Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Character Angst: It’s All About Emotion, Baby

Call it the winter doldrums, middle age crisis, the endless repetition of life. Maybe it’s the gatekeeper of children whose future teenage spirits pop up at a moment’s notice, writer’s block, or the fear your protagonist won’t figure out a way to persevere. It could be teenage angst, a bully, false friends, school troubles, screams of gossip that follow you down the halls.


It goes by many names and goes under different guises. Perhaps it’s the well-meaning parent who suffocates us with good intentions, the friend who wants to keep you hostage, having everything and believing nothing, the mind changer, the time waster, the boyfriend who won’t let go. Maybe it’s your fear of going away to college, having nothing in the wealth of somethings, or leaving your old life to start anew.

Are you afraid to do the right thing? Do you desperately want fit in with a group who makes it clear there’s no way you will ever be given entry, even if you were the last person on earth?

Despair is clever and moves with the lithe maneuverings of an elite covert operation. It invades us, creeping in when we least expect it, isolating us until our wails suffocate our minds, holding us down by our limbs, submerging our heads in the comfort of misery, choking us with excuses…




No matter how we struggle, hopelessness is even stronger. We sink even lower because no one hears us or sees us or believes us. It’s no wonder we turn into zombies, living a life of angst, keeping our eyes cast downwards, slouching, making ourselves invisible because we don’t matter.


Some thread of an idea, a kindness from a friend, perhaps even a taunt from an enemy whispers strength through your soul, loosening the ropes that bind you down, transforming into the very lifeline you’ve needed all along.

Are you brave enough to reach out? Do you dare to survive, dare to dream for a future? Live?

Write-a-Scene-Writing Prompt: Watch a movie, read the news, look through your high school yearbook. Fall in love, make dinner with family, remember a loved one. Capture the emotion–anger, guilt, conflict, grief, love, joy–whatever your MC needs.

Keep a box of tissues nearby and write your scene(s). Build it up, layer by layer. Remember your MC will hit a low before he/she can grow from the experience. It’ll be exhausting work, but well worth the effort.

What do you do to capture the emotion in your writing?

Make your words count!

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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