Writing Coach Insights: Turning Frustration Into Good Writing


The things that bother us, our pet peeves and everyday annoyances, provide important information about who we really are and what we really want. It is not a sign of immaturity or shallowness that some habit of a spouse or friend or pet or enemy or parent or cashier or co-worker or whoever, really gets on our nerves.

This is how characters are built. Their habits, maybe especially the odd and even annoying ones, can provide insight into who they are on a deeper level.

In the same way, the things that bother us as individuals in daily life indicate something deeper about us. Getting a little pissed off isn’t a bad thing. Still, you don’t want to stay in that place of annoyance or anger for very long because these aren’t pleasant feelings. You aren’t supposed to live there. The best thing to do is to ask yourself why someone’s habit or a certain situation is particularly bothersome. For example, perhaps your children’s continual inability to hear you when you speak (you know, every time you say anything, their first response is, “What?”) reflects a deeper problem with communication that needs to be addressed. Maybe the continual mess in your kitchen that drives you nuts indicates a need to delineate your boundaries better in your life in general–to more clearly define interpersonal relationships, spaces in your home, schedules.

Once you identify the cause of the annoyance, you can do something about it and move forward from a place of being annoyed to a place of relief.

So, “annoyed” can be an interesting emotion to explore in writing. It is not a reflection of shallowness or immaturity, but perhaps an indication of significant needs and motivations.

My advice is to notice what bothers you and do something about it. And notice what bothers your characters. Do they do something about it, or do they simply stay annoyed and put up with the bothersome situation? How does each option influence the story’s plot and the character’s responses to conflict? How long can your character stay in the “putting up with” mode before something gives? What is the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” that makes the character no longer able to quietly bear an infuriating situation? Once he or she reaches the point of no return, what happens next?


Photo by Mubariz Mehdizadeh