Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: Losing a Limb

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. 

We hope the sample list of ideas below will help you see how emotional trauma will influence your character’s behavior and mindset. For the full entry of this and over 100 other emotional wounds, check into our bestselling resource, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.

0984-JerrodFieldsSprints.jpg: U.S. Army World Class Athelte Program Paralympic sprinter hopeful Sgt. Jerrod Fields, seen here working out at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., won the 100 meters with a time of 12.15 seconds at the 2009 Endeavor Games in Edmond, Okla., on June 13. Photo by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs

Photo by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs

Examples: Losing a limb due to

  • a birth defect.
  • a traumatic accident.
  • illness or disease, such as cancer, vascular disease, arterial disease, or diabetes…

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 whole.
  • No one will find me attractive.
  • When people look at me, they only see my disfigurement…

Positive Attributes That May Result: ambitious, appreciative, disciplined, independent, industrious, inspirational, kind, mature, nurturing, persistent, private…

Negative Traits That May Result: controlling, defensive, hostile, humorless, impatient, inhibited, insecure, needy, oversensitive, pessimistic, reckless, resentful…

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of being judged by others
  • Fear of becoming a spectacle
  • Fear of being unable to accomplish one’s dreams…

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Hiding one’s missing limb
  • Not taking chances; making safe choices
  • Becoming reckless in an effort to prove one’s capability
  • Withdrawing from others; becoming isolated
  • Avoiding public places and social events…

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.

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.


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!

On the other hand, if you prefer your references in book form, we’ve got you covered, too, because this thesaurus is now available for purchase in both digital and print form. In addition to the 120+ entries, each book contains instructional front matter to help you understand wounds and how they’ll affect your character and story. With chapters about the wound’s aftereffects and how the event ties in to the character arc, along with ideas on brainstorming your character’s wound and how to best reveal the trauma to readers, this book will be your go-to resource for connecting the backstory dots and coming up with characters who are well-rounded and realistic.





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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8 Responses to Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: Losing a Limb

  1. Carol says:

    Thank you recognizing this needed tool for writers. I am currently writing a novel where the heroine is missing a leg

    In doing some of my research, I came upon Amy Mullins. Both her legs were removed at the age of four. She is beautiful, vibrant and is a dancer, speaker, actress.

    As you research this thesauraus consider that losing one’s limb will have different emotional factors depending on when they lost their limb. I would think that losing a limb at a young age is different than when you are in your 20’s, 30’s etc..

    • Yes age and how it was lost will make a big impact. We can’t cover every scenario in each entry, but do encourage people to dig into the circumstances. For example, if the limb was lost due to the negligence of another, that is a very different wound than if a child was born without a limb. The character’s behavior and fears would be different in each case. Glad this helped, and happy writing!

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  3. Ashley says:

    I have a friend who had the lower part of her right leg amputated seven years ago when we were in high school. I can definitely see some of her old issues in this list. She used to think that she was so ugly, and was afraid that no one would love her no matter what I told her. Fortunately she regained some of her ambition back and joined the track team after a couple of years. Now she’s happily engaged and off to become a teacher. Just wanted to say how amazingly accurate this list is.

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  6. Leslie Rose says:

    I was so impressed by what the contestant on Dancing With the Stars achieved with an artificial limb. Definite hero of perseverance.

  7. This would be a good one!!

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