Emotional Wound Thesaurus

Below are samples of the entries in our popular emotional wound thesaurus. For the complete and enhanced collection, please visit One Stop For Writers, where it has a permanent place within our vast Descriptive Thesaurus Collection. You can access it and our other thesauruses with a click of a button as you write.

If you prefer your references in book form, good news: The Emotional Wounds Thesaurus is now available in Print & Digital formats. It contains well over 100 different wounding events and includes comprehensive, one-of-a-kind instructive material that goes over the backstory wound’s key role within Character Arc, and how to use it in your own storytelling to create rich, authentic characters your readers will connect deeply to.

Partial Wound List (Samples)

Everyone has negative experiences from the past that impact who they are in the future; this is true for n
our characters, too. If you’re trying to decide which emotional wound might be a possibility for your character and how it might affect him/her in your current story, this thesaurus might be able to help.

sad2What Is An Emotional Wound Thesaurus?

Accidentally Killing Someone

A Family Member’s Suicide

A Home Invasion

A House Fire

A Parent’s Abandonment

A Role Model Who Disappoints

A Sibling’s Betrayal

A Speech Impediment

Becoming a Caregiver at an Early Age

Being Bullied

Being Fired or Laid Off

Being Held Captive

Being Mugged

Being Publicly Humiliated

Being Raised by Neglectful Parents

Being Raised by Overprotective Parents

Being So Beautiful It’s All People See

Being the Victim of a Vicious Rumor

Being Stalked

Being Trapped in a Collapsed Building

Being Unfairly Blamed For The Death of Another

Childhood Sexual Abuse (by a family member or known person)

Discovering One’s Parent is a Monster

Discovering One’s Sibling was Abused

Experiencing a Miscarriage or Stillbirth

Failing At School

Failing To Do The Right Thing

Financial Ruin Due To A Spouse’s Irresponsibility

Finding Out One’s Child Was Abused

Finding Out One Was Adopted

Getting Lost In a Natural Environment

Growing Up In A Cult

Growing Up in a Dangerous Neighborhood

Growing Up In Foster Care

Growing Up In The Public Eye

Growing Up In The Shadow of a Successful Sibling

Growing Up with a Sibling Who Has a Chronic Disability or Illness

Having Parents Who Favored One Child Over Another

Having To Kill Another Person To Survive

Infertility

Infidelity (emotional or physical)

Losing a Limb

Losing a Loved One To A Random Act of Violence

Making a Very Public Mistake

Overly Critical or Strict Parents

Physical Disfigurement

Rejection By One’s Peers

Telling The Truth But Not Being Believed

The Death of a Child On One’s Watch

Victimization via Identity Theft

Watching A Loved One Die

Wrongful Imprisonment

Spending Time In Jail

Suffering From a Learning Disability

Visit our other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections HERE.

 

Image via Adam McGuire @ Pixabay

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Sidney Williams
Sidney Williams
3 months ago

How do you use these emotional wounds to create a fleshed-out, detailed, and compelling backstory for your character(s)?

ANGELA ACKERMAN
Admin
3 months ago
Sidney Williams
Sidney Williams
3 months ago

This is a really good page! I’m trying to create a really fleshed-out and compelling tragic backstory for my OC and this can really help me a lot. Though, is there a way for someone to add “Witnessing a traumatic event” so I can find a way to use that to create said backstory? Anyway, great page.

ANGELA ACKERMAN
Admin
3 months ago

Hi Sidney,

If you are looking for a wound like that one I suggest checking out this database here: https://onestopforwriters.com/wounds as it might lead you to something more specific (the type of trauma witnessed). You might also find the Character Builder tool at that site really helpful as it allows you to plan a character’s backstory (and draws information directly about wounding events from the thesaurus there): https://onestopforwriters.com/about_cbt <--there's a video walkthrough on this page if you want to see how it works. If you prefer books, you can find The Emotional Wound thesaurus in book form: https://writershelpingwriters.net/the-emotional-wound-thesaurus-a-writers-guide-to-psychological-trauma/

Hope this helps!

Sidney Williams
Sidney Williams
3 months ago

Thanks.

Sidney Williams
Sidney Williams
3 months ago

Thanks, but I don’t have any money and my free-trial has been expired. Is there another way?

ANGELA ACKERMAN
Admin
3 months ago

Yes, certainly. Just reach out to your local library to see if they have the book on their shelves and check it out. 🙂 If they don’t have it, all libraries will have a way to request books to be brought in. All you need is the ISBN (located on the book page in the last comment) and the title. Usually they have a form you can fill out online, easy-peasy. Good luck!

Sidney Williams
Sidney Williams
3 months ago

I can’t go to the library either because I’m not old enough to go by myself and because of the coronavirus. Sorry about that.

