Emotional Wounds Thesaurus Entry: Wrongful Imprisonment

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: miss_millions @ CreativeCommons

Examples

  • Being deliberately framed
  • Being mistaken for the criminal because of similar physical features, race, etc.
  • Someone committing perjury and setting one up to save someone else…

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 will never be free again.
  • God must be punishing me for something I’ve done.
  • I’m partly to blame for what happened; if I hadn’t been in that place, at that time, doing what I was doing…

Positive Attributes That May Result: ambitious, cautious, independent, industrious, just, persistent, private, proactive, resourceful, thrifty, tolerant

Negative Traits That May Result: abrasive, addictive, antisocial, apathetic, callous, confrontational, controlling, cynical, defensive, hostile, humorless, inflexible, inhibited…

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of never getting out of jail
  • Fear of losing one’s family or loved ones
  • Fear that people will think badly of one…

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Being suspicious of and distrusting those in authority
  • Flouting the rules, since following them never did one any good anyway
  • Hating and acting out against the people/group/organization responsible for one’s imprisonment
  • Turning away from one’s faith
  • Clinging to one’s faith…

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.

Which emotional wounds are haunting your characters and keeping them from being whole and fulfilled?

Emotional wounds are incredibly formative, changing how a character views the world, causing trust issues, damaging their self-worth, dictating how they will interact with other people, and making it harder for them to achieve their goals. As such, understanding your character’s wound is vitally important to your overall story.

To help with this, we have integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers.

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Each entry has been enhanced and expanded to provide even more helpful information about your character’s wounds and is cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. We’ve also included a must-see tutorial on this topic—a crash-course on how a wound impacts the affected character and the role wounds play in his or her arc over the course of a story. Interested in seeing a sampling of our completed wound thesaurus entries?  Head on over and register for free!

If you’re waiting for the Emotional Wounds book, Angela and I are hoping to have that ready for Fall 2017.  Sign up here to be notified as its release date approaches.

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About BECCA PUGLISI

Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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4 Responses to Emotional Wounds Thesaurus Entry: Wrongful Imprisonment

  1. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [02.15.16]

  2. Mart Ramirez says:

    What a great list! Thank you for the reminder and the examples. Always helpful <3

  3. Beverly Campbell says:

    My main antagonist is very self absorbed, eccentric and narrow minded. I need to be able to clarify his traits better and to elaborate on them with his actions. Would I be able to do this easier using one of your trait thesauruses? If so which one in particular?

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