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Rising Resentment

Somewhere deep in your character’s dark little soul lies a tiny nugget of resentment. How passive or aggressive your character is determines how he handles it. Passive, simmering resentment can blow up at the least convenient moment. Immediate reaction can throw flame into an already tense situation.

Resentment can be an internal conflict your protagonist comes to grips with. It can be an interpersonal conflict between friends or foes. It can fuel the protagonist’s battle with the antagonist. There could be several layers of resentment between characters to complicate the story. 

How to use it: 

1) Choose a seed 

The seed usually arises from your character’s deepest desires, fears, traits hidden in the shadow self, or childhood wounds. Use something from the character’s past that can create future conflict. 

2) Fertile field. 

Having chosen a seed, you must plant it in a scene. You don’t have to spend chapters telling the backstory of why Dick is jealous of his older brother or why Sally resents Dick for always finding a way to be absent whenever the family needs him most. You can effectively address it through dialogue or action in one scene.

3) A little rain.

Use future scenes to reinforce the resentment, making it grow taller and more bitter. Resentment thrives in darkness. Show your character feeling hurt, angry, disappointed, or sad. These scenes push your character toward a dark night of the soul. 

4) Surfacing.

A turning point occurs when the resentment is brought to a head. The situation can be cathartic or make the situation more thorny. Hostile reactions can fuel the cycle leading to the climactic moment when things are resolved. 

5) Death/rebirth. 

Coming to terms with resentment is a way to illustrate character growth. At the climax, the relationship either mends or dies. If you want an up-ending, the relationship is healed. If you want a down-ending, one of them can decide to hang onto the ill-will while the other lets go. If you want an up-down ending, they can put it behind them but realize there is no way to continue on together.

A satisfying story arc includes all the phases.

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