ANGELA ACKERMAN
Admin
3 months ago

I totally get that. Did you know that many books have ebook lending? Might be something to check out – I’m sure there’s probably lots of books you’d like to read right now. And the nice thing is even of you don’t have an ereader, there are apps for reading books, too.

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[…] The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi – This is a comprehensive thesaurus. If you’re trying to get to the heart of your characters’ emotional journeys, and need to understand the psychology behind a backstory wound and how humans respond to trauma in terms of traits and behaviors, then this book may be your answer. I especially liked the intro that discusses the psychology of the backstory wound. […]

May
May
9 months ago

This is a great page! In fact, one of the links is currently helping me flesh out my character’s backstory. However, I’m wondering if one emotional wound can be synonymous with another. Can “A parent’s kidnapping” be considered the same as “Abandonment by a parent”, especially if the child was in their formative years?

Morgan
Morgan
11 months ago

I’m having trouble thinking of an emotional wound for my character. I know what her lie is (it’s a four-part series, so she tackles a few. In book one, her lie is believing that poor people are leeches). The reason she believes this is because she grew up in America, where society assumes that rich people must’ve worked hard to get where they are, meaning that the poor are stealing from her via welfare. Because of this, she calls poor people all sorts of nasty names and in general acts like a snob.

Any idea what a good wound would be here?

Morgan
Morgan
11 months ago
Reply to  BECCA PUGLISI

Wait, how is growing up in the public eye an emotional wound? Because that works great.

Timothy Turner
Timothy Turner
1 year ago

Hi.
I would find it incredibly helpful if we could identify the emotional wound within famous characters – those found within well known novels: Dickens, Austen, Shelley, Lee, Salinger, etc. I guess I’m asking, ‘are emotional wounds needed?’ – if they are sometimes seemingly absent, in the most memorable characters found within the classics.

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[…] List of Character Lies. […]

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[…] har en lista med exempel på sår på sin […]

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[…] Emotional Wound Thesaurus: Because who wants to read about happy people… pff… fuck them! […]

Elmer
3 years ago

Hey!
A big part of the wounds are their resolutions at the end of a story. In most stories the characters need to undergo development in order to be intressting and the audience has to see the progress made. It would be really nice to also see a list of events that could make the characters values change. I’m writting a character who has, after the suicide of her mother, become pessimistic and she belives she’s better off on her own. But I don’t know what situations or events would cause her to challenge these belives, so it would be great to have guide lines, like the list of false belifes you wrote for every single wound.

ANGELA ACKERMAN
Admin
3 years ago
Reply to  Elmer

Because each situation will be unique based on many factors (the type of wound, how personal it was, the support a character had, their personality, ability to cope, etc.) what we’ve done in the book is provide a section on healthy coping mechanisms that can be adapted to fit each individual, and show their path to healing. We hope this will help writers accomplish that necessary growth and ability to “re-frame” the event in the character’s mind. 😉

Wade Gaviota
Wade Gaviota
1 year ago
Reply to  Elmer

i would say look for ways for you character to have to join a team, or have to work one on one with someone new like a buddy cop movie kinda way or find a way to introduce a character that needs to watch over her that fills that mentor hole in her life.

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[…] favorite resources for developing a character’s backstory or motivations are the Emotional Wound Thesaurus and the Character Motivation Thesaurus (both are from Writers Helping Writers. I’m very […]

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[…] List of Character Lies. […]

Rachael Johns
3 years ago

Just wondering if Giving Up A Child For Adoption made the final list in the book?

Summer Foovay
3 years ago

What, incest didn’t make the list? Better yet, incest actively aided and abetted by the opposite sex parent? This is more common than you think – child molesters marry a person who doesn’t like sex who has a young child they will offer up instead. Then they will actively help the molester to hide what goes on in the home. Trust me, it leaves you one fucked up adult if you were the child victim 😉

Also being the victim of a loved one who has narcisstic personality disorder is a level of domestic abuse that can hardly be imagined by someone who hasn’t been through it. Look for https://www.amazon.com/POWER-Surviving-Narcissistic-Collection-Narcissism-ebook/dp/B01N5R6U0X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1492883011&sr=8-3-fkmr0&keywords=kindle+books+power+nacisstic+abuse for an excellent description of the pattern a victim will experience.

ANGELA ACKERMAN
Admin
3 years ago
Reply to  Summer Foovay

The list you see here isn’t complete. We have furthered developed this thesaurus and will release it in the fall as a book. You’ll be happy to know that both Incest and Being Raised By a Narcissist are included. You can also find the collection at One Stop For Writers–currently there are 60 fully developed entries, and in a month or two, the entire list (about 120) will be there for writers to use. https://onestopforwriters.com/wounds

Happy writing, and thanks for your links. 🙂

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[…] Inner demons are what create the distortion in the lens. I strongly recommend checking out the Emotional Wound Thesaurus because these wounds are what grind the distorted lenses through which your protagonist sees the […]

John Pepper
John Pepper
3 years ago

I’m really enjoying your thesauruses. Soon enough I want to be able to purchase them all, especially this one. I hope you plan on adding even more for the book.

