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    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2010

    Hey guys – I’m struggling with one of my characters being really angsty. How do I stop her from being overly so and ruining the narrative? I’m really lost on how to prevent this.

    So yeah. Impart me with your wisdom, O Wise Imps.

    • CommentAuthorWiseWillow
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2010

    Hmm. Well, she has good reasons for being angsty. But you could have an exploration of her character in how she snaps out of it- does she realize on her own how angsty she’s being, and snap out of it? Does she wallow in grief? Does someone (a friend, or random person) somehow snap her out of it? Does she turn her angst into something else, such as anger? Does she channel her grief into a project or into magic use or violence?

    Angst isn’t always bad, just try to show grief rather than whining.


    I think the important thing is that your character needs some means of coping. When most real people have traumatic experiences, they don’t think about it constantly, especially not with the great length and frequency too many fictional protagonists indulge in. Willow sorta said this already though.

    I think it’s important to make absolutely sure you show more dimensions to the character beyond being a big ball of tragedies. I haven’t read it, so I have no idea if you do or not, but IMO angst really becomes unbearable, instead of merely annoying, if it overshadows everything else about the angsty character.


    Perhaps she could try and cope with a sense of humour? That’s how I handle my own angst IRL.

    • CommentTimeJan 11th 2010

    Well, there’s a difference between grieving and angst, I think. “Angst” is where excessive amounts of time are spent whining over things that are not as big of a deal as the person makes them out to be… or they’re only given to that person to make them more “dramatic” or whatever. Honestly, it sounds like your character has a lot of reason to be depressed. I guess the thing to watch out for is that
    A) other characters don’t just accept that, they challenge her and say “quit whining, it’s not going to solve anything” or otherwise aren’t overly sympathetic
    B) she isn’t being whiny for the sake of being whiny, everything she is depressed about is honestly something that would depress her
    C) she isn’t excessively whiny about it.

    I guess she shouldn’t be “whiny” at all, more depressed or dark instead. Does this help at all? If you made her all light and happy and never down at all, that would be no better than being angsty, you know?

    • CommentTimeJan 11th 2010

    I don’t think your character falls into angst territory. As already mentioned, she has good reasons to be depressed and grieving. If all she does is whine about it, then it becomes angst, but otherwise, I don’t see much angst happening. Grief and depression are very different from angst.

    Keep her proactive, use her dwelling on the unhappiness in her life to expand upon her character, and don’t cheapen her situation for drama, and you should be fine.

    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2010

    The problem with angst is that, while angsting, your main character is pretty much passive. Best way to cure that is to make sure your character always has a goal in mind. Avoid writing pages of internal monologue rehashing the reasons why her life sucks. You don’t want it to seem like there’s no way out of her suffering; that’s boring and depressing. Devote less time to her tragedies, and more to her struggle to overcome them.


    Devote less time to her tragedies, and more to her struggle to overcome them.

    I think that’s a very succinct way of putting it. I will definitely keep that in mind.

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeJan 22nd 2010

    Devote less time to her tragedies, and more to her struggle to overcome them.

    I think that’s the best way of putting it. If you’d like an example (and even if you don’t, I’m giving you one anyway because I like examples) then look at the movie Batman Begins. Bruce has plenty of time and space for angst in this movie: His parents die (shot to death in front of him!) the killer isn’t caught until he’s an adult, and then he finds out that the local mobsters are sullying his parents’ reputations. (“I heard that before your daddy got shot, he begged for his life. Begged. Like a dog.”) The movie could have easily turned into an angst-fest, with Bruce spending 80 percent of his screentime in bars, drinking away his problems and talking to the bartender, but Christopher Nolan knew this was bad cinema and the audiences would leave within the first twenty minutes if he did this. So instead of having all this DRAMATIC INTERNAL CONFLICT about his parents, Bruce’s journey through grief and fear is shown through his transformation into Batman.

    So I guess the best way of avoiding angst is to have her do something to get through it.


    Okay, I just wrote a passage, and I’m not sure whether it’s angsty or not, so I decided to submit it for your approval. (I thought it would be easier just to revive an existing thread instead of making a new one). The passage in question:

    When he was newly arrived from the countryside, he had been fascinated by the sheer number of people- men, women, and children of various levels of gentility and cleanliness, all having lives and feelings and experiences. It had been an intriguing exercise, simply to observe the people around him, and wonder what their lives were like. But over time, he had come to realize that all people were essentially the same, and within each specific group everyone was even more similar, so that Alexander very quickly came to the sobering conclusion that in the end, there was no breaking out of it. He was one in a sea, caught in an inexorable current of mediocrity that pulled him under the more he tried to wriggle out of it. Needless to say, Alexander stopped people-watching.

    It isn’t hiding my text. Gawr. :(

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeFeb 17th 2010

    I guess it depends on the character. The passage doesn’t exactly sound angsty in an of itself, but if Alexander has, say, spent the past twenty-four pages angsting about his life and how much it sucks, then you might be going overboard. There’re a ton of things to consider, and it’s not always cut-and-dried.

    Take Prince Caspian, for example. Caspian has a story that could lend itself to pages and pages of angst on Caspian’s part—he’s on the run from his evil uncle who plans to kill him now that he has an heir of his own to replace his nephew; he had to leave his half-dwarf tutor who was probably the only true friend Caspian has had so far; none of the true Narnians accept him at first because he’s a Telmarine; Narnia is growing more and more dangerous and he’s one of the only people who can stop it; yadda yadda yadda. But the book isn’t angsty because of how Caspian handles his angst: with maturity and a bit of optimism.

    Of course, you can have a lot of angst that is addressed and not have the book be angsty. To use another of CS Lewis’ books, Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the viewpoint of one of Psyche’s stepsisters. Orual, an old queen of a barbarous land, is bitter not only about Psyche being taken as Cupid’s bride, but the fact that the sacred story being told paints her as a jealous rival instead of a caring sister who had Psyche’s best intentions at heart. Orual’s angst and bitterness define the narrative for much of the book, but the book itself isn’t angsty because in the end, Orual realizes how futile all her angst was. (CS Lewis pulled it off far better than I can summarize, so go read the book. :) )

    So I guess it depends.

    • CommentAuthorThebazilly
    • CommentTimeFeb 17th 2010

    It sounds very cynical, but I wouldn’t say angsty. I agree with Danielle, it’s hard to tell without context.


    Okay, thanks for the input! I don’t anticipate on Alexander spending a disproportionate amount of time whining about how he doesn’t feel special, but I did want him to feel mediocre so as to serve as a motivation for his efforts to improve himself and his chances in life.

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeFeb 18th 2010

    Then I’d say it’s probably not angsty. Or if it is, it’s angsty in a good way—in a life-sucks-but-I’m-gonna-improve-it kind of way. I guess if he’s angsty and doesn’t do anything about it, then you’re probably straying into dangerous territory.


    Thanks. :) I was just about to start my today’s quota now.