37 Ways To Write About Anger


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:
  1. confused
  2. frustrated
  3. hurt
  4. jealous
  5. embarrassed
  6. powerless
  7. rejected
  8. worried
When our characters are feeling this way, we should incorporate it into our story.

B)  Body Language

Physical signs of anger include:
  1. an increased heart rate
  2. feeling hot or flushed
  3. shaking
  4. a clenched jaw
  5. a dry mouth
  6. shouting, ranting, making loud noises
  7. staring
  8. baring teeth
  9. finding it difficult to hear
  10. tense muscles

C)  Passive or Aggressive – How angry is your character?

We generally express anger in two ways.
  1. We withdraw – passive behaviour
  2. 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:  
  1. Being defeatist. Examples: underachieving, choosing to repeat a proven failed behaviour pattern, being accident-prone.
  2. Being secretive. Examples: anonymous complaints, gossiping, conning.
  3. 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.
  4. Evasion. Examples: avoiding conflict, becoming phobic.
  5. Exhibiting obsessive behaviour. Examples: overeating or dieting too much, obsessively tidying up.
  6. Manipulation. Examples: provoking bad behaviour in others, playing the victim, emotional blackmail, feigning illness, using other people to deliver negative messages.
  7. Self-Blame. Examples: apologising for everything, criticising their own behaviour, inviting criticism.

Source: SavageChickens

Seven ways a character can show aggressive anger  
  1. Behaving manically. Examples: speaking, moving, and driving too quickly; overworking; spending too much money.
  2. Being physically destructive. Examples: vandalism, reckless driving, substance abuse, harming animals.
  3. Being selfish. Examples: being unpredictable, ignoring other people’s feelings and needs, ignoring requests for help.
  4. Being vengeful. Examples: holding a grudge, planning to hurt someone.
  5. Bullying. Examples: making threats, persecuting, misusing power, shouting, explosive rages over small problems, illogical arguments.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Source for examples of passive and aggressive anger

© Amanda Patterson

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This article has 11 comments

  1. Kim Ballantine

    This was very helpful. Thanks Amanda and your team for the great work you do.

  2. Amanda Patterson

    Thank you, Kim. I’m glad it helped.

  3. Pisican

    Nice looking webpage. My eyes thank you.

  4. Michelle Wallace

    Some great tips. Thanks.

  5. Writers Write

    Thank you for the feedback.

  6. a

    i am very disappoinement

  7. J.S.

    How to show frustration when the character can’t talk?

  8. favour

    was helpful

  9. Writers Write

    J.S. you could use these Cheat Sheets For Writing Body Language
    https://writerswrite.co.za//cheat-sheets-translate-emotions-into-written-body-language

  10. Cheryl Sterling

    Thanks for this list. I’ve pinned it, tweeted it, facebook posted it and liked it on stumble upon. This is invaluable.

  11. Writers Write

    Thank you for the feedback, Cheryl. We’re glad it helped.

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