Emotional Wound Entry: Growing Up In Foster Care

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

homelessCharacters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

GROWING UP IN FOSTER CARE

Examples:

  • Parents who passed away (and having no relatives in the picture)
  • Parents who were incapable of care because they were drug addicts
  • Parents who were incarcerated for a crime and their child became a ward of the state
  • Being surrendered to the state by one’s parents because they wanted their freedom
  • Parents who left the character at a young age and never returned
  • Losing one’s parents and having relatives but them being unwilling to take one in
  • Being found abandoned at a young age with no ID
  • Being taken away from one’s parents because of abuse or neglect
  • Being given up for adoption but never being adopted
  • Parents who give up their rights because their child is difficult or requires round-the-clock care

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I am defective
  • People are inherently cruel
  • I am unworthy of love
  • This world only cares about people who are whole (if one has a disability, condition, or physical defect/challenge)
  • Blood is always thicker than water
  • I don’t know who I am
  • I don’t belong anywhere in this world
  • I will never have a family or home

Positive Attributes That May Result: adaptable, alert, analytical, cautious, courageous, disciplined, idealistic, imaginative, independent, introverted, just, loyal, mature, nurturing, observant, perceptive, persuasive, private, proactive, protective, resourceful, sentimental, thrifty, wise

Negative Traits That May Result: abrasive, addictive, antisocial, apathetic, confrontational, cruel, cynical, devious, dishonest, evasive, hostile, inhibited, insecure, jealous, judgemental, manipulative, needy, paranoid, pessimistic, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, stubborn, temperamental, uncommunicative, violent, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of loving and losing
  • fear of rejection
  • fear of poverty
  • fear of pain
  • fear of the dark or enclosed spaces
  • fear of a specific trigger (if abused, tortured, punished, etc.)
  • fear of trusting and being betrayed
  • fear of hope
  • fear of getting attached to a person or place

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • keeping secrets
  • lying or making up untruths even when it isn’t important
  • telling people what they want to hear
  • being highly private
  • being highly protective of one’s possessions or close relationships
  • avoiding locations, activities and groups that have a strong family-focus
  • keeping a bug-out bag or secret stash of items in case one has to pick up and leave
  • steering conversations so they never get too personal
  • pushing people away as a defense mechanism
  • difficulty sharing certain things (which may act as triggers)
  • becoming fiercely loyal to the few one allows to get close
  • strong empathy; wanting to save others who are at risk (people or animals) and going to great lengths to do so
  • craving routine yet being unable to adapt to it easily
  • looking for exits, being watchful for danger or threats in a way others aren’t
  • a tendency to hoard certain things (money, food or items that act as symbols for what one was denied growing up, etc.)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: TaniaVbD @ Pixabay

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How To Share Your Protagonist’s Deepest Feelings With Readers

As writers know, the goal of any book is to make the reader FEEL. We want them to empathize with our characters, feel pulled in by the events and become immersed in the story. When a reader’s experience is emotional, it becomes meaningful, transcending mere entertainment.

Characters are the emotional heart of a story. Why? Because through them, writers can remind readers of their own emotional past.  It becomes an intimate, shared experience that bonds them together.

violenceSure, readers have probably never been terrorized by a serial killer, vampire or demon in their own lives, but they know what it is to feel terror. Likewise, a roguish yet handsome highwayman has likely not pursued them in a roar of love and lust, yet they know what love and lust feel like.

As people, we have an unending spectrum of emotional experiences. We know sorrow and confusion, humiliation, fear and pride. We have experienced satisfaction, confidence, worry and dread. As writers, it is up to us to convey these feelings through our characters so that our description awakens deep and meaningful memories within readers.

Showing what a character is feeling can be difficult for writers. Here are 3 tips to help ensure readers share the character’s emotional ride:

1) Prime your readers

depression1Spend a bit of time early on showing what has led to your character’s emotional sensitivity. Let’s say themes of betrayal are key to your book & the character’s ‘dark moment.’ If you alluded to a past betrayal by the main character’s mother in a scene before this point, then your heroine seeing an old toy from her childhood will become an instant trigger for those past feelings.

