How to write Guilt. -C
Hmm, okay. Guilt is something I know a lot about.
Everyone experiences guilt differently. Like, for me, guilt is amplified and often misplaced due to anxiety and depression. I feel bad about really dumb pointless things.
There are different levels of guilt, too. A kid feeling guilty about a lie is different from guilt for hurting a friend or something.
A character may have differing physical reactions to guilt. They might feel nauseous or uneasy. People may become defensive.
One portrayal of guilt I really like would be The Doctor. (Ignoring the recent events with the 50th special.)
Aside from the pain of destroying his people, there are plenty of times when the Doctor fails to save someone. That guilt lingers and stays and you can see how it affects him.
Another character who shows guilt would be Aang from Avatar the Last Airbender. He feels guilt. He left his people because he was afraid, and his people suffered. He’s a really child-like character, but he’s someone who has a lot of regrets and has to grow up very quickly.
Feeling guilt is not pleasant at all, and people can be good at repressing it or denying their feelings.
People can feel guilty about things completely out of their control, too. It’s a really complicated emotion.
Thank you, Mandark!
More links for guilt:
Hurray learning things about guilt! *confetti*
Possible trigger warning: Death will be mentioned several times throughout this article. The word is mentioned, as well as how people deal with their own death and the death of loved ones, but you won’t find anything too specific or descriptive. Still, if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t continue.
Losing something or something we really love it never easy. The same should happen with our characters, given that they are real people, with real emotions, which need to be portrayed as accurately as possible in order to let the reader relate and understand them easily.
To better portray the emotions a person goes through when grieving, one should first and foremost understand The Five Stages of Loss and Grief (also known as The Küber-Ross model), an interesting hypothesis introduced by Küber-Ross. This hypothesis was primarily designed based on people who were dealing with the imminence of death, but later on, it was recognized to also fit other common types of grieving, such as the death of a loved one, losing a job, the end of a relationship (break-ups), the end of a friendship, a child going through their parents’ divorce, etc. This hypothesis says that, when grieving, people go through five stages:
Denial is a temporary defense mechanism that helps people buffering the immediate shock. You might hear people say “I am fine”, “This can’t be happening”, etc. People usually use this defense mechanism as a way to postpone facing the facts, even though, unconsciously, they might be well aware of what’s happening. When that awareness becomes conscious, there’s anger.
Denial masks the pain, but it eventually comes back when one accepts the denial cannot continue. This is when reality strikes and what happened finally sinks in. People are likely to feel like they don’t care about the event due to the feelings of rage. This anger may manifest itself in several ways: one can become angry at oneself, at someone in specific, at a group of people or simply at everyone and everything. When someone is dealing with anger from grief, it’s generally better to remain detached and nonjudgmental, in order to let people be angry. It’s a natural and healthy feeling, that only means the person is walking on the road to moving on.
Depending on the type of loss a person is experiencing, this stage can manifest itself in different ways. People will try to find ways to delay the outcome, by trying to bargain. This stage involves the hope that things can still change, and the unavoidable result might be eliminated or, at least, delayed. When the person realizes bargaining will bring little to no results, they move on the next stage
Given the fact that depression is a clinical condition, this term shouldn’t be taken literally. While, in extreme cases, this is the stage where people might fall in a clinical, serious depression, some people may just face extreme sadness. A wide range of feelings is common in this stage: sadness, fear, regret, uncertainty. In this stage, people tend to detach themselves from the world, by spending a lot of time alone and even pushing some friends and family away. It’s recommended to let someone be sad when they need to be, as dealing with our own emotions is important to finally get to the last stage of grieving: acceptance.
Individuals accept the unavoidable and become more positive. They slowly go back to their everyday lives, which may have been neglected in the earlier stages of grief. However, this might not always be a happy period. This simply means individuals are finally at peace with their loss, even though the pain might still be very fresh and strong.
People grieve differently. The process of grieving isn’t an exact formula that’s applicable to everyone. These stages aren’t always easily distinguishable, and people might skip stages or go through them in different orders. While this is the most common way of grieving, people are different and, therefore, they’ll going to mourn the loss of something or someone loved in different ways. Some people might go through all five stages in a month, while others may take months, years, or never get to the stage of acceptance. These people often become frustrated and angry at the world, and they might start suffering from conditions such as anxiety or depression.
The process of grieving also depends on the personality of the individual and their specific characteristics and even their cultural background. Someone who always tries to look on the bright side of things might be faster at grieving, but it shouldn’t be assumed that this person will not grieve loss. Loss isn’t easy for anyone, even those who seem to always have a smile on their faces. One way or another, everyone will have their own ways of going through difficult moments. Unlike most Occidental cultures, some societies celebrate the deaths of their loved ones by singing, dancing, and wearing white on funerals. They do so because they believe these people are now in a better place, in the company of those who have also left before. While this doesn’t mean that people are happy for someone’s death, they tend to approach the event more lightly and positively that most Occidental societies do.
When someone finds out death is imminent, they grieve the imminent loss of their own lives. People start by denying they are going to die, by saying they feel fine and there’s no way it could happen. Then, they become angry, “Why me?”. Bargaining to a higher power to try to buy some more time is also common in cases of imminent death and, when the bargaining fails, people fall into sadness. The emotional detachment that comes with the stage of depression is important, as well as the feelings experienced by those grieving. They finally accept their own fate as something inevitable, which often happens before their loved ones get through with their own process of grieving for the imminent loss of this beloved person. While grieving before death usually leads to an easier acceptance of the matter, it can also lead to a more prolonged process that will only bring sadness and a feeling of helplessness to those who have to experience the imminent passing.
