These issues in particular are: ratings, and warnings.
Firstly, let us deal with
It is important to correctly rate a fic because it lets your potential readers know what's in store for them, and allows them to decide whether your fic is to their reading tastes or not. It's the same reason that movies and games have ratings. Imagine, you come across a fic that sounds quite promising and you decide to read it, but as you read through it you find an almost obscene amount of swearing, or a graphic sex scene, jump out at you unexpectedly! How would you feel in that case, that you didn't know it was going to happen? A correct rating would have allowed you to know what was to be expected in the fic.
Not rating properly can anger people, or upset people, and this is how many readers might feel if they unexpectedly come across something that they'd rather not read. You might assume that everyone loves some smut as much as you do, but this isn't true! Many people choose not to read anything with intense sexual situations, no matter how OMGSMEXY!!!11 you think it might be. Opinions, and tastes, vary greatly, and this is why we rate.
So, now that we've covered why you must rate your fics, let us cover which ratings go with what themes. It's tricky sometimes to decide what rating a fic deserves, and it's made trickier still by all the different ratings that a person might come across in their browsing. Because of this, there are two systems, and two systems only that you should be following, and those would be either the official US film ratings, as they are the most common that you'll come across on the internet, or the Fiction Ratings equivalents to those.
(There are a couple exceptions we would allow, but I'll cover those after).
So, let me explain each rating, and what it means, and what should be in your fic to earn them.
G - This is the lowest rating, and it means 'general'. A story with this rating should be appropriate for a person of any age, and should contain no adult language, no sexual situations, no violence or frightening scenes, and no references to drugs or adult themes. Basically, the way to decide if something deserves a G rating or not is to just sit back and think: would you let a five year old read the story? If not, perhaps the fic needs the next rating up.
The Fiction Ratings equivalent of G is K, it means exactly the same thing, and you are free to use this system of rating if you choose.
PG - This is the next rating up, and it means 'parental guidance'. Which means it's still suitable for children, but they should be of an older age, and more mature. PG fics may contain very mild adult language, and even some mild violence (like an 'action' scene) as long as that violence does not end in serious injury. However, a PG should still contain no sexual or drug references, no substance abuse (drugs/alcohol etc) and no adult themes.
The Fiction Ratings equivalent of PG is K+.
PG-13 - As it suggests, this means the fic should be suitable to ages thirteen and older. PG-13 fics can include some adult language, some violence, and some adult themes. A fic with this rating may include brief mentions of violence, alcohol/drug abuse, sexual situations and adult themes, but none of this can be explicit. If you think your fic is suitable for, at the youngest, a person of thirteen years old to read, then this is your rating.
The Fiction Ratings equivalent of this is T.
R - This rating is for when fics begin to deal with more mature subjects. For movies, you must be at least seventeen years of age (I believe) to see something rated R, so keep that fact in mind when giving something this rating. In a fic with this rating, there may be more explicit adult language, sexual content, violence, and adult themes. Here, a fic can deal with subjects that may be more disturbing/offensive, such as rape, suicide, death, substance abuse, etc. Darker themes are allowed, and sexual situations may be more explicit, and violence can end in serious injury. But, for an R fic, none of these things may be graphic, which means detailed descriptions of these subjects, or extreme sex/violence/etc.
Use this rating only when you think something should be deemed an R, and not 'just for safety'. If your fic does not have more explicit language/sex/violence/adult themes, then your fic does not need to be rated R.
The Fiction Ratings equivalent of R is M, for mature. It's a good idea to remember this when rating, and decide whether your fic does infact deal with mature subjects, or not.
NC-17 - This is the last, and highest, rating. This means that a fic is suitable only for those older than seventeen years of age, which is something to bear in mind when rating your fic. Stories with this rating may contain graphic sex, violence, language, and adult themes. This means that, if there is sex in the fic, then it should be explicit in order to gain this rating. The violence can be serious and harmful, the language strong, and it can deal heavily, and graphically, in drug use/substance abuse, and adult themes. However, fics should only be given a rating of NC-17 if you truly think that no person under that age would be suitable to read your fic. If you think it would be disturbing/upsetting to a younger, less mature audience, then it should get this rating. But if the situations in the fic are not explicit, graphic and quite heavy, then it is not enough to warrant this rating, and is probably still an R fic.
The Fiction Ratings equivalent is MA, and the rating is pretty much interchangable with NC-17. You may use this rating instead, if you follow this system.
Now, the only exception you may find in these ratings is that of a 15. This is a UK film rating, and means only people of fifteen years and older are suited to read/see the content. In terms of fanfic, this means that a fic would be a little heavier than a PG-13, and contain a little more sex, or violence, or language, but not enough to warrant an R rating.
We will not stop people from using this particular rating if they choose, as it is quite obvious what it means.