2) Focus on what causes the emotional reaction

Sometimes the best way to bring about an emotional moment is to describe what is causing the feeling. For example, let’s say Alexa likes Ethan, the boy next door. She is trying to work up the courage to show him she wants to be more than friends when she spots her rival Jessica at his locker. If you describe how Jessica touches his arm when she laughs, steps closer as he speaks, fiddles with her low necklace to draw his attention to her cleavage, etc. then your reader will feel that jealousy build even without showing Alexa’s thoughts or physical cues.

3) Think about how you might feel

If you are drawing a blank on how to show what your character is feeling, think about how the emotion you’re trying to describe makes you feel. Dig into your past to a time you felt embarrassed, or angry, frustrated, excited…whichever emotion is the one your character is currently facing. What sort of thoughts went through your head? What did your body do? Did you openly show how you felt through gestures and body language, or did you try to hide it?  Then, decide if some of your experience can be adapted to your character. Emotion is strongest when it comes from a place of truth.

For more tips on emotional showing, have a peek through your Emotion Thesaurus, or browse the tutorials and expanded Emotion Thesaurus (15 new entries) at One Stop for Writers.

 

Image 1: Republica @ Pixabay
Image 2: PDPpics @ Pixabay

Posted in Characters, Description, Emotion, Emotion Thesaurus Guide, Empathy, Experiments, One Stop For Writers, Show Don't Tell, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 8 Comments

Emotional Wounds Entry: the Death of a Child on One’s Watch

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

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Courtesy: Alan Levine @ CreativeCommons

Examples: Being in charge of one’s child when he/she dies due to 

  • drowning
  • choking on food
  • a food allergy
  • ingesting poison or pills
  • being strangled by a cord or paper bag
  • falling from a height (down a flight of stairs, out a window, from a jungle gym or tree)
  • shooting himself with a parent’s gun
  • being backed over with a car
  • being left in a hot car
  • being killed in a fire due to playing with matches
  • running into traffic and being hit by a car

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I can’t be responsible for the life of another.
  • I’m untrustworthy/irresponsible.
  • I’m a terrible parent.
  • This wouldn’t have happened on someone else’s watch.
  • I don’t deserve forgiveness.
  • Loving another only leads to heartache.

Positive Attributes That May Result: alert, cautious, meticulous, observant, private, proactive, protective, responsible

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, callous, cynical, evasive, fussy, humorless, inhibited, insecure, irrational, irresponsible, morbid, needy, nervous, obsessive, possessive, resentful, self-destructive, temperamental, uncommunicative, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • If I’m left in charge of a child again, the same thing will happen.
  • I can’t be responsible for anyone.
  • My spouse will never forgive me.
  • I will never recover from this.
  • I’ll always be known as the parent who let their child die.
  • If I love another child, he/she will be taken from me.

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Withdrawing one’s love from other children
  • Withdrawing from one’s spouse
  • Avoiding being left in charge of one’s other children
  • Avoiding children and places where children gather
  • Becoming obsessive or compulsive in an effort to not miss anything again
  • Being overprotective and overly strict with one’s remaining children
  • Withdrawing from others out of shame
  • Not opening up to others
  • Becoming a hermit
  • Being reluctant to make new friends
  • Becoming depressed
  • Self-medicating
  • Becoming obsessed with the deceased child; being unable to let go
  • Self-loathing; engaging in self-destructive behaviors
  • Becoming defensive; blaming others out of a need to prove one isn’t to blame
  • Moving to a new house, city, or state in an effort to distance oneself from what happened

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Friends as Enemies

As many of you know, Angela and I have been whipping The Setting Thesaurus manuscripts into shape so they can be released into the world in just a few months. (*squeal*) Each entry has a lot of good information, but one of the fields kept drawing my attention:

Screen Shot

(PSSST! The books aren’t out yet, but I pulled this tidbit from One Stop For Writers, where all the settings can currently be found. Subscribers can access the entries in their entirety while registered users can see a sampling.)

As a writer, I’m constantly looking for sources of conflict for my stories. This is one of the reasons we included this field, because people are our greatest resource when it comes to conflict. So looking at the kinds of people typically found in a given setting can give you an idea for who might cause trouble for your hero.

But as I was brainstorming for this field, one thought kept coming back to me: But what about the friends?

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Courtesy: Antoine K @ CreativeCommons

I’m not talking about the friends that your character thinks are friends but end up stabbing her in the back. I’m talking about real friends who cause real trouble, often unintentionally.

