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Monday, May 16, 2016

Let Your Characters Get Mad / Character ER


Characters who are happy all the time would be boring. We’re certainly not happy all the time. Different life situations and daily happenings evoke different emotions. Not all of them bring smiles and love. Sometimes they bring tears or anger.

I like it when a character, especially a male character, shows their anger. I feel like they are showing who they are magnified. And of course it’s always exciting. When characters come to blows, I sit up straighter in my chair. I enjoy the intensity and the tension. The words passed, the body language, the heat. It’s all fun!

Image from Pixabay

But your characters can’t just blow up for no reason. There are a couple of things you need to do first:

1. Build up to the anger. We don’t get mad at the snap of a finger. We build up to it, so make sure you do the same for your characters.

2. Make sure their anger is justified. There has to be a reason for it. If it’s not something you would get mad at then why is your character getting mad about it? Show this so it's realistic, relatable, and understandable. Reveal your character’s thoughts and show how their body language as anger settles in.

NOTE: Sometimes writers can make their characters mad at the drop of a dime, or angrier than they should be. This is what I mean by "if it's not something you would get mad at". I've had my characters' anger pointed out to me as being extreme for the moment and then I had to dull it down because I wouldn't have gotten as mad if I were in my character's shoes.

See: Body Language / Character ER for tips on how to show anger.

Image from Pixabay

My favorite types of fights in literature:

1. Between the protagonist and the antagonist. Oh, this is always good. Readers want the two to come face to face and when it happens, things get ugly fast.

2. Between the hero and heroine. I love seeing lovers have a battle and then later make up with an equal amount of heat.

3. Between family members. This one can get especially dirty because families know everything about each other.

See if you can add one of these opportunities for your characters to get mad into your book. But Remember to build up to it and make it real.


Anger makes a character three-dimensional, so LET YOUR CHARACTERS GET MAD!



QUESTION: Do you enjoy it when characters get mad?

62 comments:

  1. The character in my trilogy started off mad at the world. He did mellow with age though...

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    1. Mad at the world is fun. At least he mellowed out. That shows his growth.

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  2. I had a character who ended up in anger management class. His stemmed from an abusive father.

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    1. That's when the anger is sad, not fun, but necessary for so many books with characters with a past like this.

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  3. It would be Quite boring to read about Pollyanna forever, wouldn't it? And totally unrealistic.

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  4. Anger is a part of our makeup and if one doesn't get angry, they are one pent up volcano. I like a good argument on occasion and more on the fun side but sometimes anger is hard to read about when it is so close to home

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    1. A pent-up volcano is right. You're right anger that you can relate to can be hard to read.

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  5. I love when characters get angry, particularly when they're going after someone who really had it coming for a long time. I don't understand people who prefer characters who are sugar and spice all the time. Normal people have a range of emotions, and aren't always sweet and happy. If someone wants characters who join hands and sing "Kumbaya," his or her best bet is probably the Five Little Peppers series or something similar.

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    1. I love that, too. It's so delicious. You almost want them to get mad because you want to see that happen.

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  6. Like you, I love the intensity of writing anger. I remember writing the last chapter of my novel and my fingers were sore after I'd finished. I hammered the keyboard as the words jumped on the page, my back was straighter than a flag pole and the blood pumped. Riveting stuff :) Great post, Chrys. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. It is riveting. I use my own anger in real life to write these parts. It's a great form of therapy.

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  7. Most of the anger I write about stems from crazy teenage hormones. But I do have a fight between family members that I'm still trying to figure out. There will be a lot of anger in that scene, but I think the other character will deserve it.

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    1. Crazy teenage hormones can create some fun anger.

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  8. Great suggestions, Chrys. It's so true that our characters should show some anger when it's warranted. Life isn't all butterflies and rainbows, LOL. Our characters can be completely different than ourselves so they may get angry way easier or about different things than we would in reality. Great tips, Chrys!

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    1. Definitely not all butterflies and rainbows. And you're right that our characters can be different from ourselves and get mad at things easier or about things that wouldn't make us mad, but sometimes we have to take a step back to make sure it's realistic. If they jump to anger quickly, readers won't believe it.

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  9. A character needs intensity which includes showing a variety of emotions including anger. In real life, there are times there seems to be no reason for the anger and I wonder if this shouldn't sometimes apply to stories... After all, what people carry inside is often hidden from the outside world.

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    1. Sometimes it's from anger build-up. I know when I let me anger build-up instead, the littlest thing can make me snap.

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  10. Lover's spats are always fun to write - especially the afterthoughts of each one. I also like the exciting tension you can build with a character everyone loves to hate and keep the reader wondering just who will take him out first:-) Of course, this is from someone who wrote a murder mystery in which nobody died - ha!

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    1. A murder mystery where nobody dies...I like that, actually! And that's coming from someone who doesn't mind killing a character off. :P

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  11. I love the complicated characters who don't outwardly show their tempers but who are angry underneath and it influences their actions.

