|Photo credit: joshjanssen on Flickr|
Humans are emotional, and in order to ensure that our stories are interesting and our readers connect with our characters, our characters must be emotional as well. Emotions are a key part of character development, and I'd like to focus on one of my favorites to write: anger.
Anger is an interesting emotion—it fuels us with a particular type of energy that demands action, and it can affect characters in many different ways. For some, it clouds judgment and incites violence, for others it inspires an unquenchable motivation, and still for others it pushes them into deep, dark places. I like to make my characters angry for a couple reasons:
- It's a particularly strong and passionate emotion. You can be a little sad (disappointment), slightly excited (anticipation), sort of afraid (nervous) and kind of happy (optimistic). It’s not often, however, that you feel slightly angry. Anger demands energy and passion in a way that many other emotions don't, and for that reason alone it can be a fantastic tool for character development and plot progression.
- It tests a character's self-control. Anger often makes us want to do things we normally wouldn't even consider doing. Whether or not our characters act on these impulses truly tests the bounds of their self-control and ability to think clearly under times of high stress.
- It often fuels action. This is closely tied to the last point, but depending on a character's level of self-control, anger can often fuel action—and usually not the kind of action that you look back on proudly, which makes for great plot.
- It reveals quite a bit about the affected character. One of the many reasons I believe strong emotions like anger are closely linked to character development is because how they react to the emotion and what causes the emotion speaks volumes about the character. What makes your characters angry? Is it something personal, like betrayal, or something more global, like injustice? Knowing what triggers these powerful emotions is absolutely essential to effective character development.
Making your characters angry is a fantastic way to move the plot forward, push your characters into making mistakes, develop them, and (not the least of which) make for some interesting scenes. Once you've figured out how to set your characters off, make sure you build opportunities into your plot to infuriate them. Your plot will thank you.
How do you use character anger in your writing?