Death of a Loved One
Facing the death of a loved one can also start by denial. We know so little about the aftermath, and therefore we ask ourselves too many questions about where this person might be and what they would want us to do. Anger doesn’t always manifest itself, especially if the person died from natural causes or prolonged illness, as people might immediately skip to the stage of depression. Bargaining isn’t uncommon either, with commonly-heard expressions such as “I’d give anything to have him/her back”. However, this is a more conscious bargaining, since people are aware of the irreversibility of death. Depression is the lengthiest phase, where people reminisce on times with that loved person and go through very hard moments when they realize they’ll never see this person again. Not everyone gets to accept the loss of someone they love, but it’s common to start understanding the concept of finitude and start to rediscover life without this person.
Breakups aren’t easy, and the denial phase might be long and hard to overcome. The person who was broken up with often tries to keep in touch with their former lover, and they keep finding excuses for rejection. They tell themselves the person might want them back and, therefore, refuse to stop living in denial and to move on. When reality finally strikes in, they become angry at the person who broke up with them and at themselves, wondering what they could have done to avoid the ending of the friendship. The stage of bargaining might come before the anger, as it is known for the exhaustive tries of finding a compromise “Can we still be friends?”, “I will change for you!” are common phrases in the stage of bargaining. When they come to the realization that the bargaining failed, people either start becoming angry, and then depressed or, if they’ve experienced anger before, they might become sad immediately. The depression stage is where people go through the best and worst moments of the relationship and miss them the most. Acceptance comes when people realize that maybe, it was better this way.
The most important thing when writing grief is to make it clear that it’s very subjective, and don’t try to stereotype it. Play around with these five stages and adapt them to your character’s personality, in order to create a believable and relatable state of mourning, which will add substance to your character and maybe make your readers feel those emotions as well.
Feelings Extrapolated - The roots of your characters’ emotions.
Anonymous asked: Hi, I was wondering if you folks had any resources that describe different grieving processes people go through? I think most everyone has heard of the ‘stages’ process (anger, denial, bargaining etc.), but it’d be awesome to have something that goes into greater detail about it, or offers some sort of alternative. :)
The stages of grief are actually pretty standard. There’s really no need to search beyond them for alternative methods of examining grief, though of course you may look into the books in our further reading section for more strategies for understanding and coping with loss.
We, however, are going to focus on the Five Stages of Grief, also known as the Kübler-Ross Model. For the record, these stages are:
This list isn’t meant to represent the proper emotional journey of grief. There is no normal way to grieve. These stages may be of uneven length or create a loop to repeat until there is some epiphany and the sufferer can move past it; some stages may come out of order or not at all. But mostly, this is a pretty decent angle at which to start examining grief.
It’s easy to look at those five stages and think of a list like that as limiting, boring even. Each grieving process will be unique to the character going through it, as will the feelings and actions of the character at each stage. Characters exhibit grief in myriad ways. They are not limited by the most obvious clichés of denial or depression.
And, of course, there is everything in between. Messing with the reader’s expectations for a character’s reaction can yield powerful results. As John Green wrote in The Fault in Our Stars, “Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”
Here are some assorted tips and observations on writing grief. Do with them what you will, but remember that these are not universal:
There is obviously a lot more we could say on grief, both in coping with loss and in writing it, but that ought to get you started.
Here are some links to further online reading:
And here are some book lists on this subject:
Thank you for your question! If you have anything to add or any further questions, please hit up our ask box!
Let’s just start by saying that—Surprise!—emotions are complicated and not everyone feels them or exhibits them in the same way. There are, however, more ways to exhibit surprise than the old stand-by of widening eyes.
What is surprise?
Surprise (n): A feeling of astonishment or shock caused by something unexpected.
Other things to note about surprise:
Keep in mind as you write that the intensity of the surprise and the emotions that follow a character’s initial surprised reaction are situational and extremely personal to the character, though there are a few general things to remember about surprise:
Since feeling startled involves fear and fear is a separate emotion from surprise, your character will likely have slightly different physical expressions of their emotion. A startled character will likely cringe, flinch, or go into a crouch. This cringe is just as instinctive as the hallmarks of surprise, but it is not indicative of surprise. A startled reaction is its own special thing.
So, how can you vary your description of surprise? Here are a few suggestions:
The best way by far to learn to describe an emotion is to research it thoroughly. With that in mind, check out these awesome resources to learn more about surprise:
Thank you for your question! If you have anything to add to this article or a question of your own, please visit our ask box!
I’m bored and my coffee is cold, therefore:
Briefly (and creatively) describe your favourite facial expression.
I’ll start. Mine is that deadpan expression, completely drained of emotive wrinkles or curves or glimmerings, that only comes when one says something along the lines of “this is my shocked face”.
P.S. This could be super useful to people looking for creative facial expressions for their writing. Might be worth a peek at the comments. Just sayin’. #JustifyingMyRandomness
“Struggle with how to show, not tell a character’s feelings? Need help creating fresh body language that does come off as stale or cliché?
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression is a writer’s best friend, helping to navigate the difficult terrain of showing character emotion. Through an easy-to-use list format, this brainstorming tool explores seventy-five emotions and provides a large selection of body language, internal sensations, actions and thoughts associated with each. More information on this resource can be found on our Goodreads page or scroll down for our SAMPLE ENTRIES.”
Follow the link to read more.
Robert Plutchik created a wheel of emotions in 1980 which consisted of 8 basic emotions and 8 advanced emotions each composed of 2 basic ones.
Eight Basic Emotions
Basic Emotion ⇄ Basic Opposite
Combination of Basic Emotions (A + B) = Advanced Human Emotions (Opposite Advanced Emotion in Parentheses)