Thursday, November 6, 2014


Reactions to frustration are also known as defense mechanisms because they try to defend individuals from the psychological effects of a blocked goal. When people get frustrated, they become edgy and cross. They experience uneasiness and also show various reactions of frustration.

Understanding the causes and responses of frustration will help you decide what triggers your character.  Does your character respond with sarcasm, insults, alpha male postulations, impatience, anger, false humility, bitterness, or even turn to drinking or violence?

Plotting from frustration reflects what motivates your character and how he responds, counters, and even changes as the results of his actions.  Get excited when your character instinctively reacts when he doesn’t get what he wants. Can his reaction provide you with plot ideas?

Absolutely!  I’m convinced showing internal and external frustration is the difference between believable and unbelievable characters.  Never assume your reader knows what your character is feeling.  Dig deep and portray what you want your reader to know and how you want them to react through your character’s actions and emotional frustration.
It’s important to note that frustration is not a pure emotion.  It’s that hair-pulling, beyond comprehension, foot-stomping, annoyed beyond reason emotion that drives our characters into nail-biting situations that we love in a novel.

Frustration fuels our plot, makes our characters agitated and unsatisfied, and grips the reader page after page.  Always remember when you keep your characters from getting what they want - it creates frustration.  I call frustration the heartbeat of my story.

You and I want to avoid or handle frustrations – but it’s imperative our characters don’t.   We truly get to know our characters by how they react to frustration.  It’s the fuel that propels your story forward.  I’d like to suggest frustration is emotional gold.

Make sure your characters handle frustration in their own way.  People don’t react the same way to frustration, and neither should your characters.  Understanding this emotion will help you create believable emotion – which creates believable characters.

Some examples?  Crying, depression, accusations, revenge, self-deprivation, addiction, ignoring the issue, arguing, verbal and physical attacks, and even running from the problem.  It’s endless for sure.

Make sure you stay true to the core of your character’s values and they will react internally and externally in-character.  Keep in mind reactions to frustration must progress as the risks even dangers escalate, but stay within reason.

The next time you feel frustrated – take a moment and analyze what emotions you’re feeling and write them down.  Be honest – if it’s anger or hurt or even heartbreak.  Don’t miss the opportunity to evaluate the range of emotions your frustrations take you.  Give those same internal and external emotions to your characters, and your reader will believe every word.

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