The Writeoff Association 926 members · 662 stories
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Fenton
Group Contributor
Fenton #1 · Dec 11th, 2017 · · 15 ·

Everyone who participated in the last Writeoff round is more or less aware of what happened. For the others, here is a quick summary: an author submitted an entry about Rainbow Dash trying to resist her paedophilic urges towards Scootaloo, and it started a shitstorm, because some folks think that those kinds of stories don’t belong to the Writeoff.

The shitstorm is now pretty much over, but I was surprised this morning to read a message from Roger on the meta chat of the Writeoff’s Discord channel:

Summary of #fic discussion: Concern raised regarding the recent fic featuring pedophilia suggests that changes regarding content level rules/enforcement should happen. Current working solution is to force trigger warnings for certain categories of content like rape, pedophilia, and suicide. An exhaustive list of categories that require triggers is still being discussed.

I understand the concern, but I couldn’t disagree more. I’ll try to explain why, but you’d better be warned (you see that I can be gentle sometimes), I may not sugarcoat everything.

Also, all I have to say doesn’t concern pornography, nor explicit gore or violence. We already have a rule for that, one that I find relevant:

This event's content level is T for Teen. This is loosely defined as material suitable for teenagers.

  • Submitted works may not contain—

    • depictions of sexual acts; or
    • grotesque content.

So first, I believe the main reason why someone would write about  sensible topics in a Writeoff round is to shock their readers, or at least to shake them a bit. The idea is to present another perspective on something people often assume to work or to be a certain way, to shift the point of view and bring new light.

The fact that the story succeeds in doing that or not is completely irrelevant, the intention is the key.

Adding trigger warnings or tags would lessen the shock impact. Think about it for a while: when you click on a story of your slate, you only have the title to guess what it is about. And that uncertainty is something we should absolutely maintain, because it makes you start the reading without any kind of ulterior motives, prejudices, or bias. The reading is the only thing that will confirm or contradict what you thought about the title.

Example: I really enjoy OctaScratch fics (with or without shipping) and I don’t like second person fics in general.
If a tag warns me about the fic’s contents, the OctaScratch’s author would need less efforts to “conquer” me, and the second-person-fic’s author would have to do a lot more to convince me his work isn’t garbage.

Secondly, the point of such trigger warnings sounds absurd to me. If the point is to protect a young audience, like on FimFic, let me tell you that you are wrong in every sense (you’re welcome to prove me that I am the one erring here). As far as I know, everyone in the Writeoff is an adult, some younger, some older, but I don’t think I’m far from the truth when I say that we all have seen or experienced our share of disturbing things, and that we all have enough perspective on life to not be triggered by trifles.

“But Fenton,” you could retort, “we don’t have any children among our audience for now, but it could change in the future.” And I’d say you’re right and you should shut up immediately.

Are you really believing that children are naive and innocent beings who never swear? Pornography has never been so easy to find. Violence is everywhere; it was already present in television news when I was a kid twenty years ago (damn I’m old), and now it has reached the Internet. I don’t think a child can spend one hour on the Internet without seeing anything he “shouldn’t see”. Moreover, a lot of kids plays to shock each other with questionable pictures or videos.

And lastly, I would like to talk a bit about life in general. How much do you want to shield yourself from anything that could hurt you in the slightest ? Do you really think that avoiding tough topics will help you grow and become a better person? Do you believe that more comfort is the ultimate answer to life and its problems?

If you’ve ever considered yes as a valid answer to any of these three questions, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re an insult to humanity. Great men didn’t try to avoid challenges, it was quite the contrary; they faced them head-on, since it’s almost always in adversity that you learn and discover new things about the world and yourself. Now, if you want to persist in your stable state, that’s fine, but I want to improve, I want to best the inadequate, incapable, and faillible being I am, I want to grow. And I believe, or at least hope, I’m not the only one in the Writeoff.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that you should stay quiet if you’ve been shocked by an entry. You should voice your anger, your frustration, or your disgust, but try to come up with arguments and example. Saying “This is shit !1!!!1!” has the same value to me than “This is genius 1!1!!!1!”, which approximate zilch. I’ve been in this situation a previous round, and I tried to voice my anger in clear and understandable arguments. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I tried.

Now if you have something to say, either to agree or not, you’re more than welcome. Or, you know, you could simply use these little green and red thumbs at the top of this message, and remain hidden.

Well said. There are many great stories out there that deal with sensitive topics; including a system that forces trigger warnings will turn some people off without giving the story a chance. A lot of stories that center around rape, murder, pedophilia, suicide, etc. tend to be... well, badly written, but there are a few jewels amongst the garbage that deal with the subject maturely and are very well-written. These stories may even help you view the subject from a different perspective, or even help educate readers about something they're unfamiliar with.

If you're truly against reading about such topics, or if it really makes you uncomfortable, then all you need to do is click out of the story.

After all, you wouldn't continue reading a story that starts with 'Twilit walked into her trehowse felling very horny and went up to her room and took out her dildo and pooshed it up her...' and continues with that style in an unironic manner - unless you're into bile fascination and that's cool if you are - until the end, would you?

