Last episode of a Writer’s Guide, we talked about physical wounds and injuries and some descriptions you can apply to those. This time, we are exploring wounds of the mind. Like physical wounds, mental and emotional wounds can fester and scar. Unlike physical wounds though, the wounds that lie within can burn and inflict damage again and again.
It’s one thing to be hurt physically. Physical pain fades, physical pain can only hurt you once. Physical pain produces adrenaline, it can help you. A physical injury causes pain receptors to activate your brain releasing certain chemicals that allow you to feel less of that pain. And eventually, it heals – it goes away.
A wound that lies within your mind, that lives in your heart and in your brain every day… Is torture. Mental and emotional wounds are literally the worst thing you can inflict upon your characters. And they can be caused by anything. Let me repeat that – ANYTHING.
Witness someone die – traumatised. Cause someone to be hurt accidentally – traumatised. Lose a family member – traumatised. Have your things stolen – traumatised. The list goes on…
Sometimes, these wounds or afflictions are temporary. They go away on their own and the person never has to worry about that again – then again sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they turn into full-blown complexes that can cause anxiety and depression and can impede daily life.
When you think about it in regard to your characters, the resulting trauma can be a lot of fun to work with. Or at least it is if you mean like me. My characters haven’t always had the best life, the vast majority of them have had something tragic in their past and I really don’t know why beyond that’s who they are. Gryphon lost her parents at a very young age, Ibianna had some shit go down, Alessandria probably had the worst upbringing of them all – which really sucks for her. I won’t go into the rest but needless to say, they’ve all had it pretty rough. (Sorry that I couldn’t go into more detail – SPOILERS)
Those tragic backgrounds, the trauma that they experienced not only early on in life continued to experience to this very day affects them so strongly and can result in some fairly interesting reactions depending on the situation I put them into. For example, when Gryphon is faced with a situation where it’s her in danger or an innocent danger, she will always choose herself. Gryphon will happily throw herself in front of a horde of beasts if it means protecting just one person – if she can. And that comes from a life of training and conditioning and knowing that sometimes she is the only person standing between life and death for someone. Which, of course, means that when she fails, she takes it so hard. It would devastate her if she was unable to save someone who was within her power to save. It also meant that she very reluctant to rely on anyone else, that means that even if they have the strength and ability to protect themselves, she will still try and save them; she will still try to keep them from danger. This can be very annoying, and it is pointed out to her on more than one occasion.
For this post, I was obviously researching what else is out there for our emotional wounds and what it takes to understand them and I came across this great website called writershelpingwriters and honestly, it has like everything you would possibly need. So I’m gonna take a couple articles and link them underneath this, which will hopefully answer your question and give you a helping hand when it comes to writing emotional trauma and its after-effects.
To summarise this article they basically talk about understanding the needs and fears of your character and understanding how they each would react in certain situations – like the example I gave of Gryphon earlier. It also highlights that fear and emotional wounds and mental struggles breed flaws – like Gryphon’s need to keep people safe – even when it’s against their well.
The next link provides some examples of different situations or experiences that could cause these type of wounds to occur in a character it also goes into a lot more detail if you click further into the articles. Also good news, the emotional wounds thesaurus is coming in book form in autumn 2017 (so that is spring in the southern hemisphere for those of you who are a bit confused.). So this is very exciting and if you want to buy please do so because I think it could be a great resource.
The last link talks about its different types of emotional wounds and is goes into some really thought-provoking dialogue. To summarise they highlight seven “wound themes” which are psychic, injustice, failure or mistake, betrayal, isolation, neglect, and disillusionment. They go into a lot more detail in the article so I highly recommend popping over and having a quick read – it’s well worth it.
As always guys, I’m gonna tell you to go and write something – and add that you enjoy yourself.