On Trigger Warnings and the Fiction I Write (Notes on The Refrigerator of a Man Who’s about to Kill Himself)
(I wonder if there’s some old Latin term for tl;dr.)
This post concerns this vignette, in a clear but indirect way: https://zombiesintelligently.com/vignettes/the-refrigerator-of-a-man-whos-about-to-kill-himself/
This post will be about the kinds of things I write and how I strive to write things that aren’t shock-full of upsetting imagery and ideas. Even this paragraph will contain upsetting imagery. It … will probably also be rather scattered. If you don’t know what a trigger is, when speaking of Words on the Internet, the basic explanation is: something that triggers a bad, involuntary response in people’s brains. So when I talk about … cutting off people’s tongues with rusty scissors, this might catch someone off-guard. Someone who had that happen to them, or who was threatened with that, or someone who just has a vivid imagination.
The stuff I write is often upsetting. I write a disturbing amount of stories about ponderments of ending oneself. In my fiction there is violence, rape, murder, emotional abuse, and various other horrible things. They’re just there to be horrible. In my romance there is death, in my science fiction there are dialogue lines like “do what you want with her”. My fantasy is mostly just long quests leading to suicide.
There are some bad things inside my skullbone. I try to write the horrible stuff out of my head, and that’s what happens. One day, I would like to write a story where no-one dies or gets traumatized – I hear those stories are actually possible to write. Like my head could be filled with only petty things and nice feelings and therefore bad things don’t happen to the fictional people I create. Maybe they narrowly avoid the apocalypse and save everybody in the end. Maybe someone breaks their heart and that’s that. Maybe the betrayal alters the outcome of a war fought five lightyears away, in space, with robots.
I know death is common in fiction. That’s okay. We’re used to death in our books and so. Sometimes I do feel the horrible things fit, too. I would like to not write them with so much frequency. If you go to the archive of my drabble blog (link at the bottom of this post), you can see how many more posts nowadays start with ‘Trigger Warning‘. And this is with me not allowing myself to post all of them, for fear of scaring away readers, or falling into a rut. It takes a lot more effort to write something intriguing or emotive that doesn’t involve … you know … awfulness.
It would be nice to post a month without using any of the words noose, blood, or bullet. I feel, probably wrongly, that my old work was a lot more evocative than my new work. Somehow, I’ve lost the spark. Now the death has reached my eyeballs and I can only see bad things. I feel like I’m resorting to cheap tricks when I write something horrible, because it gets responses more easily than something more subtle.
I think I might be alright with writing horrible things that don’t really happen to people. Things that you can’t relate to very easily. I would like to submit my readers to new horribleness instead of making them relive the past’s horribleness. Aren’t I noble?
(You find a button that lets you remove all the things you regret from your life and you push it. You go about your life knowing that you pushed that button, and that it didn’t do a thing. A part of you dies.)