Emotional Wound Thesaurus: Growing Up In The Public Eye

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.

royaltyCharacters, 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.



  • Parents who have extreme wealth (own an airline, a hotel or fast food chain, etc.)
  • Parents who are important and well-connected (head of government organizations, high ranking military officials, etc.)
  • A parent or parents who are famous (movie stars, music singer, etc.)…

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 don’t know who I am, just what I am supposed to be
  • I can’t afford to make any mistakes
  • People are cruel and want me to fail because I am famous…

Positive Attributes That May Result: adaptable, cautious, cooperative, courteous, discreet, disciplined, extroverted, generous, hospitable, independent, introverted, kind…

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, callous, cocky, compulsive, confrontational, cynical, defensive, evasive, extravagant, foolish, frivolous, fussy, haughty…

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of trusting the wrong person
  • fear of public embarrassment
  • fear of making a decision that will haunt one forever…

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • being obsessive about presentation (clothing, hair, behavior, fitting in)
  • holding back rather than taking risks (for fear of screwing up publicly)
  • acting more mature than others of one’s age (having to grow up fast in the limelight)
  • hoarding one’s privacy (because one gets little of it)
  • Keeping secrets or avoiding voicing one’s opinion…

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: GLady @ Pixabay

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.





Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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1 year ago

Thanks for this. My character is the daughter of a Wall Street CEO, and this describes her perfectly.

Lanette Hodge
4 years ago

Thanks so much for writing this piece it was insightful. Your opening painted a clear picture of how we as writers can use negative emotions or emotional trauma to help develope charchers. The examples you proved were extremely helpful. This writing piece provides a lot of value and I appreciate the time you put into doing so. Thanks so much for sharing your work. If I could offer one helpful tip I would perhaps modify the title to welcome more readers who are specifically interested in charcher development. For example, a tittle such as, “Why Emotional Truman is the most effective way to develope your character!” This let readers know right away what you are going to discussion. Well I hope that was helpful. Thanks so much for your effort you put into this work!

4 years ago
Reply to  Lanette Hodge

Thanks for the kudos, Lanette. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. As I think you know, this is part of a series we’re doing on Emotional Wounds, which is why we have included that in the title. Between that and the actual wound title itself, our titles are a little on the long side as is, so adding to it probably wouldn’t work. But we appreciate the feedback :).


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Andrè M. Pietroschek
4 years ago

An interesting and welcome article! Thanks.

Bridget-Now Novel (@nownovel)

Fascinating and helpful post on this niche topic of character-building. The thesaurus is a really useful resource. Thanks for this post, Becca and Angela.

Carol Riggs
4 years ago

Whoa, great nitty-gritty stuff! You really know how to go into depth into the character motivation! I’ve never thought about this in reference to growing up in a public eye.

Sacha Black
4 years ago

I have been following this series, and I really hope you are going to put it all together in a book. This one is particularly useful for a character I have at the moment. But they are all so insightful and I am desperate to have them collated in a book like your others. <3

4 years ago
Reply to  Sacha Black

Hi, Sacha. I’m glad to know this series is working for you :). We are currently in the process of putting together our Setting Thesaurus for publication (slated for release in late spring), so we haven’t talked extensively about what would be next. But we’ve received a lot of interest in the Wounds Thesaurus, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that made it into book form, too. It would be a while before that happens, though, since we’re currently working on the other thesaurus and are still in the process of putting up entries for this one. Thanks for the feedback.

4 years ago

Mrs. Ackerman, Are you going to do an entry about surviving an environmental disaster like a hurricane, tornado, earthquake/tsunami. One of my characters survived the 2011 Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami.

Samaria Driscoll
Samaria Driscoll
4 years ago

This blog is intriguing. This is what characters in books feels. But if I may, an emotional wound can be resolved by being yourself.


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Traci Kenworth
4 years ago

This would be sad.

Maria Hossain
Maria Hossain
4 years ago

Another very helpful article, Ms Ackerman. I’ll use it to portray one of my protagonists in my next project, a historical YA where she’s the sole heiress to a multi millionaire family. Thanks again, 🙂