Writing anger can be a great way of creating suspense within your plot and grabbing your readers’ attention. There may be many reasons why a character expresses anger throughout a plot and hence there are many ways to write anger.
When it comes to describing such intense emotion, words often seem to fall short. Writing anger in a realistic way can be daunting and it is easy to feel stuck and uninspired. However, knowing about all the different ways anger is expressed through body language, gestures, and facial expressions can help.
Note that when it comes to writing about anger, depending on the story, there should be a balanced description of between external signs (ex: body language) and internal thoughts & feelings.
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What is anger?
So, what is anger? Although we probably have all experienced anger at some point in our lives, it can still be useful to have a proper definition of this emotion. Anger can be described as the profound irritation felt when someone has wronged or disrespected you. It can also be described as the state in which a person becomes violent/threatening (physically and/or verbally).
Anger can be a productive emotion. It can motivate someone to change their situation or give them the courage to express themselves openly.
However, most of the time anger causes people to do or say things they wouldn’t normally do or say. People often come to regret the things they’ve done while in a state of anger.
What are anger issues?
Now that we’ve established a general definition of anger, let’s explore the concept of anger issues. We’ve all heard the expression before. Oh, Jack? Yeah, that man has anger issues. But what exactly does it mean to have anger issues? How is having anger issues different from experiencing normal anger?
Anger issues can be defined as having chronic difficulty controlling anger which often leads to violence or irrational thoughts/decisions. Getting angry from time to time is normal but individuals with anger issues seem to be in a perpetual state of irritability or anger.
Anger issues are often linked to factors including:
- Excessive stress/Anxiety
- Financial issues
- Relationship issues
- Being physically or verbally abusive towards others
- Reacting to mildly irritating situations with disproportionate anger
- Constantly regretting the things that were said/done while in a state of anger
Treatment for anger issues
If you decide to write about a character with anger issues, it is useful to know how anger issues are treated/dealt with. The usual treatments for prominent anger issues that are used by psychologists include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy: This type of therapy seems to be the most promising way of helping those with anger issues. It focuses on helping clients identify harmful thoughts, providing anger management advice and coping mechanisms.
- Family Therapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
What are the Different Types of Anger?
Anger can be characterized into different categories. The main types of anger include Passive-aggressive anger, Volatile anger, fear-based anger, frustration-based anger, pain-based anger, chromic anger, manipulative anger, overwhelmed anger, physiological anger, and moral anger.
Below is a brief description of each type of anger:
This type of anger is expressed in a more passive way than most other types. At first, your character may not even seem angry to others or insists that they are fine. However, their anger is still expressed, whether consciously or unconsciously, through sarcastic replies or petty actions.
Passive-aggressive anger can be caused by internal conflicts rather than external triggers. Your character can be angry at themselves and instead of acknowledging this fact, they may repress their anger. This would cause them to be frustrated without being able to identify the source of their frustration.
Here are some of the ways passive-aggressive anger can be expressed:
- Being purposefully difficult
- Sulking & Sighs
- Avoiding or even ignoring others
- Purposefully doing petty things that your character knows will annoy the other person
- Cancelling plans
2. Volatile anger
Volatile anger is expressed through short yet intense outbursts. This type of anger is characterized as volatile because it is usually unpredictable and there is a quick (rather than gradual) escalation of emotions.
Examples of how this type of anger can be expressed:
- Impulsively and purposefully saying hurtful things (the person will often come to regret this later)
- Suddenly becoming extremely violent, then going back to normal as if nothing happened
- Reacting in ways that are way out of proportion
3. Fear-based anger
This type of anger is, as the name suggests, based on fear rather than irritation. Fear is an emotion that is hard to deal with, so some individuals try to control their fear by expressing anger instead. It is often the case that fear-based anger is coming from a place of genuine concern for others. Individuals may not want to express that they are fearful in some way and instead use anger to get their message across.
Examples of Fear-based anger:
- Becoming angry at a loved one because they keep putting themselves in dangerous situations
- Becoming angry at someone who refuses to listen to your advice
- Becoming angry with your partner because you fear losing them
4. Frustration-based anger
Frustration typically arises from the disappointment of perceived failure. When your character’s goals and expectations do not match up with reality, they are likely to become frustrated. This frustration can become so prominent that it turns into anger.
Examples of frustration-based anger:
- Being frustrated at a loved one for wasting their potential
- Your character may be frustrated at themselves for not achieving their goals
5. Pain-based anger
As the name suggests, this type of anger is a result of trying to mask your pain. Pain is a difficult emotion to deal with and sometimes when you are down bad, being angry seems easier than being sad.
6. Manipulative anger
Anger can be used as a tool to control others. A character can display anger when others disagree with them, or when things don’t go their way. Their anger is used as a way to control a situation that they believe is derailing. A character that is constantly displaying manipulative anger may have control issues that might be negatively impacting their relationships, friendships, or even their career.
