Writing angry characters

Writing angry characters is challenging. Different personalities express anger in various ways. Few emotions reveal a character’s personality more thoroughly than how they handle anger. Great writers understand the many nuances of anger. We hope this post will help you gain a better understanding of how to write angry characters.

It is a common misconception that anger only manifests in loud, violent behavior. In reality, anger is a complex emotion that a character can express in many ways.

Here are seven different ways a character can express anger.

We have included examples.

In addition to the examples in this post, you can download 412 more phrases to help you write angry characters.

#1. Writing Angry Characters, Annoyance

Writing angry characters annoyance

Annoyance is the most common type of anger. Your character gets upset or frustrated with others. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that bother us the most. Therefore, consider writing anger because your character takes offense to another’s words or actions.

Small habits can be irritating. How your character handles their annoyance reveals much to your reader about your character’s personality. They can be kind, patient, and understanding. They can complain and use verbal abuse, sarcasm, or insults, in an attempt to end annoying behavior.

Whatever actions or dialog you choose will reveal much about your character’s personality.

Examples:

the comment doubled her irritation

complained, badgered, and provoked

complained incessantly

looking to take offense both real and imagined

conspicuously rolled his eyes

she was miffed

face creased with impatience

undisguised dismay

looked annoyed but said nothing

irked expression

face ill concealing her displeasure

forced himself to speak calmly

# 2. Writing Angry Characters, Violent

Violent anger man with fist

Violent anger often happens when one character attempts to intimidate, manipulate, or exercise dominion or control over another character.

Aggressive anger may seem powerful on the outside. However, it sometimes hides the character’s insecurity and may reveal a deep sense of inadequacy or even fear.

Chronic aggressive anger usually results in painful conflicts, ruined relationships, damaged reputations, and destructive outcomes.

Writing violent anger can be used as a character flaw in your main character—a weakness they must overcome. Aggressive anger can also be used in your antagonist as a catalyst for their downfall.

Effectively writing violent anger requires you to explain the source of the rage in backstories or flashbacks.

Examples:

atmosphere tense with a fight pending

his back went rigid,

eyes smoldering

stood squarely, facing him, feet slightly apart, eyes flashing

mind seething with anger

venom in voice

eyes flashed dangerously

shot verbal bullets

vindictiveness colored her face

eyes fierce and stormy

# 3. Temper Tantrums

Temper tantrum

Tantrums are a form of aggressive anger characterized by disproportionate outbursts. These explosions usually happen when a character’s selfish wants or needs are not fulfilled. The character’s desires may be unreasonable or inappropriate. These violent eruptions are typically directed toward characters who do not deserve such emotional fury.

Temper tantrums are a sign of immaturity. Some adults continue to unleash their narcissistic rage to manipulate or coerce others. When writing anger that includes temper tantrums, you must include the reactions of your other characters. Do the other characters acquiesce, fight back, or repress their anger and resentment?

Examples:

when she blew, it was not a white heat explosion, but a white ice explosion

face turned red. Eyes narrowed, jaw clenched

smoke shot from his ears

became incoherent

waived his fist and shouted

the tyrant raged on

fury swept through her

hatred matured abruptly

anger leaping like fire

threw something

put a fist through the wall

uncontrollable rage

For more phrases like these, download our list of angry phrases.

A cartoon of a person holding a computer

Description automatically generated# 4. Writing Angry Characters, Justifiable Anger

Justifiable anger is a sense of moral outrage at the world’s injustices. Justifiable anger can be the theme of your story or an undercurrent for a particular character.

The possibilities for this type of anger are limitless.

  • cruelty towards animals
  • oppression of human rights
  • destruction of the environment
  • violence in the home
  • criminal activity

Effectively writing anger that is justifiable requires an exploration of both sides of the conflict. That may seem counterintuitive. However, you should consider the background of the injustice. Where it started. Why does it continue? Don’t gloss over the subject. Let the reader understand the injustice’s significance and why it angers your character.

Examples:

a tense look crossed his face, quickly replaced by determination

suddenly energized for the fight

curled her lip in disgust

trying to make sense of the injustice

face slack with sorrow

eyes filled with sadness at the memory

passionately protested

her disapproval spilling out.

