Emotional Wound Entry: Discovering One’s Sibling Was Abused

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.

sad1Characters, 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.

Discovering One’s Sibling Was Abused


  • witnessing the abuse first hand (seeing or hearing it occur)
  • discovering the abuse after the fact only when one’s sibling opens up about it
  • knowing one’s sibling is taking the abuse to protect oneself or other loved ones…

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • This is my fault, I should have done something
  • I should have protected my sibling
  • I should have seen what was happening…

Positive Attributes That May Result: affectionate, alert, appreciative, courageous, empathetic, generous, honest, honorable, humble, introverted, loyal, kind, merciful…

Negative Traits That May Result: confrontational, cowardly, humorless, inhibited, insecure, nervous, paranoid, promiscuous, reckless, self-destructive, subservient…

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of trusting people
  • fear of being responsible for others
  • fear of letting others down…

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • subservience to one’s sibling to make up for a perceived past failing (the character will feel guilt, even if they were not in a position to help or didn’t know it was occurring
  • anger and outbursts, even violence
  • refusing to speak to those who one blames, even if they were unaware themselves of what happened
  • a desire for revenge
  • second guessing one’s decisions, especially when one is responsible for others
  • Growing overprotective of loved ones…

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: 422694 @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 an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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8 Responses to Emotional Wound Entry: Discovering One’s Sibling Was Abused

  1. Pingback: BLOGWORDS – Friday 8 July 2016 – WHEN RESEARCH TAKES YOU ON AN UNEXPECTED PATH | robinsnest212 - stories by design

  2. hullo Angela! i read your post the other day and i cannot say how timely it is. in my current WIP (setting is post Civil War era) my main character has believed herself to be evil most of her life and has lived accordingly. her family knows she’s tortured but don’t know why. i hadn’t thought to include a bit about her twin sister until your post! i started on that today and the sister vacillates between anger toward her sister and guilt.

    i, too, look forward to a book compilation of these informative posts!!!

    • Hi, Robin. Angela’s on vacation for a bit so I wanted to respond on her behalf and say how happy I am that this post has helped you. That’s always our goal :). Best of luck with your WIP.

  3. Pingback: TV Tropes Monday: Up Through the Ranks | Neither Here nor There....

  4. Will you be putting all these blog posts into a new book? I have several of your books now and find them indispensable.

    • Hi, Kathy! The demand for this one has been so great that Angela and I are planning on turning it into a book at some point. But because we’re still fleshing out the idea (and because we’re still recovering from last month’s book launches :)), we haven’t started planning this publication. So it will be a while. In the meantime, have you signed up to receive notifications about our book releases? Doing so will keep you updated about our next books :).

  5. Glynis Jolly says:

    This one is one I was asking for, thank you. 🙂

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