We all get angry. It is natural and it can be a good thing. When it is uncontrolled or unnecessary, anger will not do us any favours on either a personal or a social level.
The same is true for the characters we create. When we write about angry characters, we should remember that there is always something behind this emotion. Anger is usually a surface emotion. It is a reaction to an underlying problem. A) Motivation
We usually become angry when we feel:
When our characters are feeling this way, we should incorporate it into our story.
B) Body Language
an increased heart rate
feeling hot or flushed
a clenched jaw
a dry mouth
shouting, ranting, making loud noises
finding it difficult to hear
C) Passive or Aggressive - How angry is your character?
We generally express anger in two ways.
We withdraw – passive behaviour
We lash out – aggressive behaviour
Being passively angry can be as destructive as being aggressively angry.
D) Ways to create conflict
Seven ways a character can show passive anger:
Being defeatist. Examples: underachieving, choosing to repeat a proven failed behaviour pattern, being accident-prone.
Being secretive. Examples: anonymous complaints, gossiping, conning.
With dispassion. Examples: giving the cold shoulder, the silent treatment, substance abuse, talking about emotions without showing any, oversleeping, playing with electronic equipment or machines.
Evasion. Examples: avoiding conflict, becoming phobic.
Exhibiting obsessive behaviour. Examples: overeating or dieting too much, obsessively tidying up.
Manipulation. Examples: provoking bad behaviour in others, playing the victim, emotional blackmail, feigning illness, using other people to deliver negative messages.
Self-Blame. Examples: apologising for everything, criticizing their own behaviour, inviting criticism.
Seven ways a character can show aggressive anger
Behaving manically. Examples: speaking, moving, and driving too quickly; overworking; spending too much money.
Being physically destructive. Examples: vandalism, reckless driving, substance abuse, harming animals.
Being selfish. Examples: being unpredictable, ignoring other people’s feelings and needs, ignoring requests for help.
Being vengeful. Examples: holding a grudge, planning to hurt someone.
Bullying. Examples: making threats, persecuting, misusing power, shouting, explosive rages over small problems, illogical arguments.
Physically or psychologically hurting people. Examples: sexual abuse, verbal abuse, ignoring people’s feelings, punishing people, making inappropriate jokes, being vulgar, blaming people for something they did not do.
Showing off. Examples: talking over other people, throwing money around, acting as if you are better than someone else is, lying about achievements.
E) The Importance of Anger in Plotting
As a writer, you can use anger in many ways:
- You can force a confrontation that moves the plot forward. A character may use it as a catalyst that allows an escape from an unhealthy relationship.
- You can reveal another side to a character that nobody dreamt existed. The mild-mannered man who nobody suspects of domestic violence could be revealed with an angry outburst.
- You can also use it as a transformative experience. A character who has reacted angrily to an event could regret it and choose to change his or her behaviour.
How do your important characters deal with anger?
for examples of passive and aggressive anger
© Amanda Patterson
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