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Before you start writing the most tragic back story ever for your character, I’d like to point out that not all good characters need angst. Its best if used sparingly and not the main focus of the plot. Also, just because someone’s OC has an angsty past, does not immediately make said character a Mary-Sue. If they have angst for all the wrong reasons, then they are a Mary-Sue.

If you are writing certain types of trauma (rape, child abuse, ect.) try to include a trigger warning, unless it is a fanfiction of something that possesses the same exact type of trauma.

Part one: Writing Angst in General

First decide why you want to give this character angst in the first place. If you don’t what your character to be seen as a Mary-Sue, than you must have a good reason for their suffering.  A good reason for angst might be to show why your character is the way they are today. Some bad reasons for trauma would be to make people feel sorry for your character, or to make them look more badass for surviving it. Even worse when the goal of the trauma is to have them cuddle with another character.

Choose a type of trauma for your character. Make sure the type you choose works with the cannon, and that you can properly write it (if you have very little knowledge of sex, you won’t be able to write a good rape story). Here is a list of some traumas you can use.



Child abuse


Relative was murdered or committed suicide (they don’t have to have seen it happen)


Domestic violence

Natural disaster

War related trauma


Loss of a child

Divorce of parents (only in young children

Actually do some research. This is not the only resource you should use for writing abuse. Books are you best bet since they had to be accurate to get into print. If you can’t get books look for sites with .org or .gov.

If no characters have tragic pasts, don't add one in. The character will fit in horribly, and you won't be seen as a good writer if the story in't that angsty. Just something to keep in mind.

Don’t let it become wangst. Whiny angst, or wangst for short is the name of angst where the character never stops complaining about their past, are constantly crying, and saying things like, “You don’t understand me. Nobody understands.” Often the things wangsted about are small, petty issues (like a boy who is 18 and has had no trauma thus far crying about his parents getting a divorce). Readers will not feel any sympathy for a wangsty character, and only think, “Why haven’t they killed themselves yet.”

Have characters eventually get sick of their angst. If you wanna make your OC go on and on about their angst, make other characters constantly be telling them to snap out of it without trying to comfort them. Even the most sympathetic character has a limit. A good example of this would be:

Normal character: Come on, you need to snap out of it. You’ve been like this for days, and there’s a war out there.

Angsty character: But my family just died.

Normal character: Who even cares? A lot more people are gonna die if you don’t snap out of it.


Part two: Writing Abuse

Give the abuser a good reason to hurt the victim. People don’t abuse others for the hell of it; they need a good reason for it. Maybe a man abuses his son because his wife died in child birth of that son.

Abuse should start small and get bigger over time. If the abuser was full on abusive before the victim got really into it, they would’ve left at the beginning.  It should get worse as time goes on, and the victim has more invested in the relationship that they’re afraid to lose. The victim may have nothing besides the abuser, and not want to lose the only real thing they have to hold on to.

Victim may think abuse is normal. This is especially true in children, who may see this as a normal punishment (if you were sent to your room as punishment when you were a child, then you probably think that’s normal). It would not be unrealistic for a character who’s been abused all there life to go to a friend’s house, and be confused when that friend isn’t slapped after breaking a plate.

Victim will most likely have been brainwashed. Most abusers will tell their victim how harsh the outside world is compared to the place the victim is in now. Or they might blame the abuse on the victim themselves (“Well, I wouldn’t have to whip you, if you learned how to properly clean the house). They may also trick the victim into thinking that they aren’t that bad at all, by buying them expensive things and spending a lot of money (“How bad could he be if he spent $200 on a romantic dinner for us?”).

Abuser will think that their actions are justified. They may think hitting their child is an eye for an eye, because the child’s mother died in childbirth, or they may think they’re fixing the victim.

Victim will tend to make excuses for the abusive behaviors, or think that the abuser needs them. They might say something like, “He lost his mother as a child, so I can’t leave him.” Or, “She’s not abusive, she’s just working through some issues.”

