The Nine Triggers of Anger (or how to upset your characters)

Book review – Why We Snap by Douglas Fields

Dr. Fields has written a wonderful book explaining what makes people fly into a rage. He identifies nine triggers of anger, summarized by the acronym LIFEMORTS.

L Life and Limb – Physical threats
I Insult – Anything that undermines your status, either words or actions.
F Family – Threats or insults to your family
E Environment – Threats to your territory
M Mate – Threats to your significant other
O Order – A violation of the way things should be. “That never should have happened”
R Resources – Threats to your income or property
T Tribe – Being cut from the herd
S Stopped – Being thwarted, prevented from going somewhere or doing something

I learned of this book when the author was interviewed on a talk show earlier this year. Each one of these triggers had set me off at one time or another. Giving them names was a relief and a catharsis. Now, whenever I’m upset about something, I try to identify the triggers involved (Lost Job:  Resources, Tribe, Insult) (Cut off in traffic: Life and Limb, Stopped). I found that understanding the triggers makes the emotions easier to deal with.

The book was written for therapists with patients who have anger management issues. I probably wouldn’t have picked it up in a bookstore. Anger is not my issue. I don’t get mad, I just get upset. But if you replace the word “angry” with “upset”, the triggers still work. They work extremely well.

I recommend this book as a powerful resources for writers. As writers, it is our sad duty to torment our characters. (unhappy character, happy readers) It’s our job to send them terrible misfortunes and put as many obstacles in their way as possible. The nine triggers are an excellent source of ideas for things that would be upsetting to a character.

Author: Liz Hayes

Liz Hayes is the author of “How To Write Faster”. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and children, where she works as an analyst for a think tank inside the capital beltway. She is fascinated by medieval reenactment and writes fanfiction under the penname Uvatha the Horseman.