As we know, friends, family, and allies can cause conflict, too. And because of their close connection with the main character, trouble from a friend inherently equates to elevated emotions for the hero. Plus, friends are so accessible; you won’t typically have to orchestrate a meeting in order to make the sparks fly because the friends are already there.

So it makes sense to use those closest to the hero to add conflict. But what kind of trouble can a true friend cause? Here are a few possibilities:

Opposing Goals: Throughout your story, your hero should have something he’s trying to achieve. But at the scene level, he should also have goals—smaller micro-goals that move him toward getting what he wants overall. Conflict comes in the form of people, forces, things, etc. that block the character from getting what he wants. Oftentimes this comes in the form of the antagonist, who is actively working against the character. But what if the character with the opposing goal is his friend? Fireworks, that’s what happens, between the hero and the person he thought was on his side.

Shared Goals: Another form of conflict comes when two characters want the same thing. Again, the typical scenario is the character and the antagonist or a rival going after the same objective—getting the boy/girl, winning the game/court case/contest, getting a spot on the team, etc. But it gets a lot more complicated when the person competing with the character is a trusted ally.

Clashing Traits: Every person is different, and though our friends are often somewhat similar to us, they’re not carbon copies. The same is true with characters and their cronies. Each member of the cast has traits, both positive and negative, that don’t go well together. Imagine a responsible and rule-following hero combined with a reckless friend. A controlling hero and a rebellious friend. Hard-working vs. lazy. Sensitive vs. tactless. Friends with opposing traits are going to get on each others nerves. Remember this in the planning stages of your story and you’ll end up with built-in conflict that’s easy to access.

Moral Arguments: Though friends aren’t going to agree on everything, every person has certain moral lines they’re not willing to cross. And though they know that other people don’t necessarily share their values, they don’t like them to cross those lines, either. While friends are willing to compromise on certain things, it’s much harder for them to give ground when it comes to questions of right and wrong. Knowing what values your character holds dear can help you use those values against him when conflict is necessary.

Envy: No matter how gifted, successful, good-looking, or popular a person is, there’s always someone who’s MORE gifted, BETTER looking, etc. Envy is an ugly emotion, beginning with negative thoughts that often turn to negative behaviors. When envy manifests between friends, it becomes much more complex, with higher stakes.

Insecurities: Every character has insecurities that make them doubt themselves and skew their view of the world and others. These insecurities can lead to poor decisions that impact the people around them. For instance, someone who’s insecure about his popularity may crack jokes at a friend’s expense if it will get him a few laughs. A girl who is insecure about her looks might latch on to anyone who pays her attention—even if that person is her best friend’s ex. If you’re looking for conflict between friends, figure out what insecurities exist and see what you can do to manipulate them.

Weak Moments: Let’s face it: no one is perfect. No matter how strong a friendship is, every person has selfish moments where they just want to do what they want to do no matter how it might affect others. What might that look like? Canceling plans with a friend when a better opportunity comes along. Not standing up for someone. Kissing a friend’s sister. Poor decisions are easy to justify, and our characters might convince themselves that these choices are no big deal. But weak moments often lead to huge fallout, making for great conflict.

Growing apart: It’s an unfortunate truth of friendship, but sometimes people just grow apart. Interests change, new groups are joined, people move on from a relationship that is holding them back in other areas or is unhealthy in some way.  This is natural, but it doesn’t happen all at once. Before people have fully moved on, there’s often a long process full of awkward moments and uncomfortable emotions like confusion, self-doubt, anger, hurt, and bitterness. This leads to lots of potential conflict as friends try to figure out what’s happening and come to grips with the new dynamic.

The list of conflict between friends could probably go on and on, but these are a few of the ways that true friends can cause problems for your main character. Do you have any to add? Please share them in the comments!

