If you have read my book, Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes, you are familiar with how fighting/violence is entangled with human emotion. The former simply can't be separated from the latter. And, from the standpoint of writing, I believe the emotions surrounding a fight scene are far more important than the blocking of the moves. The emotions are what every reader can relate to in a fight scene regardless of their knowledge of fighting.
That said, let me throw this thing into Park for a moment. Although emotions are an integral part of a fight, your character will not feel any during the altercation. Adrenaline wipes out emotion so that we can focus on the fight. Emotions will be around before the fight unless the altercation is not a surprise to the character. And emotions will definitely rear their heads after. But in the throws of conflict, no. In those moments, the mind is very robotic. Ok, shifting back into Drive...On with the emotions!
I am fascinated by how violence affects the psyche. (Don't worry, I don't start conversations at parties like that. But only because I don't go to parties.) And, I have always wondered how the guilt of a violent act influences a person longterm. This definitely applies to the characters we write. Quite often we read on page or see on screen people who kill, sometimes with abandon, but we seldom see what goes on in their head after the fact. Is there no guilt??? Maybe there is and they just hide it that well. Is it that easy to hide feelings of guilt?
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After reading Dr. Brené's work (I'm still reading Rising Strong) and watching her videos and listening to her podcasts I learned that I don't know much about guilt and even less about shame. Heck, I found out I don't know much about emotions as a whole because I'm not a fan of feeling them! WOW, this went from zero to personal real fast... Anyway, I can't be the only person who doesn't understand these emotions as they truly manifest. So, if you have a character who feels guilty and hates himself because of it #1, this post is for you and #2, you're wrong. They don't feel guilt. They feel shame. In this and the next post, I will explain the difference.
Let the shame spiral begin twirling!
Shame is a lethal, self-centric emotion. It is connected to destructive behavior and requires silence. Shame convinces the one who feels it that they are unworthy of love, happiness or any good thing at all. When bad things happen to the person who feels shame, they will believe it is exactly what they deserve.
If your character feels shame, they will not share it with others. Shame requires silence to grow. The character who feels shame will not differentiate between the misdeed they have done or the wrong done to them and their own self. In other words, the character will not say they did a bad thing or a bad thing happened to them. Instead, they will say that they are bad. This negative view could cause them to be abusive emotionally and physically to their own self and others.
Shame is a constant, painful crushing of the soul. Our characters will go to great lengths to numb this feeling often using what Dr. Brené calls shame shields. So, if your character feels shame, this is how they may behave as a result to lessen the pain of that shame. I will relate each behavior to a member of the Breakfast Club. 😃
1. Move inward: The character will turn inward, withdraw from others, hide, or become quiet. They may wear clothing that makes them feel hidden and secure.
2. Move toward: The character may move toward people and become a people pleaser in an effort to numb their pain with the approval of others.
Ok, in the next post we will look at how guilt is different than shame. And, we will see how guilt manifests in our characters. Again, it's not what you think.
Now, for your viewing pleasure. here's the dancing scene from The Breakfast Club and a little on shame from Dr. Brené - the Psychology Oprah and the actual Oprah. Until the next round at FightWrite™.net, get blood on your pages!