Because the fiction I write is based on my own past and overcoming emotional wounds, the discovery of The Emotional Wound Thesaurus was all the more important for me to learn to develop unique and layered female protagonists. Even though the conflict and themes of my current and future novels will somewhat reflect my own experiences, I also desire to write for and create relatable characters for women of all backgrounds.
For my current novel project, I’m covering the lives and backgrounds of 3 distinct women who also happen to be sisters. And because they share many of the same childhood wounds, it’s very important for me to demonstrate their responses to those experiences in different ways. From their ages at the time of the experience, to their birth order and different personalities, having access to the details provided by The Emotional Wound Thesaurus was key to defining each woman’s strengths, weaknesses, fears, and the lies they believe at the start of the story. Then, as a part of my pre-writing strategy, I was able to branch out to the other resources available on One Stop for Writers, including their database of Negative Traits, Positive Traits, Emotions and Rural Settings to help me uncover how the sisters will experience different memories and emotional triggers based on visiting their grandmother’s house.
Five Tips to Using The Emotional Wound Thesaurus for Writing Any Novel
I’ve heard the notion that parts of who we are as people are reflected in the characters we write. Often, our first novel represents ourselves in part or in whole more than any other. I see it as a form of therapy as we work out our own personalities and struggles in the safe space of a fictional world. However, eventually, I’d like to write characters that are not like me at all! Perhaps an alter ego, or a story inspired by something I see on the news or hear about from friends.
Though my current WIP is based on the true experiences, resulting traits, beliefs, and growth processes of me and my sisters, the process of discovering the details of the fictional characters has shown me how to create future characters that are nothing like me or anyone else I may know.
- Forward and Intro Sections. Whether you think you know your characters or not, read the first 40 pages of this book! If you’re not sure about your character’s wounds yet, skim the table of contents and choose a few that seem to fit with your story concept. But then, go back and read the beginning chapters which offer exceptional insights on Self-Care for Writers (especially important if you’ll be exploring wounds that are close to your own personal experiences), The Mirror of Fiction: a Reflection of Life and Our Deeper Selves, What is an Emotional Wound?, Character Arc: an Internal Shift to Embrace Change, and more. Even though I’d already used the online database of wounds to develop my characters, I still had several breakthroughs and “ah-ha” moments in understanding my fictional sisters and how to convey the various parts of their journey in my story.
- Consider the PRIMARY Emotional Wound and choose two additional wounds. You may–as I did and especially if you’re basing your main character after a part of your own life–begin to see overlapping characteristics related to multiple wounds. This will help you to discover the dominating negative and positive traits, triggers, fears and responses for your character. In turn, you’ll be able to highlight these for fiction and the purpose of your story without overwhelming your reader with too many issues for your character to tackle. However, this process will help in knowing your character on a deeper level that should help in developing scenes, writing dialogue, or even choosing hobbies, family status, or a career path.
- Multiple POVs. This is the first time I’ve attempted writing a novel with the point of view of three distinct women. Having access to The Emotional Wound Thesaurus has been a vital part in giving each woman a unique back story, personality, and voice despite the fact that they are sisters.
- Add Your Own Elements. I’m certain this resource isn’t intended to be an end-all-be-all, but more of a spring-board of potential. Though there are realistic and unrealistic manners in which someone will respond to an emotional wound, there are ways to modify these responses depending on your character. For example, the oldest sister in my story, Sadie, is still in the process of overcoming the wound of “Becoming a Caregiver at an Early Age”. As a result, she’s avoided becoming a parent herself. Instead, she has a dog to fulfill her need of caring for another being, but also sees it as “safer” than becoming a mom and she can practice being “overprotective” without rejection or push back. I came up with this detail on my own as it seemed to fit Sadie’s personality.
- Emotional Wounds are Directly Related to Positive and Negative Traits. Even if you don’t analyze your characters or dive as deeply into their wounds as I have for mine, you’ll find this resource helpful in creating rounded characters. This goes for your protagonist, supporting characters, and even the villain. On the most basic level, choose a wound and a few associated negative and positive traits and you’ve got yourself a unique character attempting to overcome the past while battling a conflict in the present.
Once you’ve explored the surface of this excellent resource and all the possibilities, you might say what my daughter said when I attempted to explain my excitement about discovering The Emotional Wound Thesaurus:
“How has anyone ever written a novel without it?”
Pros and Cons for the Christian Writer
As much as I absolutely LOVE these resources, I’m finding I need to use some discernment when it comes to interpreting wounds, overcoming them, and applying the process of a character arc to my particular project.
Due to the content of my stories digging deep into the lives of women, many of whom are not Christians at the start and may not be by the end, the one element that seems to be missing, at least in detail, is the need for spiritual fulfillment. Though Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs is explained and displayed as a graphic in the introductory section of The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, I would have to argue that “spiritual enlightenment” isn’t only obtained at the top-tier or “Self-Actualization” stage.
In fact, knowing God, believing Him, and seeking comfort, peace, and trust in Him during the lower levels of the hierarchy could make all the difference! It did for me in my personal life, and I intend to make it work in realistic, yet profound ways for at least some of my characters. I would never have come to terms with some of the emotional wounds I experienced from childhood without seeing how those wounds could be turned into a purpose and a focus for doing good based on God’s plan for my life.
One of the reasons why I write is so that others will know they are not alone in their experience, in their struggles, and in their desire to overcome challenges and make the most of things regardless of their past and past choices.
In that regard, I’ve also been able to persevere as a writer, and continue to pursue my calling to write about women overcoming deep and difficult circumstances while overcoming my own in real life!