RogerDodger
Group Admin

The intent is to allow people to write fics about sensitive material while also giving readers the ability to pre-opt-out of reading it. This change would also involve replacing the current E/T/M content levels with something more in line with the writeoff's goals (most likely just "no porn").

6239121
I mean, I would be pretty horrified if I accidentally read it (as I almost participated one or two years ago in the contest) but if it did have a warning on it, I can’t find too much fault...

Yeah but writers can put content warning and or warnings in the description...

you don't need a huge revamp of rules and etc.

Oroboro
Group Contributor
Oroboro #6 · Dec 11th, 2017 · · 5 ·

6239121
Translation:

I don't need trigger warnings because I'm a tough and manly GREAT MAN, therefore nobody else does and if they do they suck and are giant babies!

Novel-Idea
Group Contributor

6239121
As someone who has two children, I would be furious if someone put up a story like this and there were no warnings inside the story or at least somewhere so I would know what I’m getting into.

The blind nature of Writeoff bothers me a little. For example, I don’t like horror, due to the fact that horror tends to haunt me for years. It’s a psychological thing I have personally due to some stuff I’ve gone through. I hit a landmine with a Writeoff earlier this year that still has lasting emotional ramifications.

I’m not going to go around telling people they shouldn’t write horror, but I am going to avoid stories with that tag or that subject.

Dealing with children is another matter entirely. I personally believe such stories as the one you’ve described have no place in FimFic at all. They bother me on a very primal and private level. Even beginning to read a story like this would be profoundly disturbing to me. I suspect I’m not alone.

Suicide is another topic that people actively battle day in and day out. It’s something people struggle with and that should be respected. Especially if someone is dealing with this sort stuff and a very talented writer makes it almost seem appealing. That’s outright dangerous.

That being said, I’m not about to start a crusade to stop all authors who choose to write on these topics. My view on children changed radically when I had them. It won’t bother some people like it does me. Anything my kids experience on FimFic will go through me, as that’s just being a responsible parent. Just because I believe they shouldn't be here doesn’t mean I need to make that happen.

As such, stories involving sex and children, rape or other such things should have some type of warning present at the start or not be permitted. This way, people who are automatically going to hate those stories would know to steer clear of them and it not damage their voting (hopefully, as I realize people would still downvote them, anyway, but there’s only so much you can do). This is more about being respectful to people's personal lives than anything else.

People should have the right to know what they are getting into. The idea that the “shock value” being an important part of Writeoff seems really callous to me. We aren’t just unfeeling machines. We all have experiences, morals and beliefs that make us unique. As such, we have stuff we can’t handle, too. That should be respected. It’s not necessarily about maturity. It’s about us being individuals.

What we choose to expose ourselves to should be our choice. Because sadly, if we don’t have that ability, the only other solution is to not participate at all.

I’m wouldn’t be opposed to having a ban on these topics, but even I hesitate to actively encourage that. However, a warning system should be in place. Topics like the initial three you mentioned should have something.

My two cents on the matter.

TLDR: Everyone’s different, and those differences should be respected.

You have missed the point of trigger warnings entirely. The issue is not that young people need to be "protected", it's that certain heavy subject matters can induce traumatic flashbacks for those that have experienced those very matters. If you are so concerned with keeping shock value, why not just add the warnings in spoiler tags like many other authors do?

Just because a fic is mature does not mean that we automatically know what it *will* contain, just what it *could* contain. Plus from what I've seen in the writeoff competition, there are 0 age rating categories at all. And because it's all anonymous, people literally only have the title to go off of. There is no way to tell in advance what it's about to avoid it. Why have the abstain button in voting when these subject matters are going to be surprised on readers, whether they like it or not?

So, please tell me, how hard is it to do the following;

This story contains scenes of pedophilia, rape and graphic depictions of suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

Punbug
Group Contributor

There is absolutely a time and place for shock value, and that is in an educational environment. I remember an article that was going around last semester where some student's mom got her panties in a wad because Huck Finn dropped the n-word left and right. I remember my literature teacher making a point about it in class. What was supposed to be a one-off comment plunged the room into discussion for the rest of the hour.

But that was an educational environment. There are idealy four distinct phases in shocking material: Introduction, Shock, Discussion, and Closure. If you can prove that the Writeoff is an educational environment where all four stages are provided to any reader who reads half the story before smashing that "Abstain" button (or worse, throwing the story to the bottom of their slate), then you'll be able to present a more effective case.

Georg
Group Contributor

6239229 "What was supposed to be a one-off comment plunged the room into discussion for the rest of the hour."

This is a good thing. Far too many schools will hit some triggering phrase and go into St. Vitus Dance. It's like they're afraid the students might learn something.

Now, as for this Writeoff story... not so much.

Fenton
Group Contributor

6239126
While I agree with the possibility to stop your reading at the first signs of a disturbing topic, I think most people won't and will keep on reading. The reasons are multiple, and I can only guess some: they want to be sure, in a way, that this is about what they think it is before judging too quickly, they hope it becomes better in the end, they keep reading out of morbid curiosity... I can't really tell. It's something that needs to be ketp in mind. Determining how much it's the reader's fault or the author's fault is another problem.


