Warning: Contains Kink, Violence, and Bacon
A few years back there was a bit of a kerfuffle online over if books should have content warnings. The actual reasonable debate lasted about 30 seconds before it devolved into screams of Snowflakes, SJW oppression, and ‘but if people know what kind of crap is in my books they might not buy them’. I kept out of it and within a couple of days people had something new to get worked up over.
One of the reasons I kept out of it was because I found the idea that people were so upset about kinda weird. The first million (not exaggerating) words I wrote from public consumption were fan fiction, and in fan fiction you put a header on each story, and in that header are warnings. Standard headers look like this.
And you use them, religiously. When most fanfic was still posted on LiveJournal it was standard for communities to require headers. It made it easy to find and sort stories. And the Warning part was taken seriously. Writers who didn’t got an ear/inbox full. Even now on Archive of Our Own with its drop down menus and tick boxes, the second thing you fill out is the primary warning section. Not using the warnings is one of the few things that can get you bumped off the archive. If you write fan fiction filling out the warnings is just something you do. It’s respectful to your readers.
Getting detailed in your warnings when you’re writing kink is as much sales pitch as giving people a heads up. When you put up that NCIS fic that involves corsets, figging, and jelly donuts you say that’s what is contained. It lets someone who is really into corsets and figging discover you as a new author. It’s also respectful to your pre-existing fans who might consider jelly donuts a big turn off. From there they can decide to wait for your next story or, forewarned, give the story a try trusting you to maybe make jelly donuts non-yucky. It really is standard practice.
Now, everything in the above header you find in a novel, except for the Warnings/Spoilers section.
In less than twelve hours now I have my first original kink book coming out. Hopefully first in a series. I’m self-publishing and that let me do something that I’m not sure a publisher would allow. The very first line of chapter one is a note telling people to go back and read the author notes, because I used the author notes as a warning section. I listed the general kinks, because how could I not? For some riding crops, forced orgasms, and mild CBT are hard turnoffs. For others they’re the perfect Saturday night. I don’t want people spending their hard-earned money on my book only to find the one sex act that’ll give them nightmares. It just seems rude. And a good way to lose future sales.
But the sex isn’t the big thing I warned for. My MC is a SWAT commander. His job, and how he does it, and what it does to him, is a large part of his character. There is a sequence where domestic terrorists try to take over a government building. For the first year of writing the book the scene was pulled out, rewritten, then put back in over and over. We’re in a world where a mass shooting stays in the news cycle for less than a week. Does that really need to be in Happy Ever After romances?
In the end the sequence stayed in the book because I think it makes the ending work better. It’s in chapter 30. It is chapter 30. My author notes state very clearly that it’s okay to skip chapter 30 if you can’t handle it. I’m not sure, if as a professional author that’s a weird thing to do but it’s too late now. When I was writing fanfic and posting a chapter at a time I would write things like ‘this chapter contains a suicide attempt’ or ‘the next two chapters deal with the after effects of a hate crime’ and in all my years writing fanfic, starting in the 90’s, I never once had someone tell me a warning ruined a story for them.
But as I’ve been told the safe(ish) world of fanfic is a bit different from the cold realities of the professional writing world. Still, be warned, Tactical Submission contains kink, violence, and bacon.
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