Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Warnings in Books

Every now and again I post questions on my Facebook or G+ and my Ello accounts. I get a wide variety of answers. My questions consist of "What's for Dinner" to "What do you feel, in a book, is deserving of a "warning" before buying/reading it?

The responses I got weren't ALL that surprising to me. But I did notice that a lot of people, while talking about books, make the comment: "If there's cheating I stop reading." or "I can't read books about cheating." BUT for all the fuss and muss about that complaint NOT ONE person said there should be a warning about cheating in books before they buy them.

Which begs the question, if it's not warned and you buy it, do you return it? THIS post is about what people feel is worthy of a warning.

literally 98% of all the people who answered that there SHOULD be a warning said, abuse child/animal/domestic, rape.

I was quite taken aback by the number of people who said "I don't think books should come with any warnings."

One person had a great suggestion of every book having a Warnings Page. A person can decide to look or not.

There were a few who said incest should be a warning. And I can maybe see that. It could be a trigger.

Here's how I see it: I agree that abuse, sexual or other, should absolutely come with a warning. I believe incest to a degree but it's not a huge one for me.

I do NOT agree that "HEA Guaranteed" or "Cliffhanger warning" is EVER mandatory.  You are buying a book. A story from someones mind. There may be adultery, it might be a bittersweet ending. Possibly menage. Thing is THOSE ARE NOT WARNINGS. That's part of the story. Warning are things that trigger episodes in the reader's mind. It's mental. I have my own triggers that when reading a book I prefer the warning.

I will say this, if I read a book and there's cheating and I don't like how it ends IF I READ THE WHOLE DAMN THING I WILL NOT RETURN IT! Nor should anyone else. That's stealing! You may not like the book, it's fine you don't have to, but let's not return a book you've read.

So what do you think. What's deserving of a warning?


21 comments:

  1. Like I said when you posted the question, I don't need warnings and when they're there I do not read them. I feel the blurb should cover the story well enough to make it clear what can be found in the book. Maybe, if the book doesn't (as in it is a M/F story according the blurb but includes a graphic M/M scene) it might be worth mentioning it. Other than that, I don't need them.

    Having said that. I realize certain things can trigger nasty memories or reactions in some readers and for that reason I'm happy to concede that trigger warnings might come in handy for some. So maybe we should have one of those warning pages you mentioned and leave it up to the reader to decide whether or not they want/need to know.

    As for returning books. I've never returned an E-book and have only ever returned physical books (apart from to the library :) ) if I'd received or bought a book I already owned. But even then I wouldn't return so much as swap them for a book I hadn't read yet.

    Great post. Can't wait for all the other reactions you'll get.

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    1. The responses have been very one or the other. Those who want the warnings want them for the abuse and rape. I actually understand it. I don't necessarily need them but I understand those who do

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  2. I remember when... wait... *dons old codger costume* ... Okay, I remember when all we knew about a book was what was on it's back cover. No internet, no review sites, no pre-conceived notions. Books were exciting - they were mysteries yet to be revealed. Sure, there was word of mouth on really great books, but, for the most part, no spoilers, no warnings...nada. And guess what? We survived. We read stuff that shocked us and scared us and, yeah, stuff that sometimes dredged up feelings and memories we'd rather not re-visit. I think book warnings are just one more part of a bigger picture. The picture where no Little League team loses (Everyone's a winner!!), half my granddaughters teenaged friends are on Xanax, and the high school has 65 cheerleaders because everyone who tries out gets in. I'm on the verge of a rant, but I guess my point is, we've gotten to the point where we're not only terrified of "feeling" anything bad, but we've lost the ability to deal with it when we do. I'm not opposed to a "warnings" page, but I think it's sad that we need one - on many levels.

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    1. It's "what will make everyone happy" mentality. I know what you mean. I had field day in school and NOT everyone got a ribbon. Now you get a ribbon just for participating. It's ridiculous. Like I've said I don't NEED one. I appreciate when I beta for some readers *cough* they have told me in advance "Hey it gets rough." But other than that it's pretty much... good luck LOL

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    2. Gosh...whoever would THAT be? LOL.

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  3. I've never returned an e-book and feel uncomfortable when I see people who've read a whole book and didn't like it say they will return it.

    I also find too many warnings spoil a lot of the book. I can understand certain sensitive issues should be warned about, but it should be something that is optional to view. I like how Riptide publishing for example has a page for each book where you can toggle on to view warnings. I certainly don't want a victim of abuse being surprised when it shows up in a book, but I have no real sensitivities to what I'm reading and when I am reading a book I like to be surprised or shocked at what happens and too many warnings ruin that.

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    1. I didn't know Riptide offered that. I do like that option. Very nice! It's hard. You can't make everyone happy. And no, I don't need the warnings I simply understand those who do

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  4. No warnings. Be an adult, for christ's sake. If you have triggers, read the blurb or ask your friends before buying. I'm so tired of being told everyone needs to be surrounded in bubble wrap. If you're that sensitive, don't go out (you might see something objectionable), stay offline (you may read something offensive), curl up in bed in the dark and wait to die.

    I'm not saying people don't have triggers. I'm saying I'm not responsible for not setting them off. YOU ARE. Don't make your problems mine. I have enough of my own.

