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.
Definition: Being unable to bear children, either with or without medical interventions.
Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: esteem and recognition, self-actualization
False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:
- I’m less or a man/woman because of this.
- This is a punishment for something I’ve done in the past.
- There must be some reason why I can’t have kids.
- God knows I would be a bad parent; that’s why he won’t let me have kids.
- People will pity me if they find out.
- Without children, I’ll never be complete or fulfilled.
- Why bother taking care of yourself if things like this are going to happen to you anyway?
- I’m going to grow old and die alone, with no one to care for me.
Positive Attributes That May Result: discreet, empathetic, optimistic, patient, persistent, private, resourceful,
Negative Traits That May Result: callous, cynical, evasive, irrational, jealous, martyr, needy, obsessive, pessimistic, resentful, temperamental, ungrateful, withdrawn
- Fear of growing old and being alone
- Fear of one’s spouse dying
- Fear of what others think
- Fear that one is incapable of parenting or caring for others
- Fear of other latent illnesses or conditions within one’s body
- Fear that one will never find happiness or contentment
Possible Habits That May Emerge:
- Becoming obsessed with conceiving a child, regardless of the inconvenience or cost
- Tirelessly researching and trying new or unusual fertility methods, treatments, and remedies
- Becoming obsessed with one’s health
- Lying to others about why one hasn’t had children
- Struggling with depression
- Distancing oneself from couples with children
- Throwing oneself into a job or hobby
- Clinging to one’s spouse or parents out of fear of losing them and being alone
- Avoiding children
- Building relationships with other childless couples
- Joining support groups
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