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gemmi999 ([personal profile] gemmi999) wrote2009-06-28 01:42 am

Meta -- Warnings in Fiction

So, I swore I wouldn't get involved in this, mostly because my only experiences with any type of Meta come from the Harry Potter fandom and that fandom is a little, um, well--rough on me, meta wise. But it's late and I can't sleep and I've been thinking about it quite a bit. So full warnings.

I don't typically read the warnings on fic, except in the "ohhh, does it list for my kink" way, because that's the easiest way to find some slash/porn/pwp that fit whatever mood I'm in. I'll read just about anything, depending on if I'm in the right mood, and the only thing that I really, REALLY dislike reading about is rape and misogyny. And I still read those half-the-time because, to be honest? I don't really read headers or pay attention to the warnings, anyway.

So I thought I was going to make a post about how general warnings a good, and how you shouldn't have to make specific warnings, but then I got to thinking.

For those of you that don't know, I just posted a story for Bandom Big Bang which was a gen piece in which Bob Bryar wasn't in MCR for a specific reason. I didn't think I needed to warn for this, but the day before I posted my story two of my friend's both said I had to, because if people got to the end and discovered it? There would be hell to pay. Much better to put it in the warning and not give people the benefit of the doubt.

Unfortunately, I listened to them. At the time it made sense, but the more that I think about it, the more I wish I hadn't. Yes, it might make the story difficult for someone to read, they might not want to think about Bob Bryar outside of MCR, or they might not want to think about what happens after bands break up. It might be emotional for them, but I don't think, as an author, it's particularly triggery. It's going to happen one day, and more importantly, it doesn't hurt people.

I'll never know how many people skipped over reading my story because I put that in the warning. I know that on delicious that part of the warning has made it into people's notes and other comments about the story, so clearly some population isn't giving it a chance because of it.

On the otherside, I read a bandom big bang that didn't have any warnings one day before work, and the third part talked about suicide. Now, I've had friends commit suicide. My brother and sister have both lost friends to suicide, and my family has has family members attempt suicide. It's a triggery thing for me, and not something I would choose to read before work (because it always, always, always makes me cry). I didn't stop reading because I was near the end of the story, but I could have and probably should have, when I realized where the story was going. That's my bad.

But I wouldn't have started the story then if I had known about the suicidal themes. I would have waited until after work, so it wouldn't matter if I cried. So I wrote the author a comment and just mentioned it, and they added it to the warnings in case other people had the same reaction.

Neither of the warnings I've discussed are part of the "big 4" as I think of it: rape, character death, under age, necrophilia/scat. (I told you, I came from the Harry Potter fandom--surprise!necrophilia or surprise!scat were quite popular). So at what point does the author have an obligation to warn people about things, and at what point is it up to the reader to find things out?

Well, I don't think the author has the obligation to warn about anything. In my writing I tend to be overcautious when warning, and that's fine, that's just me. I don't really care as much about other writing, except for the suicidal themes example mentioned earlier. I could have asked numerous friends of mine what they thought of the story in question before I read it and been duly warned. That's my bad.

In fact, I know a lot of people who won't read a fic unless it's rec'd by one of their friends. That's their warning system and it works for them. It works because I think it is the reader's responsibility to pick out appropriate stories to read. In popular fiction you read the back cover of a book and if it interests you, you can read it. Or you can go read book reviews or reviews and get more information.

In fic it's much the same way. You can go to recing sites. You can go to fic discussion groups. You can browse your friend's list. Or your friendsfriends. There are lots of ways to get the information, if you want it, and it's your responsibility to do so. Especially if you have triggers.

If the author wants to warn, I think the big 4 a good things to warn for. But it's art, and a good deal of art is about suspense or placing your trust in the hands of the author and knowing that the journey is important. If its a good author, they probably put specific things in the story to make you feel a specific way, and to aid with the telling of the story.

The most definitive example of this I can think of is the Stargate Atlantis story Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Lose. I knew nothing, NOTHING, about this story the first time I read it. I was sitting in a starbucks, avoiding my parents home and reading in the corner and by the end? I was sobbing. It didn't matter that I was in public and at least four people asked if I was alright. The story touched me that deeply.

Part of that was about the realization about why Rodney was alone, and why he was doing exactly what he was doing. If the author had warned for things? It wouldn't have had the same impact. But at the same time, if I had wanted to? There are hundreds of reviews for that story out there, probably. It's considered one of the seminal works of SGA. Somebody has probably written a dissertation on it. (if they haven't? i totally would).

The point is, I could have found out a lot of information about the fic before I ever sat down to read it. If I wanted to. I know people that do do this, before they read any fic. It's their way of reading and making sure it's an entertaining experience.

I guess it all boils down to this: we all have a back button. We all know how to use it. We all have access to google and delicious and our friend's list and so on and so forth. We have access to resources and it is our responsibility to use them appropriately so we can find appropriate stories that we want to read. We have the responsibility to be responsible and safe consumers of art, and everything that that entails.

Art is created, and it is there to make us think and push our boundaries. How can it do this if the artist is trying to censor themselves or second guess themselves or figure out exactly how to warn for different things that they've written?

I'll still warn for the big 4, but nothing else. No more warning about Bob not being in MCR, or a story being about Brent. *shock* *horror* If you need more detailed warnings then that, please wait for people to review it, or ask a friend if they liked the story. Read the comments. Something, anything. Be responsible.

ETA: I didn't include Suicidal themes as part of my big 4, because I view it with character death (meaning--if someone committed suicide I would list it as "character death: suicide") but I can understand the need to list it separately. Self Injury as well. I hadn't listed it because I can not, conceivably, think of an instance where I would write it and thus need to warn for it. But if the situation ever arises, I will do so.

I am PURPOSEFULLY not answering any comments for the next 12 hours because I got very little sleep and am still sickly and don't want to just dash something off. I will answer comments after I sleep a bit more and have coherent thoughts stumble their way through my head.