    I was raped. I spent the following year dealing with it. No one helped, and I didn't ask anyone to treat me with kid gloves.

    I read books with rape in them. I don't want a warning first because that takes the element of surprise away. I choose not to read about certain kinds of abuse, but I do not expect nor will I demand an author add warnings. I'll figure it out on my own or read the reviews first, then make my decision. As Jaycee pointed out, we grew up with books that didn't include warnings, and I'm pretty sure most of us handled that just fine. How many of you would have read Carrie if you'd been warned it contained bullying, pig's blood, the violent and gory deaths of teens, and religious extremism?

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    1. I understand what you're saying. I don't need warnings but I do understand those people who prefer them. That said, they can't complain when it was too much. Like one person said Riptide has an option to see warnings. That is a happy medium. I have my own demons and I have triggers of my own. I do not blame an author ever if something I read of theirs sets me off. That's for me to deal with and I do. The topic of warnings has become almost like a debate. I laugh at the people who genuinely want a CHEATING warning. I don't get it

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  5. I see a lot of warnings about BDSM books, but I think most people assume there will be content like that going in.

    I also write a lot of cliff hangers and I don't think I should have to warn people about them. If the ending is fitting for the book leave it.

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    1. I agree. Cliffhanger has never been a "warning" and I think people who require it to be need to reevaluate reading in general lol

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  6. The cheating warning has bitten me in the ass recently!
    LOL one of my books has some cheating, and though I don't think I had any returns because of it, I definitely had some negative reviews. It kind of bothers me, because cheating is part of life. Many people cheat, and are cheated upon. How you get past that, how you move on or forgive or forget or whatever - that is where the story is. Not saying it should ever be a big part of romance, but it has a place there, just like all the other little subjects we explore. I guess I just don't understand the vehemence with which people object to it in fiction. (and I didn't put a warning...lesson learned!)

    I think sometimes the big stuff (rape, especially rape for titillation) should be warned. I honestly feel there is NEVER a need to explicitly describe rape in fiction, and especially not in Romance. Rape happens, sure. It is unfortunately a reality of life. Talk about it, let the characters deal with it, that is all great. But to write out detailed rape scenes? I question the author on that, and I feel a warning is the least they can do.

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    1. It stinks when anyone gives a negative review for that type of thing. I don't care for small dogs. Should I reduce my review from four stars to three because I would've preferred the MC own a Great Dane instead of a Bishon? The entire review process is getting kind of ridiculous.

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    2. haha Jaycee, I know. I mean, I understand that for these readers, the cheating interfered with their enjoyment of the story and thus they reduced the star rating. I can accept that. Mostly I have pretty favorable reviews so I really shouldn't complain. I guess I just waaaay underestimated how much romance readers dislike cheating! :)

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    3. And I totally *don't* get that. At. All. It's such a natural, realistic conflict for a romance genre storyline. And very angsty...which I love. I don't understand why there is such a cookie-cutter mentality. It's fiction. None of it is going to stop the world from turning. Writers should write what they want. Readers should read what they want. Win-win.

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  7. I agree with one poster above that said back in the day (cough, cough - way before my time, lol!) we'd buy a book with no prior knowledge about its content except for what we garnered by word of mouth or a review in the newspaper. I would never dream of returning a book that I purchased or that someone purchased for me, if I discovered something within its contents that put me off or offended me. However, in the world of Fanfiction, there seems to be completely different rules for what is expected and/or acceptable?? What is the basis for the difference in attitudes in these 2 worlds? Is it character driven? For me, I read Twilight fanfiction. I have loved the characters Edward and Bella for so long that they feel like family members sometimes, absurd I know, but the thought of them cheating on each other kills me. Yes they're fictional characters, but they've become so familiar to me. I'm not brushing the other triggers under the rug, I just used cheating as an example. If I read a book, I have no preconceived ideas about the characters, no prior emotional ties to them...there's an element of detachment I guess. Who knows, lol! Such a good question!

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    1. It's a wonder we have survived this long LMAO

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  8. Like others who commented before me, I would NEVER even think about returning a book because I don't like it (and not just because the chances of me reading it within 7 days of buying it is small). Not liking a book for any reason is the risk I take as a reader.

    Of course, in the days before the net, I practically lived in the library, so rarely bought books...

    I like what Riptide does as well (though... I can never not click that hidden bit... it's an annoying habit), and the idea of a separate page of warnings (though... not in a book) so a reader can choose to be 'spoiled' or not.

    I do understand warnings for rape/abuse.

    Warnings for cheating? For Cliffhangers? (as much as I hate cliffhangers), for not having a HEA? *shakes head* that's just too much. If we'd know everything that goes on in a book before reading it, what would be the point of reading it?


    Jaycee: Love the comment about the dog. Something like that happened to one of my books, someone complained because they preferred my MC older and more experienced than I wrote him *head desk*

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    1. LOL. Well, then it wouldn't be the same character anymore, then, would it? *head desks with you*

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    2. I was in a group not too long ago and they were freaking out over cheating. One person went on that there should be warnings for it. It is amazing how people want things handed to them on a silver platter. Part of reading is surprise, wonder all of it.

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