Writing and Trigger Points, and Cruisers XIV – The Details Part V

Writing & Trigger Points

One of the stories I wrote last September (part of my effort to write stories for submission to paying markets) was based on THIS quick piece of flash fiction.

The full story still sits on my computer, not going anywhere. There are two reasons for that: one, there is a tiny flaw in the story that I need to resolve. Two, the story contains what one of my beta readers said were triggers that readers might dislike. 

So, what are triggers (in my case, trigger scenes)? It’s something which might cause a reader to feel uncomfortable, perhaps even traumatized, by ‘triggering’ the memory of a traumatic event.

You can read the first of two trigger scenes in the above link. In that flash piece, a little girl is in the process of being abducted by a man when someone intervenes and returns her to her mother. 

The other scene is in the expanded story (it’s password protected) and involves the same girl, now a teen, being pressured by older boys to attend a party. There is the implication the boys have less-than-honorable intentions. 

In my defense, both scenes are set up and cut short before anything happens and before the girl is harmed or traumatized (the hero comes to the rescue early in the action), but I can imagine someone who experienced something like that, either as a victim or by being related to a victim, might have an adverse reaction to even the implied intent.

But, where does that leave me, the writer? What can  I write about that will not trigger something in someone? I suppose I can write nothing but humor and comic situations. But, even then, how can the writer (this writer) take into account all of the possible traumatic events in people’s lives so as to not trigger anyone? 

And not just traumatic events . . . what about phobias? If I mention a snake (spiders, centipedes, ants) dropping or crawling on a person, I know people who will literally fling the book from their hands (hopefully, it’s not an electronic reader). 

On the one hand, I want to provide an enjoyable read to as many people as possible. On the other hand, if I’m writing about conflicts and tensions and drama and action, at some point some of the characters will either be in danger, be hurt, be threatened, or made to eat broccoli (pardon me while I throw up). 

Dont look behing you

This is something I can speak to as a reader . . . I hate reading books detailing personal tragedies, people suffering, struggles with life, or anything that puts me in a particular frame of mind. 

I know those books are out there. Movies, too. 

Guess what? I don’t read those books and I don’t watch those movies or TV shows. In fact, the moment anything starts to even hint at any angst, I’m out of there. Braveheart was a great movie . . . until the hour-long evisceration scene. OK, it probably wasn’t an hour, but it sure felt like it to me. I own that movie on laserdisc and I’ve watched it exactly once. 

What I don’t do, however, is ask for a “safe space” or to be “protected” from such things. Some people enjoy horror movies, especially when graphically gruesome, blood and bits flying about the place. They are not for me. Rather than rant and rave those movies should not be made, I just don’t watch them. Rather than demanding those books be “cleansed” I don’t read them.

What if it’s not clear from the cover of the book or the preview of the movie as to what kind of movie it is? Well, it usually does not take long for them to reveal themselves. 

I don’t feel cheated, I don’t feel incensed, hurt, victimized, or assaulted by something I don’t want to see . . . I just stop reading or watching and turn my attention elsewhere.

Why am I writing this? One, because I decided to fix the story and submit it with those triggers intact, and the other is because I read THIS article. 

I think it’s an important article. Specifically, because Dr. Shermer makes a point I have been pushing for a long while, if not often enough. Namely:

Transition from a Culture of Honor to a Culture of Victimhood

In a culture of honor one settles minor disputes oneself and leaves the big crimes to the criminal justice system. Over the past two decades this has been eroded and is being replaced by a culture of victimhood in which one turns to parent-like authorities (faculty and college administrators, but not the law) to settle minor disputes over insults and slights. The culture of honor leads to autonomy, independence, self-reliance, and self-esteem, whereas the culture of victimhood leads to dependence and puerile reliance on parental figures to solve ones’ problems. In this victimhood culture the primary way to gain status is to either be a victim or to condemn alleged perpetrators against victims, leading to an accelerating search for both.

Triggers, many and varied, feature prominently as people self-identify as victims of these “slights”.

To be sure, triggers are real. There are victims who were traumatized and having those memories resurface is a reliving of the trauma. Still, I think there is a difference between merely presenting the threat and letting the threat happen, often describing it in vivid and horrific details. 

In the case of the attempted abduction, I use it to introduce the characters. The beta reader suggested something different, like saving her from a mugging. Great, but I know many people are mugged . . . won’t they be traumatized?

There is one other aspect of this, and I almost hesitate mentioning it . . . almost. Often, the people complaining about these triggers have not themselves been so traumatized. They are imagining how a victim might react.

But victims are not all the same and not all victims react the same way. I think some people are overly protective not just of their own feelings, but also those of others, whether those people want them to be or not.

Other objections are sometimes abstract . . . puzzling, even.

I could be walking around with my Browncoat t-shirt that features, among other things, two guns, and in today’s world it’s likely someone will be deeply offended by the depiction, on a t-shirt, of what they consider symbols of violence. 

OK, probably not in Monument where I live . . . but likely if I go to any local college campus or in other liberal havens.  In Monument, I would likely traumatize people if I wore a t-shirt with this picture:

all kinds of wrong

I don’t like the idea of offending someone, but . . .

In the first example, I like guns. The fact that others do not like guns is really not a concern of mine until they start telling me I’m a mouth-breathing troglodyte and that I am the root cause of society’s problems. I understand the idealistic fervor of some people, but we don’t live in that world.

happy bullies

In the second example, it’s something I wonder about. Rather than being offended, explain Step 2 to me. Better yet, have something besides trite excuses for the most basic question of all.

The NaNoWriMo 2015 novel I’m currently shopping around was criticized at the Viable Paradise workshop because in places I mention the female lead, Raven, is beautiful (I used “gorgeous” as a descriptor) . . . I did not know it when I wrote it, but I objectified her. Raven’s a robot (Mech), and the character making those observations has absolutely no intentions toward, or feelings for, her, least of all in any physical way, but it didn’t matter. It also did not matter that Raven purposefully chose a striking physical appearance. That’s not my bias speaking; I’ve heard real women are also occasionally obsessed with their outer appearance and I would not presume to make any assumptions as to their reasons for it. 

I caved . . . I sterilized those scenes, and for a short while, I even felt guilty about having written them in the first place (that whole ‘not wanting to offend someone’ bit). 

I don’t think I will ever cave like that again. I know what I wrote, and I know someone taking offense from it is not reading what I wrote; they are, instead, covering my words with their hangups. They should put the book down (or sling it across the room) and go do something else. 

Seeing as 70+% of the publishing industry hierarchy is comprised of women, it might mean I will never get published. 


Cruisers Update XIV – The Details Part V

Continuing with my late reporting of the June 14, 2015, Tri-Lakes Vintage Car show.

I’m not identifying the various car makes and models these macros belong to because, as I’ve oft asserted and repeated, I ain’t no car guy. That said, one can perhaps determine the car associated with the macros below by reading previous posts or going to the SmugMug gallery and looking at the photos of cars, matching them to the macros. 

14JUNE2015 Tri-Lakes Car Show

14JUNE2015 Tri-Lakes Car Show

14JUNE2015 Tri-Lakes Car Show

There is a SmugMug Gallery (HERE) for this, past, and future posts about this show. Also, you can click on the photos to open a larger version of the photo in a separate tab or window. Go ahead; try it.

As for identifying emblems and badges . . . sometimes, things are easy.

14JUNE2015 Tri-Lakes Car Show

. . . if not particularly attractive.

Here are two versions of the same name. 



Sometimes, certain features are as recognizable as the badge.



Sometimes, what is purported to be a beloved icon is, in reality, tacky.


Sometimes the macro shot screams vintage, as in this next shot.


. . . and sometimes, vintage is trying very hard to be modern.






Here’s a subtle combination of what I presume is both the name of the make and an advertising for a V8 engine. I could be wrong; maybe it’s just two ovals.  


Hey, I’ve not done a B&W conversion in a while . . . 


This next one is not as elegant. 


This next car had both striking colors and interesting details.



Here are the turn signal indicator and a B&W conversion of it. 



This last set of photos show what I thought were perfect subjects for B&W conversions. First up . . . 



This next one is also a Ford. A truck, no less, called F-100.



I hope you took the opportunity to click on a few photos. If not, that’s OK.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Black & White, Black and White, Cars, Machines, Macro Photography, Opinions and Stuff, Photography Stuff, Writing Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Writing and Trigger Points, and Cruisers XIV – The Details Part V

  1. mvschulze says:

    I love the Crusiers Update, the close-ups, and particularily the beautiful Ford V8 under hood. But honestly I too damn tired to soak up, and give any kind of digestion of the first part. I’m sure it’s up to par with your usual observations, but for tonight I’m too worn, even stumbled on the guest’s word “puerile,” and decided to put it off till another, less otherwise consumed night. So, I can only give a half like, pending slW0KComj opps, sorry, fell asleep there for a minute! m!


    • disperser says:

      Don’t worry about the first part . . . it’s not one of my best efforts, and it stems from many different things. I should have split that up into two or maybe even three different pieces, but I’m fairly busy these days and I thought I could knock all that out in one piece.

      Live and learn . . . and I’m glad you liked the photos.


  2. oneowner says:

    It probably wouldn’t surprise you that my favorite shots are the detail shots and these are really well done.


  3. sandra getgood says:

    It’s my guess that just about any event you write about might well trigger a negative reaction from a reader, depending on the person’s life experiences and their reactions to them. If you damp down your stories to avoid that happening, you’ll end up with the worst case of writer’s block you ever heard of….and what would be the point? If you do use something you are relatively sure will get a response….negative or positive…from your readers, I don’t see anything that wrong with it, as long as it moves your story in the direction you want it to go. Horror stories have horrible events, murder mysteries have violent crime…..but anyone who chooses to read about that subject should be prepared for that That’s my opinion.


    • disperser says:

      Thank you, Sandra. That is my thinking as well.

      Plus, I don’t like many of the possibly objectionable things myself. Of course, being male, I’ll never know how a female might feel about certain things, but still, I don’t go out of my way to stress either myself or the characters when writing stories. I can’t see me ever writing about rape and certainly not child abductions or even of children being traumatized. Heck, I don’t even hardly swear in any of my stories.

      I do kill bad guys left and right, but even then, they are usually quick and merciful kills.

      That said, I do want to be aware of these things. That I know of, I don’t think I objectify women, but perhaps I’ve unconsciously used stereotypes (for both men or women) but there again, sometimes that’s part of the stories and characters I write.

      Given Trump’s popularity, I should maybe up the ante and write seriously offensive stuff and corner the market of his followers. I would be rich.


  4. I totally agree with what you said! A writer can’t “walk on eggshells” worrying about who might be offended or upset by their words/stories. A writer needs to write what is in their heart and mind and tell the story they want to tell. No matter what they write, there will be an audience for it. And those who are NOT in that audience can move on to something else.

    There are books and movies and just everyday life things (words people say, certain smells, etc.) that trigger memories of very negative events in my past. But, that is just part of living. That happens. I expect it to happen. (For example, something recent…since I’ve been dealing with cancer, I’ve been amazed how often cancer is mentioned in news stories online, on TV, in movies, in every day conversation, etc. It brings up emotions and memories, but I can deal with that and don’t expect the word to be eradicated. :–) )

    Sometimes I WANT, and chose, to read a book (or see a movie) about someone who has been through some of the same negative things I have been through. It makes me feel less alone, and gives me hope. Might even give me tips on how to cope. So, I pick up a book that is the memoir of someone who has been to hell and back and dive into it, knowing it will be uncomfortable or bring up bad memories.

    I think we have to be respectful of people’s feelings by what we say to them personally, but I think in writing we need to say what we need to say, because people can chose to read it or not.

    We have have times (and ways) of self-expression. If we lose that, what do we have?

    I’ve more to say, but you get the picture. Keep writing what you want or need to write!

    Okay. Made to eat broccoli. That IS going too far! ;-) :-P

    Love the photos today! Love the details!
    HUGS!!! :-) Happy Sunday!!! :-)


    • disperser says:

      It’s an interesting thing to contemplate in fiction because as a writer I do have a lot of control on both what I want to say and how I want to say it.

      As I mentioned, I see a conflict between making something feel real and impacting the reader and also trying to be sensible about just how much emotion one wants to elicit in the reader.

      I think I’m pretty good at conveying and eliciting emotions, but the flip side of that is that I feel those emotions as well. I only ever wrote one horror piece, and that I know of, only two people have seen it. The thing is, I touched on many of my own trigger points, and I think it affected me more than it would many readers familiar with horror.

      But, that’s the point . . . there are many shades of readers (more than 50) and I long ago resolved to mostly write stuff I would like to read. In the case of the NaNoWriMo, I was channeling the Mickey Spillane private eye style even though I veered from it after a short while. Still, if I wanted to write that kind of book, I wonder if it would be as popular today (excluding the fact it has been copied so often that it has lost its punch).

      Conversely, and I’m only guessing here, if I wanted to write straight-up romance, the stereotype for both the heroines and heroes are well outside what I would feel comfortable writing.

      But, regardless, I try to avoid anyone being forced to eat broccoli.

      And thanks about the photos. More coming.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. PiedType says:

    One of my hot buttons these days: political correctness, trigger warnings, micro aggressions, and the SJWs who are disrupting our college campuses. That whole victimhood thing. If they feel so threatened where they are, they are free to go elsewhere, attend a different school, read a different book, see a different move, etc. Everything will offend somebody, somewhere.

    Or, to state it briefly, I agree with you.


    • disperser says:

      Thanks, although one still has to be aware not to have a truly hostile environment (like, a church or political rally). But yeah . . . I see today’s campuses as precisely doing what they say they are against . . . forcing others to adhere to one’s restrictive view of the world.

      But, as far as books, even though I have self-imposed limits to what I write, I can also argue people should have the right to write (and read) whatever they want. Besides, censoring something almost never works . . . human beings are geared to focus on stuff they are told they should not look at. Censor something, and next thing you know it’s the number one search item on Google(tm).


  6. colonialist says:

    I have never lost any sleep about ‘triggers’, and I have no intention of doing so. It is a writer’s job to tell a tale in the way the tale demands, and not to skate around every issue that might cause discomfort to a minority. Of course, if it causes discomfort to the majority then one is faced either with no readers or a blockbuster best-seller because everyone wants to see what all the shock is all about.
    Having said this, I did have a ‘discussion’ with my editor on the latest book (to appear one of these days, I hope, as I have been for two years) on a part that was perhaps too graphic for young adult readers, innocent though it was. I conceded … slightly …


    • disperser says:

      The thing about young readers, I believe adults forget what they were like in those days. I do remember . . . nothing shocked me and I thirsted for knowledge about all sorts of things. These days, with Internet access available to even younger children, I can’t imagine anything I might write that would not be already familiar to most kids (probably more so than adults who grew up before the Internet).

      But, there is the consideration that editors and publishers are taking the risk when publishing one’s work (unless self-published) so they should have some measure of control to the content, especially if they feel it’s not reaching the target audience.

      I did write about that here:

      giving an example at the bottom of the piece. One has to pick the battles, and the criteria change with each circumstance.


  7. colonialist says:

    I remember that post, and still go along with the comment I dropped there.
    I had a friend who was a successful Mills & Boon writer. The formula she had to stick to was so tightly prescribed it would have driven me nuts. Still, she made a useful income from it.
    Now, ironically, M & B are being blamed for scrambling women’s brains because they create romantic ideals divorced from reality. Truly, people are crazy. So, it reinforces my advice to ignore the carpers and trust one’s own instincts – after due thought.


  8. mybrightlife says:

    I agree with you about the trigger stuff too, but not going to ramble on because plenty of comments have been made. Beta reader? Better reader?? Almost feels like they felt obliged to ‘add value’ but couldn’t come up with anything so went after the trigger concept which makes no sense at all really, especially if you are writing fiction for a broad audience….and I said I wasn’t going to ramble on….;)


    • disperser says:

      There is a tendency in modern writing toward more attention to social issues. I can applaud some of the efforts in that direction. Efforts like not propagating stereotypes or fostering negative attitudes.

      Unfortunately, like most things where good intentions run amok, sometimes they go to far.

      Thanks for the comment.


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