Posted in Characters, Conflict, Emotion, One Stop For Writers, Setting Thesaurus, Subtext, Tension, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 9 Comments

The Emotion Roller Coaster: Why Characters Resist Change

I’m reading this fascinating book right now about the human brain (yes, really!) that details how our gray matter works, and how we can evolve ourselves through concentrated intention and awareness. One of the terrific nuggets is the belief that every emotion, good or bad, sends a flood of chemicals through the body, and that repeated “doses” of this cocktail turns our brain into a bit of an addict, making it hard to break an emotional habit should we wish to.

brainWhat does this mean? Well, if you are trying to claw past feelings of low self-worth brought on by past trauma, or you’re determined to think positively and fight the cloud of pessimism that always seems to envelope you, your brain may actually work against you. Why? Because you’re denying it the rush of chemicals it’s gotten used to. So, craving a hit, it hammers your mind with defeatist thoughts (you’ll never be good enough, so why try? or, someone else would have handled that better) which encourage you to “give in,” and feel the very thing (emotion/chemical mix) you’re trying to avoid.

dead flowerAnyway, this is an oversimplification so I recommend reading the book, but it got me thinking about WHY change is so hard for us, and therefore our characters as well.

First off, change is HUGE.

It triggers an emotional response because we need time to process it. In essence, we’re giving up one idea for something else. It’s the death of one thing, and the birth of another.

Because of this, characters facing change may experience the 5 Stages of Grief:

SHOCK & DENIAL:

What? I don’t need to change! Everything’s fine, F-I-N-E.

ANGER: 

How dare you tell me I must change! I’ll cut you, I swear.

DEPRESSION: 

My life is over–nothing will ever be the same. I am losing who I am. #cuewallowing

BARGAINING: 

But…what if I just do X? That’s good enough, right? Come on, help a bro out. 

ACCEPTANCE: 

Well, this is the new normal I guess. Better get on with it.

And, in some circumstances, characters will skip the queue and go right to Acceptance, because the change represents something they have longed for or really need. They may feel RELIEF, GRATITUDE or even EXCITEMENT.

 

But much more often, characters resist, creating a beautiful tug-of-war between Inner Motivation and Inner Conflict, which adds story tension.

Here are some of the common reasons people (and therefore characters) fight change:

Comfort Zone Issues (FEAR)

One of the biggest reasons to resist is our need to maintain the status quo. The comfort zone is known and safe. We like it here. Sure, it’s not perfect, and sometimes it may feel like we’re in a rut, but we’re used to it and know how things works. But…out there in the badlands? Who knows what kind of clown-crazy goes on. Maybe it’s better, but maybe it’s worse. We just don’t know, and neither do our characters, and flight-or-fight instincts can push us to pick what we know over what we don’t.

Threats To The Status Quo (RESENTMENT)

Remember that epic party you threw when your parents went out of town, but then the cops came and busted it up? Okay, well maybe you don’t, but either way, no one likes it when someone or something messes up a good thing. If there’s a threat to your character’s dominance, authority, or control, it’s rarely well received. Your character may not only oppose the change, they might fight back, hard.

conflictIt Upsets Personal Autonomy (ANGER)

Many of us want to carve our own path, so when someone shows up to tell us we can’t, it causes serious friction. Characters will also naturally resist change if it means giving up freedom or control, unless they are self-aware enough to see it makes sense for the greater good.

It Requires A Leap Of Faith (UNCERTAINTY)

When it comes to our well-being, we want to glimpse the end zone or see data points before making big decisions that affect not only us but possibly others we care about as well. And, like us, if a proposed change has too many unknowns, or could have unmapped side effects, most characters will adopt a “wait and see” mentality and delay decisions, hoping more information will be forthcoming and allow them to make a more informed choice.

A Lack of Confidence (SKEPTICISM)

Sometimes a change isn’t bad, but the plan in place or the person manning the helm is. If a character doesn’t have faith in the leader or feels the plan is somehow fundamentally flawed, they will resist change…especially if they have a better idea on how to move forward.

Painful Past Lessons (RELUCTANCE & DREAD)

Sometimes change is a merry-go-round, and characters who have ridden this particular ride before and it didn’t end well are reluctant to saddle up again. The deeper the pain, the more resistance the character will display. Wounds are powerful and can easily override logic, leaving characters blind to an important truth even if it is staring them in the face.

Change isn’t easy…and often comes at a price

If you’d like help planning your character’s emotional roller coaster as they navigate a change arc, you may find our Story Map tool at One Stop For Writers really helpful. And while you’re there, check out the Emotion Thesaurus and the 15 new entries we’ve added to it.

AFGM_One Stop ExampleHappy writing!