However, bear in mind, that I am only familiar with the US film ratings, the Fiction Ratings, and the UK movie ratings, and know no other countries ratings system, and if I am not familiar with your rating, then the majority of members are probably unfamiliar with your rating, also. You should only be using the ratings I have listed in this post, as these are the most common, the most familiar, and the easiest to understand and to follow. Do not use your own countries rating system, if it is not listed here, and do not make up your own.
RATINGS THAT ARE NOT REAL
Here are some examples of ratings that are not real and should not be used:
PG-13+, PG-14/PG-14+, PG-15, PG-16, PG-17, R-18, R+, NC-13, NC-14, NC-15, NC-16
and anything else that isn't listed here. These are not ratings, so do not use them.
Beyond these, there are also the 'cutesy' type ratings that people sometimes make up, and however funny you might think the rating, it is also not real, and not allowed. Made up ratings can be anything, but a few examples might be:
C (for crack), PC (for pure crack), E (for everyone), H (for HOT!) TS (totally smexy!)
and anything in that particular joking style.
These give no real idea of what might feature in a fic, and are wrong, so anything like this should not be used.
It is in the community rules to rate, and if you have not done so properly a mod will warn you and ask you to fix it.
I'd like to note that almost all of these wrong examples I have actually seen used in fics on this community, which is why I have decided to make this post in the first place, so that those who are unsure of how to rate, or which system to follow, can be clearer.
It is admittedly sometimes a little more difficult to decide how to rate a story, compared to a movie, as with a fic, the scene is painted with words and not images. In this case it's a good idea to keep in mind the kind of language you are using, and the kind of words you choose to describe certain scenarios. Is your language harsh, heavy and explicit? Are there negative connotations or violent meanings to certain words? Or are they softer, lighter? Imagine the scene that your words are creating, and how it might look if it were a movie.
Words can be a powerful thing, so keep in mind how you use them, and how they might come across and sound to another person.
And now, onto the second issue that I've come across quite a lot recently at the community, and that is:
Generally the things you should be warning for are subjects that might be disturbing/upsetting/triggering/squicky to people. These are generally quite serious subjects, and the best way to think about it is: what would upset/anger you, if you came across it unexpectedly in a fanfic, and found it wasn't warned for?
ALWAYS WARN FOR
There are a few subjects that should always be warned for, no matter what, and these are:
- Rape (or non-con)
- Dub-con (which means dubious consent, when it's not clear whether a person has consented to sex or not)
- Character death/suicide
- Young characters engaging in sexual activities together (consent is different in all countries, and is as low as 14 years old in many places, or as high as 18/19 in others)
- Abuse (of any kind, for adults or children)
- Sexual kinks (of any kind, the tried and tested Your Kink Is Not My Kink is a good thing to keep in mind)
- Torture/extreme violence/gore
- Older characters (over the age of consent) engaging in sexual situations with younger characters (it's not paedophilia if the character is not pre-pubescent, but still an issue for some people if the character is young/below the age of consent)
Mostly, if you warn for any of these you should not upset anyone. But a few times now I have come across fanfics that contain incest, but as there were no warnings for this, I was both surprised, and squicked out, as I do not like incest, and will always choose not to read it. This is how others might feel, if they came across any of these subjects in a fic, and there were no prior warnings.
It does not matter if you want something to 'be a surprise' for the readers or not, if your 'surprise' is any of these, then you must warn for it, as for many people it is not a pleasant surprise if for example, Eeteuk and Kangin have been made brothers, and suddenly they are having quite explicit sex with each other. Likewise, it is not a pleasant surprise if Kyuhyun unexpectedly dies in a car accident, or if Eunhyuk suddenly comes down with a terminal illness. Or, another example, if Ryeowook is a wolf and Yehsung, a human, is having hard-core, penetrative sex with him.
Even if you personally do not mind some of these themes, many people do, and it is common courtesy to warn for such content. It is not OMGSMEXY to everyone, to read about Ryeowook/Yehsung wolf!pron, or Eeteuk/Kangin brother!pron.
If you come across something in a fic that should be warned for, but was not, please bring this issue up to one of us mods, and we will deal with it.
Additionally, if you are posting fics in other communities/fanfiction websites, you will generally have to warn, or at least mention, if the fic contains slash/femmeslash, or sometimes even het. It is not, however, necessary on miracle______ to warn for slash or het, as the pairing will give away if it is slash or otherwise, and the rating will give an idea how extreme, or non-existant, the sex might be. You should, however, mention if one of the members is suddenly turning into a girl.
I know that this was an extremely long post, but I really wanted to address these two particular issues in detail so as to clear up a few problems that I've seen occuring quite regularly lately. I hope that this post has helped for those who weren't sure about these, and if anyone has any questions, or would like further clarifications, or even thinks that there is something I ought to add to this, then please just leave a comment! I'm here to help and to ensure that all members here have as enjoyable a time reading as possible.
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