7. Overwhelmed anger:
This type of anger is manifested when a character feels overwhelmed and anxious. Your character may become angry as a response to having too much responsibility put on their shoulders for an extended period of time.
8. Moral anger
This is the type of anger that is usually provoked by injustice. Your character may have witnessed something that they feel is unfair/wrong and is now fueled by anger to make change happen.
The consequences of anger
Everyone’s actions have consequences, and this is no different for the characters in your story. The moments following your “anger scene” are just as important as the scene itself. You should think about the consequences this outburst of anger will have for your character and those around him/her. Obviously, the type and severity of the consequences will depend on the type and severity of the anger expressed by your character.
A character who expressed passive-aggressive anger towards a sibling will probably face different consequences than one who expressed manipulative anger towards their partner.
Also note that when I say “consequences”, that doesn’t necessarily mean negative consequences. Although most of the time, the consequences of anger are negative, sometimes they can be positive as well.
The key here is that your anger scene must provoke some kind of change in your story that will advance your plot, whether it be subtle or obvious. Maybe your anger scene changes the dynamic of one of your character’s relationships or it causes a full-blown fallout that changes the tone of your story. If your scene has no effect on your story, then you should wonder whether it is necessary to include it in the first place.
Here are a few examples of consequences your character might face because of their anger:
Anger might affect your character’s career in a negative way. If they’re the manager and they create a hostile work environment, their employees might never stay too long. This would cause your character to be constantly understaffed.
If your character is an entrepreneur, they will need to develop connections in their line of business. However, others might be hesitant to work with or build a connection with someone who has a reputation as a hothead.
Anger can create tension or even permanently damage a relationship, especially if cruel things are said during an argument. An angry outburst may cause your character’s social life to suffer greatly.
Anger may feel relieving or even good in the moment. However, in the long run, anger tends to lead to guilt or even shame. We tend to regret the things we say out of anger. Hence, over time, your character’s anger may cause their self-esteem to decrease. This is especially true if their anger is causing them to be socially isolated/shunned.
Not all anger is bad anger. If your character is displaying moral anger in your story because of some kind of injustice that they’ve witnessed, then their anger might lead to positive changes. Moral anger can be expressed in many different ways (such as going to a march, signing a petition, stopping someone from bullying someone else, etc.) Hence, positive consequences may be expressed in small ways (your character becoming friends with the person they’ve saved from a bully) or big ways (the petition they’ve signed causes social changes in a positive way).
The role of anger in your story
There are many roles a powerful emotion like anger can play in your story. It is important to know the role your anger scene has because this will determine how your story moves forward or may even help you conceptualize how to write the scene itself.
Below are the 3 main roles anger can play in your story:
1.Transformation of your character
An emotion like anger can transform your character for better or for worse. Let’s say your character’s a people pleaser who has difficulty setting boundaries with others. They may have been bottling up their emotions for a long time or letting others walk all over them. In this case, an anger scene might be beneficial for that character.
They could develop the courage to tell the people around them how they truly feel because they’re tired of getting disrespected or overlooked. An anger scene may transform a people-pleasing character into one that has the courage to set boundaries and be more vocal about their wants/needs.
On the other hand, let’s say your character has anger issues and often hurts the people they love the most. An intense anger scene might be the final blow that causes their friends/loved ones to cut ties with them. This social isolation can be the beginning of a downward spiral. Your character might end up becoming angrier than before.
2. Anger can cause your character’s relationships to shift
An anger scene might cause your character’s relationships to change in many ways. Taking the example I used in the previous section, a people-pleaser who finally sets boundaries with their loved ones might experience a positive shift in their relationships (where they feel more respected & appreciated).
However, their friends might decide that they don’t like this new version of your character and stop being friends with them. If this is the case, your character might have to get a different friend group.
3. Pushing your plot forward
Last but not least, an anger scene can be used to advance your plot. For example, the anger scene might lead to the climax of your story or simply lead to your character having an important realization that impacts the rest of your story.
How do we express anger /what does anger feel like?
Once, you’ve determined the type of anger you want to write about as well as the role it plays within your story, the final step is to know how to write anger. There are many ways anger can be conveyed in a story. A tip would be to balance psychical displays of anger (body language, facial expressions etc.) with the internal thoughts of your character.
How your character can express anger through body Language
Muscle Tension (clenched draw, closed fist)
Increased heart rate
Grinding your teeth
Expressing anger through Speech
Using defensive language
Repetitions (tend to repeat certain sentences/phrases)
Expressing anger through Facial expressions
Writing anger according to your character’s personality
When writing an angry scene, you should consider your character’s overall personality. Different characters will express anger in different ways.
If your character is quiet & passive, they might express anger in the following ways:
- They might be more passive aggressive rather than straightforward
- They might freeze, make themselves smaller, whisper comments under their breath
- They might also hide their anger behind jokes and sarcasm
On the other hand, a character who is less passive and more outspoken might express anger in the following ways:
- They might make accusations and threats, interrupt others when speaking, shout and curse
- They might show their anger in a physical way by pacing, throwing objects etc.
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