 How does your hero or heroine resist change? Let me know in the comments!

 

Image 1: Geralt @ Pixabay
Image 2: Wenphotos @ pixabay
Image 3: PublicDomainImages @ pixabay

 

Posted in Character Arc, Character Wound, Characters, Emotion, Emotion Thesaurus Guide, Fear, One Stop For Writers, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Emotional Wound: Financial Ruin Due To A Spouse’s Irresponsibility

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

debtCharacters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

FINANCIAL RUIN DUE TO A SPOUSE’S IRRESPONSIBILITY

Examples:

  • Secretly overextending credit and being unable to hide the lie any longer
  • Gambling debts
  • Investments that have soured which one’s spouse has kept quiet about
  • Draining one’s accounts to pay for a habit (drinking, drugs, prostitutes, etc.)
  • A spouse who loses their job and uses savings to cover it up
  • A spouse who was cat-fished during an extra-marital affair
  • Falling prey to scams and not wising up in time
  • A spouse who helps a friend or relative and is left holding the bag
  • A spouse who is a hoarder/collector
  • A spouse who is addicted to online shopping
  • A spouse who maxes credit cards in secret

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I can’t trust anyone to handle money but myself
  • I can’t trust my own instincts
  • I need to control all aspects of my life
  • I need to use my head, not my heart
  • The only way my future is safe is if I am in control

Positive Attributes That May Result: analytical, cautious, decisive, disciplined, efficient, industrious, intelligent, meticulous, organized, persistent, proactive, protective, resourceful, sensible, thrifty, wise

Negative Traits That May Result: compulsive, controlling, greedy, humorless, impatient, inflexible, judgemental, nagging, obsessive, possessive, resentful, stingy, workaholic, worrywart

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of trusting in the wrong person
  • Fear of poverty
  • Fear of the future
  • Fear of going in debt
  • Fear of making a bad decision with lasting effects
  • Fear of illness or disaster
  • Fear of risks

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • Obsessive bank account watching
  • Demanding to know how money is being spent within the family (wanting to see receipts, etc.)
  • Restricting access to one’s accounts and investments
  • Refusing to use credit cards
  • Coupon-clipping
  • Avoiding social situations where one will be expected to spend money
  • Only engaging in free activities
  • Feeling guilty when one spends money on oneself
  • Buying used rather than new
  • Minimizing the importance of holidays to avoid having to buy gifts (Birthdays, Christmas, etc.)
  • Not going out with friends to avoid spending money
  • Reusing and repurposing
  • Going without
  • Becoming anti-risk (to one’s health, with one’s things, etc.)
  • Taking advantage of any money-making opportunity
  • Taking on extra jobs and sacrificing down time to do so

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: StevePB @ Pixabay

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Critiques 4 U

crocus-318291_1920

Courtesy: Pixabay

CONTEST CLOSED!

Hello, everyone! Is spring in the air where you are? I hope so. It’s warming up nicely here, and now that Angela and I have polished off two very important deadlines, I’ve got time to get back to first pages. I think I’ll be critiquing this month’s winners on the front porch :).

If you’re working on a first page and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment that includes: 

1) your email address. Some of you have expressed concern about making your email address public; if you’re sure that the email address associated with your WordPress account is correct, you don’t have to include it here. But if you do win and I’m unable to contact you through that email address, I’ll have to choose an alternate winner.

2) your story’s genre (no erotica, please)

ONLY ENTRIES THAT FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS WILL BE CONSIDERED

Three commenters’ names will be randomly drawn and posted tomorrow. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. Best of luck!

Posted in Uncategorized | 47 Comments

Emotional Wounds Thesaurus Entry: Being Raised by Overprotective Parents

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

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Courtesy: Randen Pedersen at Creative Commons

Examples: Being raised by parents or caregivers who…

  • rarely let one experience freedom apart from them
  • worried constantly about one’s safety
  • enforced confining rules out of a desire to keep one safe or within their sights (early curfews, approving or denying the child’s choice of friends, not allowing dating, etc.)
  • discouraged experimentation and taking risks
  • made all of one’s decisions
  • constantly hovered
  • intervened before mistakes could be made, removing the opportunity for one to learn and solve problems

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I’m incapable of making my own decisions.
  • They don’t trust me to do the right thing.
  • The world is a terrible place where bad things are likely to happen to me.
  • Being safe is the most important thing.
  • Mistakes and failure are bad and should be avoided at all costs.
  • I need someone looking out for me.
  • Those in authority know what’s best for me and shouldn’t be questioned.