Other characters shouldn’t instantly recognize the signs of another character being abused. Unless another character was also abused, or a child services worker, the abuse should be noticed gradually. Other characters may try to come up with some reasons for the signs of abuse (“He must of got those bruises from play football.”)


Part three: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Recovery

The levels of PTSD: Almost everyone who is part of a trauma will receive some level of trauma depending on the role they played in it and what they’ve been exposed to in their lives. A good example of the levels of PTSD is a school shooting. The students and teachers who were injured by the gunman will probably suffer the most post traumatic stress, followed by those who were in the same room where the shooting took place, followed by students and teachers who were in a different part of the school at the time, or not even at school. A foreign exchange student from a country where shootings are pretty common will also probably be less affected than their peers.

Trauma is a bit like an earthquake. Someone who was closer to the event causing trauma will suffer more than people farther away. But like an earthquake, if your circumstances are different, than you could still get hurt more or less than your neighbors (i. e. how strong you house is).

Trauma doesn’t go away all at once. There are way too many stories where the character is suffering from PTSD and after they cuddle with an attractive character, they’re all better. Depending on the tragedy and person, it should take anywhere from months to years to recover, or they may never recover at all. Therapy can help speed up the recovery, but it’s not magic.

The effects of trauma. A character who lost a child, might become overproctective of the one they still have, or an abuse victim who was locked in a basement might fear the dark. Here is a list of some of the possible effects/symptoms of PTSD:

Flashbacks (often caused by triggers)

Nightmares causing victim to wake screaming or in a cold sweat

Not wanting to discuss their traumatic event or trying to forget about it

Substance abuse (often as a method of forgetting)

Feeling emotionally numb


Avoiding activities they once enjoyed

Memory/focus problems

Difficulty with relationships

Anger and irritability

Guilt and shame

Cutting and other self-abuse

Being easily startled

Trouble eating/sleeping


Triggers: A trigger is something that causes someone to recall their traumatic events. Like a trigger for a rape victim might be rape jokes, or seeing their rapist or someone who looks like their rapist.

Trauma should be looked down upon in certain circumstances. Before WW2, people with PTSD were just told to, “Get over it.” If your story does not take place in pretty modern times, other characters should be less willing to comfort them.

Here's a little guide for writing angst in all types of stories. I'm not saying you have to write angst the way I say in this guide, so please don't comment saying that.
Find this tutorial helpful and want me to make more, and have some spare points? Donate on my profile.

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Saturnspaz Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I really needed this, thanks! :D This should help a lot!
Songbird3 Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is really helpful! I'll have to use some of these ideas.
MarissaSunshine Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015  Hobbyist Filmographer
This'll help me write a character who may have PTSD.
x-Me-myself-and-I-x Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2014  Student Photographer
highly useful in writing my UtaPri OC (no not this guide but your guides!)
Yugiohcatgal Featured By Owner Edited Oct 24, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow you have really good advice! I'm trying to follow your advice with my OCS, especially this one… And I was wondering, if you have the time of course, to check her bio and tell me how it is, if I should change something, if it's to angsty, or I need to add something, etc. =) .....I also Realized when I read it again (This Journal is a few months old now) there are some mary-sue's hints , and I might need to limit a few stuff in her gaaaaah >_< wish I could do it now but I'm currently on mobile, and dA wont let me! I feel kinda ashamed making my OC like that lol
Animedemon001 Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
You caught me at just the right time. I have a bit of free time right now, so I'd be glad to. Please note me so we can discus your characters. Never be ashamed about creating a Sueish character if you realize and accept that they aren't perfect and could use some improvements. The only people who sould be ashamed are those who think their are perfect and refuse to change them even a little. Thanks for the watch BTW. 
Yugiohcatgal Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I see! I'll send you a note right away, and you're very much welcome!
Kushami-Aru Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2014
Thanks, thanks and thanks! I've had problems with writing a believable depressed character but this tutorial cleared some things out and even helped me to fill some of the plot's holes. Thank you! :D
But I think it's okay to characters feel like no one understands them because sadly that might be the case. Or then they're just imagining it. I've read diaries of real people that suffer from mental disorders and many of them seem to think this way ("People don't understand", "You don't know my fight"). Anyway, I would like to hear what do you think about this. In my opinion it would be a realistic way to describe characters' feelings as long as the whole story doesn't revolve around it. It could be mentioned a few times or so.