As a suggestion, because I want to know about characters from sci-fi novels who go through this, but how about some kind of identity crisis? Something like finding out one is not who or what they thought they were. Finding out one was adopted is the closest thing I have seen to it.

Hope you’ll consider it, and I’d love to hear what else you might have planned. Thanks.

ANGELA ACKERMAN
Admin
3 years ago
Reply to  John Pepper

He have a lot of different wounds we’re covering, so hopefully when this thesaurus is complete, you’ll find something that gives you what you need. The issue with identity crises is that they can come from many different wounds–finding out one was adopted, finding out one was a product of rape, many different childhood wounds can cause this because of dysfunctional relationships, abuse situation can cause this, being imprisoned, suffering prejudice and discrimination, etc. So the best thing is to think about WHY your character is struggling with heir identity. 🙂

If you like, there are about 60 or so Emotional Wounds up at One Stop for Writers, and in coming months we’ll be adding more. https://onestopforwriters.com/wounds

Virginia Rinkel
3 years ago

Just found your great site. I am looking forward to reading your books and can’t wait for this ’emotional’ one coming.

ANGELA ACKERMAN
Admin
3 years ago

Hi Virginia–so glad you found your way to WHW! 🙂 Make yourself at home.

Dana
4 years ago

How about being dumped by someone you love, i.e., spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, lover, etc.? Whether s/he just stops calling, breaks up, or divorces a romantic partner, the wound to the rejected party can be devastating and never heal.

Cary Nichols
Cary Nichols
4 years ago

Please add me to your mailing list.

Angela Ackerman
Admin
4 years ago
Reply to  Cary Nichols

Hi Cary, which one–our newsletter, our blog, or our “update me of new releases list”?

Barbara Rae Robinson
4 years ago

The one I need is a woman in jeopardy who knows that someone is trying to kill them, but they don’t know who. I keep writing these stories!

Carol Malone
4 years ago

Hi Angela and Becca,

I was thinking of the trauma of when a spouse does a spiritual 180 when the other spouse thought they’d be spiritually and equally yoked for life. I hope you can describe the betraying pain that comes from being “spiritually abandoned.” Thanks.

I heard this handy website resource is closing soon. I sure hope that’s not the case as I just found this fabulous resource for my writing. Please tell me we’ll be able to find these Wound categories some place else.

Tricia
Tricia
4 years ago

Just thinking… Can you also add antonyms to these wounds (like liberating emotions)? Having broken out and being freed from physical captivity, or emotional captivity (seen a therapist), etc.

Tricia
Tricia
4 years ago

Slavery – Many people may think of sexual slavery. There are also the poor in other countries that go to work in mines and other types of businesses looking for a bright future only to realize they are wearing invisible chains. Some bosses are known to pay partly in addictive drugs as a form of payment. Working conditions are hazardous so watching colleague die or become disabled is common.

Mary
Mary
4 years ago

Please add partner physical abuse.

Sacha Black
4 years ago

Aloha Gurus, don’t suppose being a victim of kidnap is on your list? looking for some emotional reactions around that.

Sacha Black
4 years ago
Reply to  Becca Puglisi

Goddamn that’s a good service :p – LITERALLY LOVE YOU GUYS. Thank you so much. Now off to study IN detail <3 <3 thank you SO much

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[…] Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: I’m sorry to say this isn’t a complete list (you’ll have to get the book to have that), but it still helps in understanding the common traumatic experiences listed. Seriously, this list is awesome. And if you’re trying to create a character with a specific traumatic experience, this can really help you get them right. Note: A character should not have all of the traits listed on each page. Only some of them. Pick and choose carefully in order to build your character accurately. […]

Claire
Claire
4 years ago

My suggestions for this (very awesome thesaurus that I hope you one day make a book out of) list:

Surviving a terrorist attack

Growing up with an autism spectrum disorder

Being the victim of a failed honor killing

Police brutality

Being an immediate family member to a serial killer

Sara Beth
4 years ago

I’m sure your list is growing. Definitely adding something about a child experiencing divorce would be a great one to put on here. And the sudden death of a family member (sibling) or sudden death of a childhood/family friend. Or even finding out that you’re adopted later on in life.

Thank you these are all great so far as I’ve read. Anyone else discover that your characters have multiple wounds to deal with?

Angela Ackerman
Admin
4 years ago
Reply to  Sara Beth

I think Characters, just like people, have multiple wounds, and they may make headway on several, but one will be paramount to overcome for the character to move forward and achieve that internal growth so they can achieve their goal. I think too, in series, this is a great way to work through multiple wounds, too!

Miah Arthur
Miah Arthur
4 years ago

Being the parent of an addict.