Positive Attributes That May Result: adaptable, cautious, easygoing, innocent, introverted, loyal, obedient, pensive, protective, traditional

Negative Traits That May Result: childish, controlling, cynical, devious, dishonest, evasive, gullible, ignorant, indecisive, inhibited, insecure, irresponsible, lazy, needy, nervous, obsessive, oversensitive, paranoid, pessimistic, possessive, rebellious, resentful, subservient, suspicious, timid, ungrateful, weak-willed, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of failure or making mistakes
  • Fear of risks
  • Fear of making decisions
  • Fearing that one is incapable or inept
  • Fear of the outside world or specific portions of it that one’s parents worried about
  • Fear of being responsible or in charge

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Experiencing difficulty making decisions
  • Relying on others to make important decisions
  • Blindly trusting those in authority
  • Rebelling against those who would enforce rules or offer advice
  • Becoming sneaky or devious as a way of getting around the rules
  • Avoiding risks; always taking the safest path
  • Being overprotective of one’s own children
  • Overcompensating with one’s own children by being overly permissive
  • Ruling others through fear tactics and manipulation
  • Doubting one’s abilities and capabilities
  • Developing mental disorders (panic attacks, phobias, anxiety)
  • Not learning from one’s mistakes as an adult since one was not able to make and learn from them as a child
  • Avoiding responsibility
  • Becoming a follower rather than a leader

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

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Introducing One Stop For Writers’ NEW Structure Tool: Story Maps

It’s been quite a while since Becca and I have posted about One Stop for Writers, a site we launched back in October with Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows. And, oh my gosh you guys, I have to tell you that while I love writing books and helping writers through them, this new site, working with Lee and Becca? I am having more fun than I ever have had. It amazes me each and every day how talented these two are, and I am so proud of this site we are creating. It is very exciting to see the One Stop library grow and develop and I feel so lucky to be a part of something that can really change the game for writers.

one-stop-for-writers-badge-xsmallSpeaking of growing, One Stop For Writers just finished its first upgrade! Honestly, the hardest part was narrowing down what we wanted to tackle first, because we have so many ideas on how to make it even more useful. But somehow we did, and so for those interested, this is what we have added to the site.

Visual Structure Planning: Story Maps

Do the phrases “Story Structure” and “Character Arc” send adrenaline thrumming through your veins, or cause your stomach to drop in free-fall? Either way, it doesn’t matter! Story Maps is a structure-loving writer’s dream AND the answer to a struggling writer’s planning woes.

Most writers would agree that applying structure, either intuitively or through deliberate planning, results in a more powerful story. The problem is there are many types of structure models, and not all look at both inner character development (character arc) as well as the outer story events. Story Maps does both, and so we hope this will make things a bit easier, helping writers visualize as they plan so they know exactly where to go next in their story.

6_Stage_at_One Stop

(Click to enlarge)

Adapted from the amazing Hollywood story expert Michael Hauge’s 6-Stage Plot Structure, we lead you through important turning points, providing guidance on outer events and inner character transformation.

The Story Map covers three character arc types: the Change Arc (inner transformation), the Static Arc (action-focus, little growth) and the Failed Arc (a tragedy ending).  As you can see below, at each Stage or Turning Point, you can access helpful plotting hints as you plan, and see an example of A Few Good Men broken down by structure points.

A Few Good Men One Stop

(Click to enlarge)

Once you finish filling in the structure pieces, you can transform your plan into a Map, or download it as a PDF. What could be easier?

AFGM_One Stop Example

(click to enlarge)

I know some Pantsers out there are not big fans of structure, but there’s good news on that front, too. In coming weeks we are also bringing on several more tools that allow for timeline and scene planning suitable for different comfort levels of plotting. (I’ll post again when these are on the site, because I can’t wait to show you. Lee and Paul are techno-wizards and what they come up with is pure magic!)

