All the content advisories for my book!

I finally figured out the content advisories for my book and it turns out there are a lot. But what did you expect? It’s high fantasy.

beware written in spray paint, pointing to a hole in the floor

Recently I learned some literary agents want trigger warnings (content warnings, content advisories, whatever your favourite term is) in the query letters they receive. This was a new idea to me, but I want to do what I can to make agents happy.

So what are the trigger warnings for the manuscript I’m querying?

More fundamentally, what kinds of things do people want to be warned about. Did you know there are lists of possible trigger warnings?

This was starting to get fun. I skimmed the list given in the link, which looked pretty comprehensive, and realised I was about to learn some new words.

What is ‘amisia’? Not even my dictionary knows.

I thought Google would come to my rescue, but Google only wanted to tell me about amnesia. Oh, and Amisia may be Latin for the river Ems. (I swear that’s a real river. Probably.) Amisia is can also be a human name, meaning a mature, insightful, and loyal friend.

This is really not helping, so I’m going to take a leap and say my book doesn’t contain amisia.

What else?

The possible content advisories are helpfully categorised by type, so I’ll go through each category one at a time.

Hate, discrimination, and oppression

This list ranges from ableism to workplace harassment. The range of other -misia’s makes me think amisia might be something like prejudice against ace people. My manuscript still doesn’t have it. Phew!

Racism – I do have racism. The main character and her trusty ally flee to a foreign kingdom where they’re outsiders, and a few of the locals express negative views about people from their homeland. You know, the usual sorts of things, like that they’re all pirates and drug addicts. (To be fair, historically they were pirates, but that was a long time ago.)

Sexism and misogyny – And I have sexism. The world is fundamentally patriarchal (sorry, but I love writing about underdogs), and an antagonist tells the female main character he doesn’t think she can do [magic thing censored because spoilers] because she’s a woman. He later is proved wrong and apologises, because of course woman can do that.

Slavery and indentured servitude – The main character and her ally are, technically, slaves–slaves who fight in a vaguely gladiatorial arena. Until things happen and they run away on a quest.

Sex and sexual violence

The next category is sex and sexual violence. I didn’t think I had any of this, but then I remembered an antagonist says some very sexually inappropriate things to a minor character offscreen. Then a major character (also a woman) comes to the rescue! So, yes to sexual harassment.

Abuse and relationships

The terms given here are modern so don’t fit very well in my world, but I’ll do my best.

Fence signs that read: Danger, Gators Bite, Keep Out
Beware. Gators are not your puppy.

Abandonment, adoption, and foster care – In their backstory, the main character and her ally were both sold by their parents to rich patrons so they could join a training school for arena fighters. I don’t know what you call that, but it was kind of unfriendly.

Arranged, forced, and coerced marriages – Arranged. Not forced or coerced. Because that’s the world they live in.

Cheating/infidelity – Someone cheats, I’m not telling who. And everyone knows about it but no one does anything.

Child abuse – Yep, I can’t get around this one. The training school for arena fighters is pretty brutal.

Mental health and suicide

Phobias – The main character has some pretty inconvenient phobias–arachnophobia and fear of heights, to name a few.

Stroke – I mean, it’s kind of a magical stroke, but it happens onscreen so I think it still counts.

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol consumption and abuse – People drink alcohol. It’s probably safer than the water.

Pregnancy and childbirth

I don’t have any of these!

Blood, injury, and medical

I’m thinking I might have quite a few of these. Let’s take a look.

Blood and gore description – yes

Dead bodies and body parts – yes

Decapitation – yes, but non-human

Emesis (vomiting) – There are body parts and some characters aren’t used to seeing that. Don’t judge.

Hospitalisation – My world doesn’t have hospitals as such, but sick and injured people are cared for in places specifically built for it.

Medical treatment and procedures – yes, mostly magical

Physical injuries – yes, quite a lot

Physical illness – yes, and it’s not a cold

Scars – yes, but no one runs around twitching about how ugly they are

Starvation and dehydration – Only a bit. They were never really going to die.

I was right, I did have quite a few. Most of them are pretty mild, but I’m trying to be generous here.

Take it all the way to brown alert.

Death and loss

Death from exposure and from falling are both listed as categories here, but it never asks about the biggest problem in my world, death by dragon.

Death of a child – Um, yes. Sorry. It’s a dangerous world for minor characters (and I don’t mean ‘minor’ in an age sense).

Death of a parent or guardian – yes

Death of a sibling – in the backstory, yes

Death of an uncle or aunt – yes

Violence and crime

My prediction is I’ll have quite a few of these too.

Building collapse – kind of, but I’m pretty sure no one was in it

Captivity and confinement – yes

Hanging and lynching – yes, but offscreen and it was entirely legal

Imprisonment and incarceration – yes

Knife, sword, and axe violence – definitely

Murder and attempted murder – just a few

Physical assault – yes, and I’ll say it again: yes

Torture – yes, but with the best of intentions

Whipping – yes, but only in backstory

War and genocide

Military service and deployment – yes

War themes and military violence – yes

Natural disasters

I was going to say no, then I remembered the flood.

Animal death and cruelty

Animal cruelty and abuse – yes, but only once and the person who did it really regretted it

Animal death – yes, but not pet death. I would never do that.

And there you have my content advisories! Reading all these, it sounds like my book is pretty horrible. I promise it’s not. The world is brutal, but the people are good. (Mostly.) They don’t even swear.

The real question is, am I too mean to my characters?

Too much? Does knowing this make you more or less likely to pick up my book?

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

10 thoughts on “All the content advisories for my book!”

  1. I am forever amazed, and not in a good way, that people who have chosen a career in publishing have such delicate sensibilities that they must be warned ahead of time about anything potentially upsetting. From whence should story conflict come? Mismatched socks?

    1. Oh the horror of the mismatched socks! You may have guessed I decided not to include this full list of warnings in my query letter. To be fair, the site I pulled these from is intended for readers, so is probably more comprehensive than any agents would be concerned with.

  2. I think Amisia is like homophobia but against those who are asexual? The site lists The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats & Piracy as containing that trigger, and it features an Ace main character so that would make sense! I’m glad you don’t kill any pets. That, and main character deaths, aren’t triggers as such for me, but reasons I’ll avoid a book. In my opinion you can never be too mean to your characters though. In fact I prefer them to suffer massively so the eventual happy ending feels earned πŸ˜€

    1. Yes, that’s the impression I was getting. It’s weird, I’m quite happily horrible to my characters, but it seems so much more wrong to kill a pet in a book. My characters definitely deserve their happy endings (and they deserve to have their beloved pets still at their sides).

    1. Oh, and… what I usually send is:

      Content warnings: Pet death, partner death, child death, reference to torture, prejudice (antisemitism and homophobia), childbirth, violence.

      A beloved elderly cat dies of old age. I’m a heartless SOB (DOB?).

        1. Thank you! and yeah, if they say on their MSWL “do not send me anything where a pet or companion animal dies” I mark them off my list.

          (I’ve cut almost all of the pet medical horrors, but Victoria still dies :cry:.)

  3. I write books for adults to read … with adult stuff in them … and I have this silly expectation that the adults who read my books will be fine with the adulting I expect them to do. … love the ‘drama of the mismatched socks’ comment, πŸ˜€ …that really sums up the whole ‘content warning’ mess.

    1. I struggle with the content warning thing too. How far do you really need to go? Still, agents are hard enough to get that I don’t want to upset them by not doing this if they want it.

      “Warning: This is fantasy book. People chop up, torture, and kill each other. And some of these people are children.” I think that covers it. πŸ˜‰

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