6239144
I don't know you, but from what you said, I believe you are a young author (if not, I'm sorry and you can dismiss the rest of my point).
You may have find it disturbing, but the story is far from anything you could find on FimFic, either in the subject or the way it is presented.


6239183
Translation:
I may know how to write but it seems I don't know how to read.

Let me highlight it for you:

I want to improve, I want to best the inadequate, incapable, and faillible being I am, I want to grow.

There is a huge difference between having a role model and considering being one. I didn't pretend I was a great man, I said what I thought what made a great man. Now we can discuss the validity of one's role model, but don't make me say things I didn't say.


Anyway, it seems that my point didn't come accross, and that people focused on the provocation instead of my disagreement. And that is probably (certainly) my fault. I didn't have time to join the discussion on the Discord chat and thought that, by opening a new thread, it would be a chance to gather some opinions, as well as voicing them. The provocation was both to shake things up and to provoke some reaction aside from an expected consensus.
So let's hide behind the fact that English is not my native language, and that the result was way bigger than the provocation I wanted.

I also assumed a lot of things about people participating in the Writeoff, and I've been proven wrong. That happens. And since so many people seems to agree that the flag/tag system is a good thing, I guess I should stay quiet.

Instead of starting any comment war, let's leave things the way they are. In the meantime, take care of yourselves.

6239326
You’re right about me being young (15 tomorrow!)

But, since reading through the comments, I’ve realized there aren’t any appropriate warnings or labels for the story. I find that kind of alarming, but hey, what can you do? At least on fimfiction they have ratings and such to let people know what they’re getting into. Heaven knows what would happen if I actually read a MLP... um ‘adult’ fic.

Aragon
Group Contributor
Aragon #13 · Dec 11th, 2017 · · 9 ·

6239326

And lastly, I would like to talk a bit about life in general. How much do you want to shield yourself from anything that could hurt you in the slightest ? Do you really think that avoiding tough topics will help you grow and become a better person? Do you believe that more comfort is the ultimate answer to life and its problems?

If you’ve ever considered yes as a valid answer to any of these three questions, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re an insult to humanity. Great men didn’t try to avoid challenges, it was quite the contrary; they faced them head-on, since it’s almost always in adversity that you learn and discover new things about the world and yourself. Now, if you want to persist in your stable state, that’s fine, but I want to improve, I want to best the inadequate, incapable, and faillible being I am, I want to grow. 

To Oroboro
Translation:
I may know how to write but it seems I don't know how to read.

Anyway, it seems that my point didn't come accross, and that people focused on the provocation instead of my disagreement.

Instead of starting any comment war, let's leave things the way they are. In the meantime, take care of yourselves.

Fenton, you massive fucking cock. When this thread was brought up in the writeoff Discord, and I made a few comments, some people defended you by saying that you had probably misunderstood the reason for the tags -- and I got hopeful, thinking that maybe you were just a harmless idiot, not a malicious one.

But no, you outright admitted here that you were a troll. You just up and said it. You're not just a fucking idiot, you're also an asshole.

The provocation was both to shake things up and to provoke some reaction aside from an expected consensus.

So. Congratulations on that. I suppose. I like how you not only admitted you're a troll, you also admitted you're a really shitty troll.

Also, jesus fuck. You replied to people in a snobbish way, doubling down on the asshole, and then you legit fucking played the victim and the "ooh poor widdle me is not a native speaker sowwy" cards, and you did all of this in one single comment. I've no idea how you managed to write this down without getting enough whiplash to break your spine.

Look -- you can disagree with the addition of TWs. You absolutely can! Just simply say 'I don't think this is a good idea because of [X]', like some other users have said, and then you'll open up a dialogue. Some people dislike trigger warnings because they think they censor art, or stuff like that. Any well-thought argument is an argument to listen to, and then we reach an agreement. This is what happened in the discord chat, and for a while we've been arguing about it.

You don't have to stay quiet about it. You can simply voice your concerns, and listen when others voice others. That's how talking works. You don't open up with an inflamatory statement, because then -- surprise! -- you get bloody nowhere.

Nobody insulted anybody till you came here, guns a-blazing, making sure that everybody knows you're a Great Man, because you Face your Demons, or some shit. You'll notice I'm insulting you freely, here. You'll notice I'm also not arguing anything; the issue is apparently settled, from what I've seen in Discord. This is just me calling you out because nobody else is doing it.

So, to recap: what you did here is to be a total fucking asshole, and then admit that it was on purpose, and then you did whatever the fuck you tried to accomplish with that reply. Make sure we all know you're both malicious and someone with putty instead of brain, I suppose.

Just -- shut the fuck up, man. If this is honestly how you think arguments work, and if this is honestly how you think you can end them while keeping the last word, shut the fuck up.

RogerDodger
Group Admin

All right I'm gonna lock this thread before this gets outta hand.

I'll post a new thread soon(ish) with a summary of the discussion that's taken place and the current working solution. I'd rather start this off with everyone having a clearer idea of what the issue is and what's being proposed.

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