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.
- an increased heart rate
- feeling hot or flushed
- a clenched jaw
- a dry mouth
- shouting, ranting, making loud noises
- baring teeth
- finding it difficult to hear
- tense muscles
- We withdraw – passive behaviour
- We lash out – aggressive behaviour
- 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, criticising their own behaviour, inviting criticism.
- 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.
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.
Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language
10 Ways to Introduce Conflict in Dialogue
- Writing Tip: Why you need a villain in your story
- Universal Needs - Creating Characters
- When crazy is good - Nine good reasons for your character's anger
- Eight Personality Disorders - Does your character have one of these?