Episode 141: The Core Wound

On April 10th, Rex was back! We took on the idea of the core wound and its impact on the character. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

Writing from the Core Wound


  • We had Alexa here!
  • What is “the core wound”
  • How is it different from motivation?
  • How do you locate it and work it into the story?
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Link to the podcast

Segment 1

Our thanks again to Alexa Bigwarfe of Write|Publish|Sell and the Women in Publishing Summit for subbing for the last two weeks. What great episodes. You can see her next week at the SCWA’s Annual Conference. Click here to register. There are scholarships available specifically for Columbia residents. Follow the link and click on “student scholarships” to apply.

Next weekend of April 16-18, we’ll be hosting the Livestream component for the SCWA’s Annual Conference “The Storytelling State.” What does that mean? Well, we’re testing it out today! Right now, on our YouTube channel and our Facebook page. Yep, you can see me (Kasie) live and hear (maybe) Rex. 

Get a preview of the Keynote Speaker Jeffrey Blount in this interview from two weeks ago.

Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Check us out, dudes! Just last week we posted a new interview:

  • Rebecca Bruff, author of Trouble the Water, the award-winning novelization of the life of Robert Smalls (learn more)

These interviews were made possible by generous connections with literary arts organizations like SCWA and Arts on the Ridge. In the past, we’ve limited interviews to our Patrons and while we love them, we also believe the more exposure we can give authors of every genre, talent, and career ambition, the better.

Thanks to our patrons who continue to support the show and our efforts to bring writing craft lessons to the airwaves. If you’re ready to support the show, go to Patreon.com/WriteOnSC and join at the $5, $10, or $18 level to get access to behind-the-scenes footage, exclusive courses, and promotional work like Profile Pages and author interviews on the YouTube channel.

Quick nod to Lis Anna-Langston who’s SCWA session on the Core Wound can be found here. (It’s usually for members only but we won’t tell if don’t). Learn more about Lis Anna-Langston on her website here.

What is the “core wound”?

What are some examples?

  • Harry Potter never knew his parents, hungers for family and belonging
  • Christian Grey was abused as kid, grows up to be a dominant
  • Claire Randall Fraser in Outlander was an orphan, too, and lived with an uncle who had no home – he was an archaeologist, so they traveled a lot, they explored a lot
  • Dr. Poison from Wonder Woman – she wore a mask for goodness sakes! Talk about wound.

Who needs the core wound more? The protagonist or the antagonist? The hero or the villain?

Segment 2

This article gives us some parameters for designating the “core wound”

Includes a lie – a seed of doubt, “Is this somehow my fault?”

Causes flaws to form – armor, protection from allowing it to happen again

Exist in the character’s backstory – we rarely watch the core wound occur in the present, it’s always, always exposition

This article by Tamar Sloan says it’s related to the character’s negative core belief. What does the character believe to be true – but isn’t?

What does that wrong belief cause them to do? I love the example of Commandant Norrington doing the opposite of what Jack Sparrow says he should simply because it’s Jack Sparrow who suggested it. Sparrow, of course, knows the Navy won’t do as he suggests.

7 Common Wound Themes (from this article by Angela Ackerman writing tor Writers Helping Writers):

  1. A physical wound – a defect, injury or handicap of some kind. Think Jake’s impotence in The Sun Also Rises
  2. An injustice – being the victim of a crime, Batman’s parents’ murder, witnessing some kind of injustice in early development and dedicating oneself to the eradication
  3. Failure or mistakes – my favorite is the failed launch of a high-profile shoe for the main character in Elizabethtown; it can be career, business, sports, but failure is a wound especially when the failure was the character’s fault
  4. Betrayal or misplaced trust – were they cheated on? Left behind? Believed someone who turned out to be false?
  5. Isolation – was the character left out in the past? Maybe ignored or isolated? What might that cause them to do in the future? Thinking about Rapunzel and her desperation for companionship and company.
  6. Neglect/Abandonment/Rejection – you see this in adopted stories, the kid thinking he’d been given up; in a great book called The Giant’s House, the narrator claims to have been the only child of parents who loved one another and called it a particular kind of loneliness. Ouch.
  7. Disillusionment – believing one thing to be true and find out it’s not; usually related to world affairs, politics, religion, or social mores, so think about someone praying for a specific outcome and then when that outcome doesn’t happen, they lose their faith in the “power of prayer”

Segment 3

So how and when should the core wound be introduced?

This article does a good job offering options and explaining why not to use them:

  • The prologue — we don’t know this person so we’re less inclined to care about the wound
  • Flashback — depends on what the wound is, no one wants to see a kid being abused
  • Dialogue — let the character confess the core wound, maybe even realizing himself that it is one — really, really well done by Aaron Sorkin including the President (Jeb Bartlett) being confronted by a staffer (Toby) who says, “When did he stop hitting you?” referring to the President’s father and what was obviously an abusive childhood
  • Never actually state it — especially if the character is hyper-aware of it, letting the reader infer the wound might be more subtle and more powerful

Segment 4

This is the “how to” part of the show, so lt’s get to it. How do you identify and build from the core wound?

That article references earlier by Tamar Sloan goes on to say you can figured out the core wound’s impact on the story by asking:

  • How aware is your character of their core wound?
  • How does their wound color the way they see the world?
  • What lengths will your character go to in order to hide this vulnerability?
  • What triggers the character’s negative belief?
  • How does the character’s belief manifest in actions?

Want to learn more about Short Story Basics? Click here to get the class.

Ready to support Write On SC? Go to Patreon.com/WriteOnSC to become a patron!

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s