Fiction Characters: Emotions and Themes

In the riveting online crime writing course I currently attend, we’ve been investigating lists of characters in our works-in-progress, and how they relate to each other.

If you like doodles and charts, you can take this a step further, like I’ve done above, describing the top emotion one character feels about another and how this is reciprocated.

Now this is small section of my relationship web, but even so, you can see emotions are repeating themselves. There are two ‘concerns’ for instance in this little section and across a larger expanse, ‘loathing’ ‘deep loathing’ and ‘confusion’ repeat themselves.

It strikes me that repeated emotions would certainly be clues to themes explored in the novel. But I also felt that maybe I was on a treadmill of my own limited fixations…maybe my characters and my own range of explored emotions needed broadening?

A short burst of research delivered this:

It’s an emotional wheel, created by medical professor and psychologist Robert Plutchik, to support his theory of emotions.

Plutchik said there were eight primary emotions : joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation. There were other connected manifestations of these primary emotions, shown above.

As writers, this wheel may inspired us to invest our characters with more interesting emotions – and also to analyze how they are most likely to defend themselves, psychologically.

Current homework here is identifying most frequent emotions in work-in-progress main characters, and how they respond defensively. Like me, you may want to map all these out and even color the emotions in, using Plutchik’s helpful ideas.

Have fun!