Character Builder

Positive Coping Mechanisms

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In any story, a character faces change—some good, and some bad. These moments challenge their ability to adapt and often force them outside their comfort zone. Some changes are painful, such as experiencing an emotional wounding event. This places a crater in the middle of the character’s life that leaves them feeling hopeless and unable to cope. These types of negative experiences, if not dealt with in a healthy way, can send the character’s life off course, cause them further pain, and make it difficult for them to view the future with anything other than fear and defeat.

Characters in this state often embrace negative defense mechanisms to get by, but these survival-type behaviors end up riddling their life with conflict and darkness, which drags down their happiness and self-worth. At some point, these characters must be pulled back from the edge and shown a better way to navigate life’s ups and downs. Positive coping mechanisms are individual behaviors and attitudes that, if a character chooses to incorporate them, will help them to become more open-minded, forward-thinking, and optimistic so they can deal with life stress and stay on course toward their goal of a better, happier future.

Whether it is journaling to get their thoughts and feelings out, taking a class to bolster self-esteem, or simply owning up to past actions and accepting responsibility, positive coping mechanisms will help get your character back on the road to a better life. Even if a disappointment or setback threatens to undo the character’s progress at some point, these practices can stop that retreat and remind them of their own inner strength and capabilities. Positive coping mechanisms are also a powerful tool for authors who need to show (not tell) a character’s journey to becoming whole through the character arc.


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