harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,
harsens_rob
harsens_rob

The Question of Warnings in Fanfic




Temporarily Obsessive has a question re: including warnings when you post FanFic:

I've been wondering lately about how fic warnings apply in the Buffyverse. Is it necessary to warn for character deaths when a character is vamped, and still has a role in the fic? Or to warn for character death if a character is killed then resurrected? (This is the Jossverse, these things happen all the time! :P) YMMV, of course, but I'd like to hear opinions on this.


Also, what constitutes non-con? In one of my fics, one character is under a continuous thrall that doesn't exactly make her willing (because she may have been regardless), but it does make her dependent on the other character and it can be reasonably argued that she wouldn't have had the sex otherwise. At what level is that considered non-con? Would I be required to warn for it?



Naturally, I feel the need to throw my two-cents in:

I've always been uncomfortable with expecting or demanding warnings when it comes to posting fiction on the interwebs - yes, even if the story includes things such as 'triggers' or 'squicky situations'. I've been of the opinion that it isn't the writer's responsibility to guard against other people's sensitivities - after all, one person's squick is another reader's 'especially sought out this fic for this reason' thing.

I do, however, appreciate a general warning if a story dives into themes or situations which are bound to be uncomfortable (say rape, incest or graphic torture). I think at the end of the day, however, it always has to be an author's choice about how much and what exactly they want to 'warn' about. I am extremely hesitant about the phrasing of the questions posed in the above posting, for instance - notice: Would I be required to warn for it?

My answer will always be 'No, you don't have to warn about anything' because it isn't the author's job to protect a potential audience from plot twists or character fates. If the story is swerving into territory that makes someone question whether they should continue reading it, then they can always close the window or backspace. No one should feel like there is a requirement to include warnings of any sort. I've read comments from stories that I've liked that have surprised me with a revelation I did not see coming. Then, I've read the comments and seen someone literally complaining about every single plot surprise not being 'warned' about - which would have basically laid out the entire story in advance to a potential reader and made it pointless to read it in the first place. And worse, the complainer's comment was posted with the 'voice' of someone who felt like the author had broken some solemn duty by not telling them beforehand what they were about to read.

In the spanderverse version of Buffy's fight with Glory, I warned that canon-death would apply because I had heard/read so many complaints in comments on other's stories, I felt pressured to make sure that everyone knew Buffy was going to die - even though it happened in the series, so there wasn't anything unusual in the plot's mechanics associated with her death. Now, I don't think I'd do that again... in fact, I know I wouldn't. Even if the death was non-canon. That is just the risk you're going to run if you start reading a work of fiction - characters may die. They may meet with gruesome ends. They may get sexually assaulted (though that one, I would probably warn for - just because I'd appreciate the warning myself, but not because I felt obligated to do so).

I'm even more dubious about labeling or 'warning against' pairings. Sometimes, an author may want everyone to know this will be heavily Spuffied, or Spandered, or Dawn/Giles-y in order to attract a readership who likes that pairing, but it isn't the author's job to make sure that no one who doesn't like the thought of Bangel will suffer the trauma of running into Buffy/Angel kissies. It also isn't someone else's job to protect me from reading things that I wish I could un-see - that is the risk I'm taking by clicking on a story and reading it, if I'm unfamiliar with the types of stories the author gravitates toward.

If the warnings are there - I thank you for the consideration - but no one should feel like there is a rule that must not be broken regarding them. This is especially true when it comes to plot twists - I actually read a warning that was stated thusly: 

Warning: Chapter [I think it was three - but whatever] includes surprising Dawn/Spike pairing.

Right. They actually warned about a not-a-surprise-now-that-you've-warned-about-it surprise.

It drives me crazy to see a loooong list of who is with whom - I'd rather find that all out in the course of reading the story, especially if one of the twists is the very fact that the pairing is occurring - what is the point of that? And, I loathe when I read an author being tore up one side and down the other for including a pairing that wasn't listed in their author's notes at the beginning. Ditto when there isn't a warning about a character death and the author has nasty-comments posted because they dared to write a death scene without everyone knowing it was coming before they even started reading. There is a supremely arrogant point of view in an audience who thinks that an author must take into account every detail that may bother somebody and warn against it. And, it seems to be a phenomena that only exists in fanfiction. You certainly didn't see a blurb at the beginning of ER warning that a canon character was about to die before Mark's or Lucy's deaths occurred. You don't see novel blurbs including intimate details about what is going to happen to the character, even when it's going to be disturbing... but when it comes to fanfiction there seems to be an expectation that no one will do anything that may be disturbing to a potential reader without telegraphing it well in advance. I find that attitude ridiculous.

(And, for the record, this has never happened to me personally, so I'm not just ranting against an irate comment about one of my stories or anything.)

Sorry if this is sounding a bit harsh in tone - but it really pisses me off when comments complaining about a story's content is given as if the commenter has any special right to tell an author about what they may or may not include in a story or as if they have a right not to be made uncomfortable or disturbed by a story they freely chose to start reading. It really isn't up to you and no author needs to answer to you - or anyone else - about what they choose to do within that story, even if they do something that I personally would have appreciated not reading.

Warnings are there at the author's discretion - not the reader's....
Tags: opinion
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