One Stop’s Description Nirvana: The Setting Thesaurus Is Now Bigger & Better

As many of you know, Becca and I have been working on 2 new Setting Thesaurus books which we will release in June. (June! I know, books are a bit slow, aren’t they?) The good news is all the descriptive entries for these Setting books (along with all of our other books & completed thesauruses) are now available through One Stop. Yes, a MASSIVE database of the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and textures for 225 settings at your fingertips as you write!

The Setting Thesaurus spans both urban and rural locations, so you can find everything from an abandoned mine, to a morgue, to a high school hallway, to a nightclub, to a child’s bedroom. We tried to choose real-world locations your characters would be likely to visit, as well as profile places we hope will spark your imagination, helping you to think outside the usual setting box. Hopefully this larger, more robust thesaurus will really help you make their story worlds come alive for readers.

(If you would like to see a example of one of these settings, check out “police car” here.)

So much more is coming, so stay tuned!

No hard sell, just excitement

Probably some would hit you up with the big sell at this point, but that isn’t us. One Stop for Writers might be for you, or it might not be.  Either way, it’s all good–just keep writing!  :)

Thanks for listening as we get all gushy-excited about this new path of ours. Becca and I are having a lot of fun with One Stop, and we hope you are having fun as you write, too. This path we have all chosen can be a tough one some days, so we should embrace joy when it comes and love what we create!

Happy writing,

Angela & Becca

Posted in One Stop For Writers, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Emotional Wound Entry: Having Parents Who Favored One Child Over Another

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

disappointCharacters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

HAVING PARENTS WHO FAVORED ONE CHILD OVER THE OTHER

Examples:

  • A parent with an obvious “favorite” child
  • Parents who doted on a child because of a special skill, talent, or quality
  • Parents who put all their time into one’s child’s interests and hobbies
  • Blended families where step-siblings are treated differently (taken on special holidays, bought gifts, nicer bedrooms and clothing, etc.)
  • Parents who have different rules and privileges for one child because of their gender, birth order, etc.
  • Parents lavishing praise on one for what is merely “expected” of the other (good grades, accolades, milestones, etc.)
  • A parent being more affectionate with one child while harder on another
  • Parents who bond more with one child (show affection, spend time together, communicate) because of their pleasant disposition
  • Parents who cater to one child because of an illness or condition
  • Parents who push one child harder because they show promise (to incentivize success) or because they have behavior issues (tough love)

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I’ll never be as good as my sibling, so why try?
  • I can never do anything right, and my sibling can do no wrong
  • If I try harder to be good, maybe they will love me as much as they do him
  • Dad (or Mom) loves the new family more than the old one
  • I will never measure up, no matter how I try
  • There must be something wrong with me
  • I can’t please them, everything I do isn’t good enough
  • Being alone is better than being with a family that doesn’t want me in it

Positive Attributes That May Result: Ambitious, appreciative, cooperative, diplomatic, empathetic, generous, honorable, humble, independent, introverted, just, kind, mature, nurturing, pensive, perceptive, persistent, private, proper, responsible, sentimental, supportive, wise

Negative Traits That May Result: Addictive, catty, childish, confrontational, cynical, defensive, disloyal, disrespectful,impulsive, indecisive, inhibited, insecure, irresponsible, jealous, judgmental, manipulative, needy, perfectionist, possessive, rebellious, reckless, rowdy, self-destructive, stubborn, subservient, timid, vindictive, withdrawn, workaholic

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of competition
  • Fear of being one-upped by others, outperformed
  • Fear of disappointing others
  • Fear of vulnerability
  • Fear of loving as it may be withdrawn
  • Fear of failure

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • Avoiding one’s family as an adult
  • Becoming subservient as an adult to aging parents in hopes of being seen in a new light
  • Strained relationships between siblings
  • Seeing everything as a competition
  • Difficulty with teamwork and team-building; wanting to work alone
  • Becoming the person one’s parents want, not who one wishes to be
  • People-pleasing behavior, doing thing for praise
  • Behavioral issues, seeking negative attention when positive attention is denied
  • Going above and beyond in relationships
  • Parenting one’s own children, obsessively making sure everything is fair
  • Showing love and affection, telling people what they mean to oneself
  • Always comparing oneself and one’s siblings in every regard
  • One’s sibling’s name becoming a trigger for anger or frustration
  • Even as an adult, struggling to be happy for one’s sibling when something good happens for them

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: Pixabay @ Marcisim

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments