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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
. . . 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.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.