I hope you understood what I'm trying to say, sorry for possible mistakes... ^^'
Animedemon001 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Your welcome, and now for your question:

It would really depend. If a character who though this was allowed to wallow in their own angst, despite what might be happening outside, they're probably a Sue, but if its brushed of as mental illness or as a character overreating, then I don't think so.
SneakyXWoman13 Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This helped me with trying to write an angsty story. I struggled with keeping the mood and keeping the character from being a total whiner or too much 'cuddling' as you put it. I also struggle with OOC-ness in normal characters.

This helped. A lot.
Animedemon001 Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Your welcome. The more you write, the more second nature these things will become.
BlackStarTheKing Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2014
This is really gonna help me. Thanks bro! :D
Animedemon001 Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Your welcome.
French-Conservative Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2014
This is helpful and all, but the top statement bothers me.

"[Angst is] best if used sparingly and not the main focus of the plot."

What if the main point of the story is the characters angst? Grief I think can be used as a driving plot point, such as how most protagonist of the Silent Hill games have really screwed past and the world shapes around their afformentioned grief. I want to write a psychological horror like Silent Hill or Cry of Fear, but how am I suppose to do that if I can't use the main character's angst as a central plot point?
Animedemon001 Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I was mostly talking about adventure stories and the like that run around one characters angst. I don't mean stories where it's about their angst, I mean when the action basically comes to a stop because a character is having an angsty moment. Like my favorite anime Ghost Hound. The angsty pasts of the characters play an important role in the story, but the plot around the characters doesn't come to a standstill because one of them is having an angsty moment. Angsty stories are fine as long as the angst exists for a good reason, and I'm a all for stories about trauma. I think you should write it.
French-Conservative Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2014
All right. Thanks for the tip. :)
TheIcyGlaceon Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2014  Student Writer
Very helpful for beginner writers such as myself
deppgirl Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Good list, the only thing I really have a problem with is the part where you say that "People don't abuse others for the hell of it; they need a good reason". There are plenty of places where this isn't the case. I mean just look at the book "A Child Called It". I know a woman personally who was also abused and her abuser had nothing in his life to motivate him to abuse her, nor did he think he was 'fixing' her. Sometimes abuse just doesn't have a reason and its cruel and hurtful. So I would think about maybe re-wording that. I know its not what you intended but it does sort of sound like a justification for the abuse.

Another helpful comment, sometimes abuse doesn't get worse over time. As a general rule it does often escalate but sometimes it does stay fairly regular over time.

Like I said, good list!
Animedemon001 Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
People can abuse others because they like the feeling of inflicting pain on others, so that's a perfectly valid reason. One, not so valid reason I've seen before is, "Oh, its because he's mean." 
deppgirl Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
But the abuser in the situation wasn't doing it because they enjoyed inflicting pain. It was done for no reason. People don't always need a reason to hurt other people. Like I said, just constructive criticism.
Red-Queen666 Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Good tip,  liked this a lot :)
Killer-moonlight Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2014
Thanks for making this. I'll keep these in mind for when I finally get my writing mode in place. 
WynterPhoenyx Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Wonderful tutorial~ One thing though: I think you forgot something in this sentence (between "shootings" and "will", "...from a country where shootings will also probably be less affected than their peers."

I'm guessing you meant "...from a country where shootings occur frequently will also probably be less affected than their peers."
Animedemon001 Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Okay, just fixed it.
Aya-I Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Really useful!! *^*
Aqureshi1 Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2014
Thank you Senpai!
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