She pointed an accusing finger

mouth stretched in disapproving lines

words loaded with indignation

# 5. Writing Angry Characters, Passive Aggressive

write Angry characters passive aggressive

Passive-aggressive anger is expressed indirectly. It can be unintentional or a deliberate strategy to intimidate others. Generally, this is a disconnect between what your character says and what they do.

It is motivated by a desire to avoid direct communication or a fear of conflict. It involves your character being unclear or dishonest about their feelings or thoughts. They show their hostility with indirect behavior or dialog.

Passive-aggressive anger can be interesting to write about because both characters might use different passive-aggressive techniques to express their hostility.

The character may show their hostility through their behavior.

Example:

left room slamming the door behind him

turned on her heels and marched out

lack of cooperation

procrastination

intentional mistakes

moodiness

excluding others

stubbornness

writing angry characters dialog

refusal to respond

remaining silent

The character may show hostility in their dialog.

Example:

subtext beneath every word spoken and unspoken

the demeaning phrase coated her face red

Comment designed as an insult

clearly mocked her

phrased the insult adroitly

pretended unconcern

nothing veiled about the insult

said lightly, hiding resentment

voice thick with spite

cool sarcasm

answered peevishly

“I don’t care.”

# 6. Writing Angry Characters, Repressed Hostility

writing angry characters repressed anger

A character who represses their hostility may fear if they directly express their anger, they might be rejected or even abandoned. Repressed anger is learned from life experience. The character may have been taught that anger is wrong or even immoral. They become afraid of their fury.

When their intense anger emerges, they experience inner conflict. They immediately attempt to squash their rage. Their inner voice belittles them for not being in control, just like their critical parents, bullies, or teachers once did.

The character will do anything to maintain peace and harmony. Their life experience has taught them not to be too dramatic, outspoken, or energetic. They are usually viewed as a mediator or peacemaker. They don’t want to bother anyone with their emotional needs. They often become the invisible ones.

They appease others to keep the peace rather than risk conflict. They may appear overly civilized, entirely in control, or tense.

Examples:

only her firm control kept her from exploding

swallowed everything he had been planning to say

tired to the morrow trying to mitigate the argument

collected himself before responding

answered coolly

fixed her mask in place before responding

regained his composure

mood hung above him as a cloud

shifted to a safer subject

listened in silence, burning inside

nodded in resignation

shrunk from the attention

absorbed the insult calmly

# 7. Self-Anger

Writing angry characters self anger

This kind of anger has two causes. One source of self-anger is based on feelings of shame or humiliation from something in their past. The second source comes from perfectionism. Either way, the character has not lived up to their personal standards.

Self-anger is characterized by negative self-talk. The character may be highly critical of themselves, having unrealistic standards. They internalize this resentment. The character may lash out at those around them, attempting to mask their self-loathing.

Symptoms can include disordered eating, heavy drinking, substance abuse, social distancing, thoughts of suicide, and other self-sabotaging behavior.

This character may project their hostile feelings about themselves to others. Causing the character to become paranoid. They look at the world as a hostile place. This character may experience an irrational fear of others, causing them to retreat from the world.

They accumulate self-hate for not meeting their own standards. They often project their standards onto others and resent other characters for not living up to their self-imposed standards.

They tend to dedicate their lives to doing the right thing. They feel resentment when others don’t live moral lives and still find success.

Examples:

wallowing in unproductive thoughts and feelings

spent years barricading himself from the world

distasteful to a person of integrity

impossible to please

could not admit she was wrong

undercurrent of resentment

mouth stretched into a disapproving line

consumed with guilt

Conclusion About Writing Angry Characters

The best way to create angry characters is to let the anger build one layer at a time. This will take patience. The most believable anger should include the reactions of your other characters to your angry character. Writing anger will take more than one or two paragraphs.

Knowing how different characters handle anger can help you write more realistic characters. Our phrases will help you develop more dimensional characters.

Check out our post about Creating Arguments with 412 Phrases.

For more ideas about writing angry characters see: Angry Definition & Pictures

Happy Writing

John and Patty                                             @writingagreatbook.com 2023

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