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.
HAVING PARENTS WHO FAVORED ONE CHILD OVER THE OTHER
- 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.)…
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…
Positive Attributes That May Result: Ambitious, appreciative, cooperative, diplomatic, empathetic, generous, honorable, humble, independent, introverted, just…
Negative Traits That May Result: Addictive, catty, childish, confrontational, cynical, defensive, disloyal, disrespectful,impulsive, indecisive, inhibited, insecure, irresponsible…
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of competition
- Fear of being one-upped by others, outperformed…
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…
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
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.
Lawrence Clerk says
I don’t feel like there is preference in my own family, however I do know a mother of four who plainly supports one of her youngsters. She enables her most established young lady to hit, punch and kick the others.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
That’s terrible. I think it’s probably happens more than we would like to believe, unfortunately. 🙁
Amanda Dennis says
I think that this topic is really so relevaant that we can discuss it infinitely! As for me, if you decided to be the parents, you should always remember the main rule of bringing up the children, that all the children are loved equally! But unfortunately, many parents make a big mistake to favor their love to one of the children! One simple example for you: there are many families which have two, three or more daughters, but they dream to have a son more than everything in the world. When their dream came true, the parents cannot get enough of their little son and at the same moment they forget about their girls! It is a big mistake! I think we should love our children so they feel themselves equally valued!
Jessica M says
Underlying resentment and disassociation from their parents are also the results of being the neglected child. Bitterness towards their nuclear family also festers underneath the surface.
It’s all dependent on the character of the individual, of course. One may choose anger over blaming one’s self. The above reactions I noted are just my observations from knowing a neglected child. They are ten times more successful than the favorited child, yet still not good enough for the parents.
BECCA PUGLISI says
This is what’s interesting about these wounds from a literary standpoint: a character can have so many different responses that are all legit. It’s a matter of knowing that character’s personality, what drives him, and laying the foundation early on for his response to make it believable.
Traci Kenworth says
I can’t imagine doing so with my own, but I know other people this has happened to. It’s such a shame. It would make for a great emotional wound, though. I’ll have to keep in mind.