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    1. Characters who are angry underneath are a lot of fun.

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  12. Anger, even righteous anger, is part of our makeup, I believe. So I think it would be totally believable to have a character in a book show it. Don't want perfect acting characters, but some we can relate to.

    betty

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    1. I believe that, too. Sometimes it's tempting for writers to make their characters perfect.

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  13. I have one character who is pretty grumpy all the time. And then I've got my happy-go-lucky guy who gets ticked off too. You're right, it is fun to see them get mad--and to be the one who infuriates them!

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    1. See? Even happy-go-lucky people can get mad. It happens. And you're right; it is so much fun. ;)

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  14. Making sure it is justified is a good one, as sometimes some just have it there for no reason, kinda pointless then.

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    1. Some writers do make their characters angry for no reason. I always feel there has to be a reason. Whether in the moment or for why they're always that way.

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  15. I can't say I do enjoy it. I usually feel guilty because it's something I've done in the story to make them mad. LOL

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  16. There are also fights against nature like The Old Man and the Sea. Also against circumstances and governments like The Hunger Games. Plus while I agree with most of your points Chrys, I disagree with the one about your character not getting mad if you the writer are not mad. Anger is as emotional as it is also based off the situation and personality type of the character. While anger should be justified there are also the circumstances of the fictional character versus that of the writer.

    For example a kid from the projects might resent someone who is richer than them as vice versa a rich person might look down on a person from poor circumstances. The writer if not from either circumstance or not having this kind of personality would not be upset in such a situation but would still have an understanding of the anger that their character feels. That's just my thoughts anyway and you gave some great examples. You're brilliant as always Chrys and know how get your readers minds churning. Thanks for posting!

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    1. Well, I meant that it has to be real. That people need to relate to why the character is mad. If it's not something you'd get mad at as the writer then you have to really show why your character is mad in your book. It's all about making it believable, relatable and understandable.

      Sometimes I tend to let my characters get mad for no reason and my beta readers point out their anger is a bit extreme. That's when I have to sit back and realize the anger was more than needed, more than I would've had if I were in my character's shoes.

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  17. Great post! I love when a character gets angry, and I LOVE writing scenes where there's arguing!

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  18. Anger creates great tension. I enjoy writing angry scenes.

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    1. And tension is a must for suspense stories, so angry characters are perfect. ;)

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  19. One of my novels had a daughter and mother, who loved each other very much, arguing a lot. Their fights were restricted to verbal, but were still intense. Great post, Chrys. Thanks.

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    1. Mothers and daughters can get very verbal.

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  20. I never enjoy someone else's anger. But sometimes it advances the plot...

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    1. Well, I don't enjoy anger in real life. lol I hate conflict.

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  21. Interesting thoughts. Maybe I need to have my characters show a bit of anger. Thanks for the advice.

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    1. Maybe. ;) You're welcone, Beverly!

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  22. Anger is good! I think it shows the character as much as other means, to show what gets through their shell enough to make them angry, what hits their psyche in that way.

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    1. Exactly. Anger intensifies us and really shows our character.

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  23. A very importnat tip here Chrys. Great to read.
    Yvonne.

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  24. I agree and the same rules work with all strong emotions. Great Post!

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. The same rules sure do apply for all strong emotions. :)

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  25. In the first version of my story, the MC got along with everyone. Once I realized I needed to be more cruel to him, I had most everyone else in the story despise him instead. Certainly made for a more interesting dynamic.

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    1. That would make for a more interesting dynamic. ;)

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  26. Strong emotions can really draw the reader in. Anger is certainly one of them.

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  27. Feelings that we humans have make the characters more realistic. To me that is a must.
    sherry @ fundinmental

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  28. Reading an angry exchange puts a reader on the edge of their seat reading further to see the outcome.

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    1. Indeed. I love angry characters. ;)

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  29. It's especially important to make sure your reader understands why the character became mad. You just can't set up a scene and assume the reader will figure out why just because he/she has all the facts. You have to lead him/her to that conclusion by using lots of internal thoughts. I've learned that the hard way.

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    1. Exactly. That was a point I was trying to get across. You worded it much better. :)

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  30. Originally, in the short story series I've been working on, the original draft had absolutely no one getting angry. Even the rivalry between the hero and his arch-rival there was really no anger. I've altered that this time around and though you won't see them come to fists, I am planning a heated, angry fight between two of my minor characters. As you say, it adds a bit more depth.
    Sorry, I haven't been around. I'll be back to blogging in June.

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    1. There was a rival but no anger? A heated fight would be really good. Rivals must fight! ;)

      No apologies needed. See you around.

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    2. Well, initially she was more a third-string character. She was more an annoyance than a rival. Only with the rewrite did I make her a major character and one who created some anger. I was only 16 when I initially wrote it. Almost 30 years later, I've learned a few things since then. ;)

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    3. I know what you mean. I've looked at stories I wrote at that age and younger, and I've learned a few things since then, too.

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Please tell me what you think. I love to chat! :)

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