I never expected this segment of the project to take this long! Oh well.
In the first segment, I discussed why anger is important to your writing (you have to include emotion or your characters will come off as unfeeling or sociopathic), and typical ways character types get angry. In the second, I talked about some specific examples.
Now it’s time for the tips on how to work characters getting angry into your own work. Yay! *throws yogurt instead of confetti*
Now that everyone has had their free yogurt facial, I’m going to start talking.
As you saw in my last post in this series, characters often act in given ways due to their backstory. This isn’t necessarily part of their personality, though. For the sake of this post, I’m referring to personality as an enduring set of traits that influence a person to act in a certain way.
Some characters may go through a lot of trauma and never show any outward sign of it. Others may struggle to come to terms with it, but their core personality remains the same. Others are completely different following the experience.
Another quick checklist, this one for determining whether or not an experience (traumatic or otherwise) changes a character:
- How intense was the experience?
- How profound an effect did it have on the character?
- Was it a “first time” of some kind?
- How old was the character at the time?
- How long did it last?
- How long ago was it?
- How much of the character’s entire comparative life span did it take up? (e.g. if it’s been happening to them all their lives, or if it’s a more recent occurrence, or if it happened years ago but took up years.)
Also you have to consider the character. Some characters are just more resilient than others.
When a character gets angry, consider how they do it. Do they rage? Do they threaten violence? Do they use their words, and how do they use their words? Do they just walk away, or do they confront the problem?
Here’s an example from one of my novels:
Before the monster could shatter Cael’s bones with that massive paw, it suddenly reeled backwards, writhing in agony, a faint blue light shining from somewhere in the area of its maw. Its death throes lasted for only a few seconds, but it seemed much longer. As the beast fell, Arden leaped down from its back.
‘What are you doing here, Cael?’ he asked in a quiet, calculated voice, his face immobile.
‘I thought someone was in trouble,’ Cael stammered.
‘And you just wandered off?’ The words were velvety smooth but as perilous as quicksand. Not trusting himself to answer aloud, Cael nodded. ‘What did I tell you?’ Arden asked, his eyes flashing. Cael wondered if Arden was going to punish him in some way. But rather than doing anything, Arden continued in that dulcet, threatening tone, which was, in a way, more terrifying than anything he might have done.
‘Don’t wander off.’
If you can’t tell, Arden is a Type Five and Cael is either a Type One or Two. 😉
Remember that some characters are just innately more terrifying when they’re angry than others.
If your viewpoint character is the object of the anger, make sure to decide whether the other character’s form of anger is frightening to them or not, then pick out a few details that stand out to them. Choose just a couple of reasons why the anger is frightening and focus on them. Scrub your writing of too many details and purple or flowery prose–you can use a few details and a few unusual words, but don’t use too many, which will bog your writing down and detract from the emotion of the scene.
The same advice can also be useful for writing other forms of fear and shock as well. You can also, if you like, include some incongruous details for your character to notice: the color of a friend’s eyes, a brightly-colored balloon, a flower, the fact that it’s suddenly clouded over or cleared up. Use them to create a sense of detachment and for contrast.
Good luck with your writing!
Thanks for reading, and God Bless!