This month our topic is emotional wounds for our protagonists – and how to help them learn to cope with and accept those wounds.
First, what is an emotional wound? We likely all have one or more, to some extent, and it is the same for the characters we create.
Wounds can be caused by an event or series of events, by a person, particularly someone close, be it a friend or family member, from either a parent or parents, or a (usually older) sibling. It might be caused by a careless comment heard in passing, one that our character hears at a vulnerable point in their life. Rather than let it go, our character hangs on to it until it becomes ingrained in them, colouring their thoughts and feelings in a negative way.
However, much like an alcoholic who cannot recover until he or she recognizes their condition and makes the personal choice to overcome it, our characters are unlikely to recover from an emotional wound unless they look into themselves and choose to make changes. As their creators, we authors can start by building a believable backstory for the characters. The deeper the wound, the more complex the character, which can then lead to creating a strong character arc.
What is your character’s greatest fear, and why? Answering the why can be the path to overcoming the fear. Perhaps your character was bullied as a child. Not having the physical or mental strength to overcome it at the time the event(s) occurred might mean your character has difficulty standing up for himself or herself. A weak person making a bold decision can be the start of a change in that character.
One of my characters was overshadowed and controlled by her mother – until the mother was out of the picture. My character’s first step on her path to healing and growth was stepping alone outside her front door. Mother/daughter or father/son wounds are often the strongest, deepest wounds to heal.
Perhaps your character has a physical flaw which they have been teased about or otherwise made aware of. This might make them not value their self, to make them think they have less to offer than the next person. It might make them unlovable when what they want most in life is to love and be loved.
Another of my characters dealt with her father’s murder by tracking down the murderer. The villain in one of my short stories suffered abuse as a child, which led to him being an abuser and ultimately committing murder.
This is an extensive and complex subject, and I have given only brief examples of ways in which characters can be wounded. Because I write historical and contemporary romance, my characters' wounds are usually resolved through love. Idealistic, maybe, but the genre known for its happy-ever-after endings still leads the market.
Now to visit my fellow bloggers to see what they have to say on the subject.
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2W9
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
In the romance genre, if there wasn't a HEA your reader would abandon you so we do have to heal them. But as you so sagely point out, those wounds aren't healed by someone else, they are healed when the character faces them down. Sometimes they need to ask for help, but the need to ask is critical. Help can't be foisted on them. In my book, Worry Stone, my hero is dealing with the guilt and pain of having been a soldier in war time. He thinks falling in love and marrying this lovely, cheerful woman, will heal him and at the start of the book, she is convinced that she can love him enough to heal those wounds. It isn't until he gets to the lowest point and finally reaches out for help that the healing begins. But there is still a HEA. And you are right, this is a complex subject. One that takes research, time, and insight. Good post.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the wise analysis, Victoria. I agree with all of it. In my post, though, I focused on the benefits of surviving. I'll be interested in your take on that.ReplyDelete