- and in your case, that vision is pretty damn amazing.

Also, I would read your writing if you wrote (and I read) a 500-item list of every single thing that happened in the fic, before reading. (see my large no. of seperis fics saved for re-read). Your fic is far, far more than "what happens in it."




It was just weird to realize I actually am this bad about it. And by bad, I mean, ridiculous. *grins*

*hugs you hard* You are awesome, seriously.

Thanks for posting this.

If those links get more people to be aware and change their behavior, knowing the necessity, I'll just be thrilled. I can't imagine anything more thorough to explain what warnings do.

If I could get away with it, I'd leave out pairing codes, spoilers, and possibly the title

That's how I am about it. I'd pretty much just say, "Here is a thing! Read it if you're in the mood!" if I hadn't been trained on usenet as a wee tiny fanfic writer. *grins*

I grab a line that looks interesting and throw it up there.

Again, same, mostly because I hate trying to write a summary, and because I appreciate it when other writers do that. I can usually judge very well how much I'm going to enjoy the writing based off that one line.

Warnings are easy.

I'm going to go back and double check -- in my mind, I haven't missed any warnings I should've placed, but I bet I did. Thank you for the reminder.

That's how I am about it. I'd pretty much just say, "Here is a thing! Read it if you're in the mood!" if I hadn't been trained on usenet as a wee tiny fanfic writer. *grins*

Seriously! THIS. I'd have like, Thing One, Thing Five Thousand Eighty Two. I won't even tell you the length, man. The platonic ideal of writing, or something.

Usenet broke us all. *nods*

I love you for this entire thing. Because the way you structure your stories is smart, effective, just damn good writing, but you're absolutely right, there is a way to maintain artistic integrity while still providing readers with the information they need to avoid content that could be emotionally damaging.

I really freaking love the quote-as-a-summary, though. More than anything it gives a hint at the tone of the piece, which is way more appealing to me, as a reader, than an a general outline.

Yes! Also, headers are often an author's one chance to sell me on a story. The last several fandoms I've been in have all had more stories than I could keep up with so an author needs to do something to make me choose their work over someone else's. Warnings for me serve as shopping lists - interesting warnings are likely to make me want to read a story, especially one with an uninformative or otherwise uninteresting summary, that I would otherwise not bother with. When it comes to serious stories I tend to like fairly dark ones so warnings reassure me that the author may at lest be taking their subject seriously enough to interest me.

Headers make up the greatest part of a ficwriter's ad budget - treasure it for what it is.

Yes, this.

Oh man, I never thought of it as an ad budget! *glee* This is true.

When it comes to serious stories I tend to like fairly dark ones so warnings reassure me that the author may at lest be taking their subject seriously enough to interest me.

You know, that's a good point. Authors who warn *do* tend, at least sometimes, to at least be aware they are tredding on unstable ground. That's a good example of responsibility as well as awareness of the subject matter.

Okay, I know this is serious and not funny at all, except--wow. That was your summary? That is ART, right there. And I can't stop laughing. [grins]

You know, I suppose it helps that I'm a ridiculously vanilla writer who doesn't often write much that needs to be warned for (although if I ever finish that Terrible Awful Wrong fragment, that's gonna change in a hurry)but for the one story where someone has said "you know, this needed a warning", it was SO FREAKING EASY to just go back in and put a warning on. It took me, like, five minutes to add a warning to the story and to my master list. It took longer to edit the warning down to less than a paragraph (I found myself wanting to be VERY CLEAR about what was and was not in the story, possibly overdoing it just a tad).

And I'm with you, I agree totally--I rarely skip a story for warnings. Unless it's deathfic, and even then I may take the plunge, braced for the worst, if I'm bored or in a good mood or if it's a story by someone I like. But I skip a story ALL THE TIME for the summary--if it doesn't seem well-written, if it doesn't seem interesting, if it doesn't grab my attention.

I twitched at work today for like an hour when I saw that. Just--what the hell was I thinking?

Yes, summary is more make-or-break than warnings. I only check warnings on writers who I know go past my limits on violence or etc.

I just wanted to say that I really appreciate and admire your openness to changing your opinion on this, and I think it's a quality everyone should strive to achieve.

*grins* I'm terrible at this, but I hope, if nothing else, all the links that I've been posting and metafandom has been posting will get across the necessity to try, even if not everyone understands. I know I can't, I don't think anyone who doesn't have triggers can really get the necessity, but the people who have talked about it have given a powerful look at what this is and what it does to them. To do anything less feels like slapping them for what they've been trying to do for themselves and those like them.

Thank you for this.

It's really refreshing during some of the ugliness of the last couple days to see an author honestly calling herself out for having screwed up in the past and fixing it. So, thank you.

Honestly, I'd feel less--I guess ashamed of myself--if I could have understood all this before. I have people on my flist who go through this, and for some reason, I just never really paid attention to what they said.

It's not worth it that so many had to just--do this, in such detail, for the rest of fandom to get it--but I hope that if they had to, if it had to happen, that it leads to a permanent change. I don't think any of us can do anything less than try now that we know.

This is where I admit, yes, apparently I do have a goddamn artistic temperament about this sort of thing, and you have no idea what it cost me to say that, because I never thought I did.
But you did say it, and change, and that's what's important. ♥

I feel like a tool saying thanks for that, because mostly, I have to thank everyone who was able to articulate the necessity of doing this for our fellow fanpeople. I can't imagine how hard it was, and I'm still kind of stunned how many were willing to open themselves like this. I've tried to read everything that's been posted to make sure that even if I couldn't entirely understand (I know there's no way I can really understadn unless I've gone through it, but the writers have given me a sense of what it means that's personally terrifying for me, and I admire them even more for being able to get that across), I can understand completely the necessity.


Anonymous signing off.

(Anonymous)
I just wanted to say thank you again, both for this post and linking, and for your general conduct in this whole affair.

Seeing this it goes a long way to restoring some of my faith in humanity that went to an all time low with this debate. ♥

Re: Anonymous signing off.

I hope this works in raising awareness of what's happening.

It's--the funny thing is, I don't have anything *close* to triggers or anything, but I'm very claustrophobic, so elevators are a no-go. And since I started going to cons and vacationing with fangirls, that's been so much not a problem. People will take the stairs with me without me asking. svmadelyn went *fourteen flights* this last year when they put us up on the fourteenth floor until we could move to something lower. So--I don't mean to compare these two, because they're not comparative, my panic is intense but very short and nothing like what people with real triggers experience--this was eye-opening in that I can pass on that incredible kindness that's been done for me. I just wish I'd been as awesome as my friends have been before being asked.

In any case, you've been incredibly patient and thorough, and for that I thank you.

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