Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Stresses You Out?

The next study that we will look at is one conducted by Holmes and Rahe in 1967. In this study the researchers wanted to find out if life stresses could be measured. They sent out a survey with 43 life events with marriage being a reference point having a score of 50 points. The respondents would then rate the life stresses dependent on this point either marking them higher or lower.

The top ten events were: Death of spouse, divorce, marital separation, jail term, death of close family member, personal injury or illness, marriage, fired at work, marital reconciliation, retirement. The bottom ten were: Minor violations of the law, Christmas, vacation, change in eating habits, change in number of family get-togethers, change in sleeping habits, small mortgage, change in social activities, change in church activities, and change in recreation. You can go here for a full list
 The researchers also point out that in each of the situations it requires some sort of change, adaptation or coping on the part of the person. This is why even though an even may be positive it still causes stress. The researchers went on to show that this stress directly relates to illness, hopelessness and other things.

This leads into how we look at stress with our characters and what is affecting them. How do the changes in their lives stress them? How do they cope with it? Make a list of the stressors your MC's are being affected by and then calculate that stress. If it is high make sure the story is showing this and how that character is dealing with it.


  1. personally it is something might happen to our kids...interesting this topic as we need to make sure it is consistant in the progression of the character as well...

  2. I think there are times we forgot to add in the stress factor when a change happens in our character's lives, good or bad. How many times do our characters get sick because of their stress? I mean what would it have been like if Harry Potter had gotten a cold during the Goblet of Fire trials? I would definitely call that a stressful situation. I think I will make sure to add this in the future.

  3. I understand stress. For years I was a stress motivated being, meaning I performed better under stress, if there wasn't outside stress, I created my own.

    Now I see to live outside of stress. It's better! ;D

  4. Great point. With all the extreme events characters go through, they're undoubtedly under stress.

  5. Thanks for the link. I will have to check out this study. It is amazing how a survival mechanism has become a detriment to our health in modern society. It is often a physiological reaction we overlook when writing.

  6. Very good point. I found on my first read through that my mc seemed to be reacting to every event, no matter how large or small , with the same level of stress. Yeah, no :-)

  7. Great info. I hadn't ever considered this! You always have such great tips!

  8. That's a wonderful tip for a character. When a writer forgets the stress factor in a character I think that is why some characters appear so flat. Very good point.

  9. Interesting post. Family get-togethers would be high on my list, not at the bottom!

    You've won a signed postcard by Cherie Reich from my Halloween treat giveaway. Congratulations! She'll be in contact with you soon.


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