Sourced from The Emotional Wound Thesaurus
Driving a car in which a passenger, pedestrian, or cyclist is killed
Unknowingly serving food to someone who’s highly allergic to it
A child consuming a fatal dose of medication while in one’s care
A child drowning in one’s pool or tub
Killing someone while impaired
Instigating a prank or dare that goes wrong
Campfire carelessness that leads to fatalities
A boating or jet ski accident
Peer pressure that ends in an unintentional death (e.g., pushing drinks on a friend who later dies of alcohol poisoning)
The mishandling or misfire of a weapon or firearm
Home protection incidents, such as shooting at an intruder and hitting a family member
Poor home maintenance (stairs collapsing, someone falling through a rotten floor, etc.)
Hitting someone too hard in a fight
Selling or giving a friend a bad batch of drugs
A sport-related accident
Malfunctioning equipment, such as one’s tanning booth electrocuting a client
Horseplay between kids that turns deadly
A police officer killing a bystander in the line of duty
Bumping a friend who falls from a high balcony or ledge
BASIC NEEDS OFTEN COMPROMISED BY THIS WOUND: safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization
FALSE BELIEFS THAT COULD BE EMBRACED
It should have been me.
I am a terrible and worthless person.
I do not deserve to be happy or safe.
I do not deserve a child of my own when I caused the death of another person’s child.
I do not deserve to be loved.
I am only capable of hurting people.
I cannot be trusted with responsibility of any kind.
People will hate me if they know what I did.
I should suffer for the pain I caused.
I can never fix what I did, no matter how hard I try.
It would be better for everyone if I was dead too.
THE CHARACTER MAY FEAR…
Making another mistake that takes someone’s life
Responsibility; making decisions that impact others
Losing control (if irresponsible behavior led to the death)
Things not being safe enough (if disrepair or a lack of safety protocol was involved)
POSSIBLE RESPONSES AND RESULTS
Paranoia or obsession regarding circumstances that led to the death (installing safety railings everywhere to avoid someone falling, not allowing one’s children near water, etc.)
Over-preparing (e.g., researching dangers tied to a location and packing for a trip accordingly)
Avoiding positions of power and responsibility so one can’t screw things up or fail people again
PTSD symptoms (flashbacks, anxiety, depression, etc.)
Avoiding friends, family, or the public at large
Not chasing one’s dreams because one feels unworthy
Punishing oneself by giving up the things one loves
Taking risks due to the belief that one has no value
Taking risks in hopes death will occur so one may atone for the mistake
Drinking or using drugs to cope
Blaming others for what happened rather than accepting one’s role
Avoiding situations and people tied to the event
Being hyper-aware of potential danger and safety issues
Choosing to stay close to home most of the time
Becoming a helicopter parent or being overprotective of loved ones
Hiring professionals rather than attempting do-it-yourself repairs
Keeping one’s vehicle, home, etc. in top shape
Having well-stocked medical supplies and working fire extinguishers
Taking safety training, CPR, or other life skill courses to be prepared in the case of an accident
PERSONALITY TRAITS THAT MAY FORM
Attributes: alert, appreciative, cautious, cooperative, disciplined, empathetic, focused, generous, gentle, honest, honorable, humble, independent, inspirational, kind, loyal, mature, merciful
Flaws: addictive, apathetic, cowardly, defensive, disorganized, fanatical, humorless, impulsive, indecisive, inhibited, insecure, irresponsible, martyr, morbid, obsessive, oversensitive, reckless
TRIGGERS THAT MIGHT AGGRAVATE THIS WOUND
Hearing about a similar accidental death on the news or in one’s community
Important life milestones for the victim (the anniversary of their death, their birthday, the day they would have graduated from high school, etc.)
Running into a family member of the victim
Experiencing a near-miss similar to the accident (e.g., almost crashing one’s car during a rainstorm)
A loved one being involved in an incident that could have turned deadly
Someone being injured on one’s property
OPPORTUNITIES TO FACE OR OVERCOME THIS WOUND
Wanting to support a close friend or family member who accidentally hurt or killed someone
A close friend or family member being accidentally killed
The family of the victim filing a wrongful death lawsuit
Being placed in a situation where one has to kill to protect oneself
A situation where one is directly responsible for another person and must act to keep them alive
This resource contains 118 different wounding situations, each carefully vetted by a psychologist for accuracy.
Dig deeper than ever before, exploring how past pain will motivate your character’s actions throughout the story, breeding fear and unmet needs until he or she reaches a breaking point.
To find out more about The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, visit the bookstore page here, or visit the fully searchable and linked Emotional Wound Thesaurus at our other site, One Stop for Writers.
Praise for The Emotional Wound Thesaurus:
“One of the single best resources I’ve ever encountered for drilling deep in your character’s psyche.” ~ K.M. Weiland, bestselling author and writing coach
“This addition to the thesaurus series is packed with helpful writing advice and idea-sparking emotional beats…another essential for the fiction writer’s bookshelf.” ~ James Scott Bell, International Thriller Writers Award winner
“Compelling characters need depth and emotional wounds provide a level beyond what many writers usually construct..a great addition to the thesaurus collection from Ackerman & Puglisi – all of which I own in print for my fiction writing research bookshelf.” ~ Joanna Penn, TheCreativePenn.com
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More about this writing guide
How to practice self-care when writing about emotional wounds