Sure, as writers, we want NOTHING to do with this emotion. Between manuscripts returning from critique partners with their guts ripped out to agent form rejections to a book review that compares our writing skill to that of a lobotomized hamster, frustration awaits at every turn.
We develop coping strategies to avoid it: pep talks before opening email. Chugging Diet Dr. Pepper by the six pack. Sucking on the sweet innards of M&Ms, pretending each one contains a Muse's orphan tears and gives us writing superpowers. *coughs* What, you don't do that? Erm, yeah....me neither.
So, on the keyboard side of things, frustration sucks. But on the page? MAGIC.
Frustration--that hair-pulling, chair-kicking delight--is what drives our novel. It juices our plot, makes our characters twitchy and unfulfilled, and glues the reader to the page. Keeping characters from their goals creates Frustration (AKA Tension, the Heartbeat of a story).
So while WE try to avoid this emotion, it's important we make sure our CHARACTERS don't. In this state a character reveals who they really are. Frustration is emotional GOLD, forcing them to ACT, which pushes the story forward.
Of course, no two people express their Frustration the same way, and neither should characters. Understanding their Emotional Range (how they express emotion and to what degree) is key to creating believable emotion.
When up against a wall, a character might:
Run from the problem
Try to manipulate/influence
Vent out loud
React with violence
Take out anger on others
Ask for help
Analyze what happened in hopes of understanding
Fall into a bottle, feed an addiction,
Act like it doesn't matter
Bounce back & try again
Do Reactions Fit the Character?
A hardened criminal character isn't going to ask for help or have himself a weepy moment. A skittish, shy teen isn't about to rant and rave in the middle of the school, and I doubt a Kindergarten teacher would whip out her AK-47 to get her rage on. These things don't belong in their Emotional Range.
Who our characters are at their core--their values, their sense of self, their confidence levels and insecurities--dictate how they behave. The hardened criminal is gonna get himself some revenge. The timid teen might blame himself or simply retreat inward. Our Kindergarten teacher would rethink the situation and maybe ask for help. Or jump back in because of the try, try again conditioning she promotes in the classroom. These reactions fit their personality types and so are believable to the reader.
So the next time you're frustrated as a writer, sit your butt in front of the keyboard and write. Pass it on to your characters and your book will thank you for it. :)
NEED SOME TIPS ON HOW TO SHOW FRUSTRATED BODY LANGUAGE? CHECK OUT THIS EMOTION THESAURUS ENTRY!