Exploiting Anger for Story Development


when someone is angry at you, they are hurting.  When you are angry at someone, ask yourself what is hurting you.How do you think of anger? Society tends to depict it as something to be avoided but can any emotion really be avoided? We can suppress it, channel it, express it, learn from it… This month focuses on learning from character anger. We’ll look at how to exploit long-term issues in the next two weeks (for character development, world development ,as well as character development arcs). In the third week, we’ll look at short-term issues (and mid/long-term issues) in the form of verbal fight scenes. And we’ll wrap up with some advanced techniques and philosophical considerations.

For our purposes this month, anger is a signal that something is wrong in the character’s life. It could be a relationship imbalance, an injustice, a smothering, an unmet emotional issue, an unmet need, an imbalance in separateness and togetherness, just to name the tip of the ice burg. “something is wrong” means something needs to change. For a writer, this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

That anger comes in many hues is a plus for the writer. There are many books on anger management. Books about intimate relationships, about anger types, about anger and spirituality, about anger management in general. What the writer wants is to read and reverse this advice. A character who can perfectly manage her anger from the beginning of the book is probably a boring character. A character who understands the reasons behind her anger at the beginning of the book may be a character well on the way to change ( later we”ll get into reasons why she still might not act to change)

At the most fundamental level, anger is an emotion. It happens instinctively (not under our conscious control), in response to something in our internal or external environments. Whether you plan what sets off your character or you are surprised by a character’s reaction, you can learn a lot from it. About the current character, past character, future character, her relationships, the world she is in, and more!

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