Verbal Fight Scenes: Anger Patterns in Relationships

People were given pictures of human figures and asked questions about the "movement" of different emotions. They were also given a color chart, and asked to write down which colors they associate with each emotion. Photo Credit:

Parent. Love interest. Best friend. Rival. You main character will react differently to anger depending on the nature of the relationship she is in – and the nature of the other person. Luckily for the writer, within the relationship these reactions are  consistent across time (until one character decides to change).
Anger patterns are a useful way to further individualize relationships and characters. Why does your character go on the offensive with her father but go silent with her mother and use sarcasm with her brother? Notice that there is an internal pattern to the scenario that I just laid out that can be explained by several different back-stories. Once you know the why of your character’s side of several relationships, you will probably have a predictor for how she will automatically react in other relationships.
What allows this anger pattern to continue? Your character’s pattern in the relationship is enabled by the other person (otherwise the relationship probably would have been severed long ago). Person B knows the moves in this dance every bit as well as your character. Even though there is anger, they’ve (unknowingly) agreed that this is the way to handle it. So when your character finally starts taking responsibility for herself and tries to change this pattern… well. The other character will try to restore the old pattern.
While verbal fight scenes can happen at any time in a story, of course, but these scenes are especially likely to happen when other character try to prevent your character from changing. Even allies are likely to have verbal fights with your character when your character’s change also means a change in their relationship.
“Change back” can include logic, threats, and actual punishments. These efforts by other characters initially meet with some success as your character backslides. You can see how these attempts can be turned into verbal fights where your character comes out worse of in some way. She can backslide and temporarily gain peace or she can hold fast to her new thought process and risk damaging (or loosing) a relationship.
I hope this gives you some new ideas and helps you further understand and develop your characters through their relationships with others. Anger can be a useful tool!


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