Falling In Love With Angry Characters

Flaws make a character interesting, and they also make a character complex and more ‘real’ to me.  Sometimes, when choosing a flaw, I find that they manifest into several behaviours.  I personally think the biggest obstacle a character should overcome is themselves.  We sometimes hold ourselves back with our fears, doubts, anger and laziness, among others.  If we do this to ourselves, doesn’t it make sense that a credible character would also face the same negativity in their own ‘life’?  Not only that, but I tend to be compassionate towards a character that is flawed, who knows they’re flawed and struggles to do something about it, or those that know something’s wrong but haven’t yet identified their issue.  It doesn’t matter what the plot arc of the book is, whether it’s fantasy or romance or horror.  When your character has an internal struggle at the same time as events happening around them, there is a depth and richness to your story.  There is emotion.  There is connection.  A good book will make us think about the characters.  A great book will make us emotionally react alongside or on behalf of the characters.

Anger is a good starting foundation for flaws, because everyone gets angry .  The flaw is when anger is the first response, and sometimes the only response.  I’m quite a hothead myself.  A lot of people blame their heritage (“I’m Italian, or I’m French, and we are a passionate people”, etc) and apparently this isn’t too far wrong, as having a short temper is evidently genetic (according to information found on the APA —American Psychological Association and the APS —Australian Psychological Society websites).  I’ll trust the experts on this one, though the jury is out for me whether it is entirely genetic or environment plays a part.  I suspect a bit of both.  I have Italian blood in me, but I was also raised in a household full of yelling and righteous indignation.  I still tend to be on the loud side and I’m very righteous/opinionated about certain things.  Is that DNA or a learned response at work?  I have a young daughter that shows signs of hotheadedness but she’s three.  It’s far too early to worry about it, she’s still learning how to deal with her emotions.  At least I’m aware of my own upbringing.

Anger is an amazing emotion, and I find it easy to write.  There are a lot of physical effects that a writer can describe (or ‘show’) anger, without telling the reader straight away.  Tight fists, tense muscles, accelerated heartbeat, dry mouth (for some), a hot lump at the base of the throat, throbbing temples, rising body temperature, clenched jaw, wide eyes, loud voice (or hissing voice).  All of those things are physical effects of anger.  It’s a wonderful thing when you’re writing for two characters and are stuck in a particular character’s POV (point of view) and they have to interpret the anger of the other character.  Or when you want to write what they’re feeling, and you don’t want to say: “Blobby was angry when Blobica threw the banana at him.”  There isn’t any soul in that.  There’s nothing to feel.  It’s like a journalist reporting facts from an interview with Blobby after the fact.  Instead you’d want to write about Blobby’s shock of seeing the banana coming his way, about his disgust and irritation when it splats onto his shirt, and how his fists might clench and he shakes with the effort of not following through with his desire to upend the entire fruit stall on Blobica’s head.

It’s a quick way of bonding your reader to your character.  We’ve all been there; someone’s upset us, someone’s angered us.  We’ve all held ourselves back or turned the other cheek (as long as we’re not socio-paths or have serious anger management issues), and we’ve all at one point lost control and screamed.  Some of us have even lost control and fought.  Depending on how you want to paint your character–with a tainted brush, or with one of strength or stoicism, demonstrating what they do with their anger is the quickest way of telling the reader what kind of character they are.

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