The Art of Revenge Writing in Fiction

We’ve all been hurt by someone. Their actions. Their words.

Revenge has probably popped in your mind. But there’s a difference between seeking revenge and just thinking about it.

Your characters feel these emotions as well. Turning their thoughts into an actual plan of revenge is a carefully constructed art. So let’s start painting.

Previously, we talked about avoiding clichés. Avoid this in your quest for revenge as well:

Terry was going to give him what was coming to him.

“Revenge is sweet,” she said as she wiped the gun clean.

Any cliché takes away from the reality of your revenge. They don’t really describe the deep-seeded emotions a “real” person would feel.

Writing revenge isn’t as simple as staying away from clichés, though. Another don’t falls in the descriptive category:

Cara stabbed her boyfriend,
slowly pulling the knife from his abdomen.
She washed the blade and returned the knife
to its home in the wooden block.
“That’ll teach him,” she said.

Where’s the emotion? We saw Cara’s actions but we didn’t understand her outrage, her vengeful motives that drove her to murdering her boyfriend.


This excerpt from Ed McBain’s The Big Bad City conveys the right way to write revenge:

It never once occurred to him that Carella’s father had been an innocent person who’d been gunned down minding his own business during a holdup. It never occurred to him that Juju Judell had been an innocent person merely imparting wisdom about the ways cops carried grudges over the years. It never occurred to him that Carella – the target of all this surveillance and scrutiny – was himself an innocent person who had, in fact, not blown Sonny away when he’d had the opportunity to do so. None of this occurred to him. His focus now was in getting the job done.

Another good example comes from Lisa Gardner’s The Perfect Husband. This scene shows what can happen when revenge turns the tables:

She pointed her gun, squeezing the trigger. Jim grabbed the .22 from her hand and pistol-whipped her hard. She fell to her knees, clutching her cheek.

“We do it my way.” Grabbing her arm, Jim dragged her upstairs.

Fresh blood stained his shoulder red. Had she hit him? She couldn’t think anymore. Her cheek was on fire from the blow, and ringing filled her ears. The madman was winning. Jim had gotten control.

It’s time for you to seek revenge! Try this writing exercise:

Remember that certain someone that hurt your feelings or made you mad? It’s time to make-believe that you’re going to finally get your revenge. Describe your plan of attack.

Your revenge doesn’t have to result in a fictional murder, though. For instance, maybe your best friend and your boyfriend cheated behind your back. Perhaps your fictional revenge could be selling your boyfriend’s car and cutting your best friend’s hair while she sleeps.

Perhaps your character senses betrayal and then realizes her emotions are on edge because she really loves him. Maybe your character is in love but finds out about a secret from her lover’s past.