Character Trait Thesaurus Entry: Wounded

Definition injured, hurt, or suffering from a wound (physical, mental, or emotional)

Causes: being hurt (purposefully or unintentionally, repeatedly or one time only) by a person or event in the past

Characters in Literature and Pop Culture: Melinda (Speak), Severus Snape, Dally (The Outsiders), Will Hunting (Good Will Hunting)

Positives: Woundeds, when well-written, are relatable. Characters who have been abused or misused are easier for the reader to sympathize with. Even the coldest villain can tweak a reader's heartstrings if his behavior is the result of him being mistreated. Woundeds are often conflicted, acting one way but wanting to act another, or being one person but wanting to be a different kind of person. We all face this same dilemma at different times throughout our lives; seeing someone go through it makes us feel for them, root for them.

Negatives Because they've been so deeply hurt, Woundeds often act out in ways that others find disturbing or unforgivable. Woundeds have trust issues and difficulty relating deeply to others and often live in isolation. Despite their desire to avoid being hurt again, many Woundeds subconsciously enter into unhealthy relationships that repeat the cycle of past abuse. Though they may not want to hurt others, many Woundeds become the wounders, abusing others in the same way they were mistreated.

Common Portrayals: psychopaths and sociopaths, serial killers, criminals, gang bangers, bullies, the homeless, villains, victims of violent crimes, suicides

Cliches to Avoid: the Wounded who struggles to change but ends up taking his or her own life to escape the pain, the tough-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside Wounded, the hooker with the heart of gold

Twists on the traditional Wounded:  

  • More often than not, a character's wounds are inflicted by others. What about a person becoming who they are solely through their own actions, whether accidental or intentional?
  • Instead of the angry, vengeful walking wounded, how about one who is hopeful and optimistic? Make the results of their wounds somehow attractive, instead of repulsive to others. This could lead to a slew of new conflicts between your hero and the people around him.
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Wounded unique or more interesting: trusting, confident, gentle, contented, happy

16 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love these character trait posts. I'm constantly using them while planning my new WIP. :D

Lisa Gail Green said...

Awesome as always. I love that you used Snape as an example!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great list! Wounded characters are a lot of fun to write! :)

Traci Kenworth said...

OMG, needed this for a character I'm writing. Thank you so much!!

ralfast said...

Great stuff as always. I have written several wounded characters. The MC in my second book is a war veteran of recent wars and has to deal with the aftermath of both physical and psychological wounds (not actual full blown PTSD although other characters do show the effect of it) as does the MC of my Renaissance Fantasy Ricardo (who watched his father abuse his mother in front of him multiple times).

Not easy to write, not without falling into broken stereotypes or "abusing" the Freudian excuse curve.

The Golden Eagle said...

I'd never thought about using a wounded character before. It would make for an interesting trait--and I love your example of Snape!

Riv Re said...

Another great entry. Definitely gave me what to think about on the "cliche's" bit.
Another cliche to avoid (most often when writing something that has romance in it): The fierce hero with tons of battle scars that make him more attractive. (Why do all girls seem to fall for guys with battle scars?)

Becca Puglisi said...

Great point, Riv. I hadn't thought of that one.

Julie Musil said...

This is awesome. A great example of this was both characters is Hate List. I felt sympathy for the villain, even though he'd done horrible things. The author did a great job of showing a wounded soul. Great stuff, Becca!

Heather said...

You SO had me with the picture. *sigh* Damaged are by far my favorite type of characters.

Leslie Rose said...

Wow. I never thought as wounded in the sense of a trait, but you've defined it perfectly. I'm reading THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE and poor Henry is constantly dealing with wounds and injuries that progress through the book. It makes him so visceral as a character.

Anne E. Johnson said...

Great post. Literature (and movies) gain a lot from characters being motivated by their pain.

Janice Lane Palko said...

Great post. I find I'm fascinated by characters like Don Draper on Mad Men. He cheats on his wife, belittles his underlings and leads a double life, but his troubled childhood and occasional good deeds keep him interesting.

Diane Carlisle said...

Hooker with a heart of gold. Wow! :)

Great post! I love rooting for the wounded character, but you're right, don't have them commit suicide or something weak like that. A protagonist is supposed to overcome their flaws, or at least accomplish their objectives despite them.

Death is typical with your anit-heros, but suicide is a sign of weakness, and no hero should be that weak. If the anti-hero must die, have them killed off by something not of their own will.

authormariagrace.com said...

Thank you for this resource. I find myself referring to it often as I am sketching characters. I especially love the suggestions for making characters more interesting.

Dan Clarke said...

Nicely thought out, and useful for beginners.
I've seen too many wounded characters to feel much sympathy for most of them. But a few still manage to tug my heart strings. Severus Snape by the end was one of them.
And I completely agree, a character who commits suicide to escape the pain is useless. Having him or her go out in a blaze glory or to help people is the way to go.
Cheers
Dan

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