Saturday, February 06, 2016

From Textbook to Your Book | The Triangular Theory of Hate

Hello, Wordlings!

This month I'm starting a series called "From Textbook to Your Book" (emphasis on the 'your' ;) ). As a student, I come across an entire....uh, herd?...of plot bunnies and story-research tidbits. University is a gem for that kind of thing!

One day while walking to my world history class, I had a lightbulb moment. What if I turned what I'm learning in school into applicable crash course writing lessons? So here we are!

Today's lesson: Psychology—how to make your characters hate each other (or figuring out why they already do) 

Back when I first started up my blog, I wrote a post called "The Triangular Theory of Love" where I covered the seven different types of relationships people—and characters—could have according to psychologist, Robert Sternberg.

This triangle was something I had randomly stumbled upon so when I was pre-reading for my psych class and came across his inverted version—the triangular theory of hate—I was pretty excited (I also felt pretty academically hipster).

As it turns out, it took awhile for hate to be discussed in psychology. In my text book, the subtitle is "Hate: A Neglected Topic". I don't really blame anyone though. True hate is a strong emotion. Maybe we joke about hating broccoli (for the record, I love those little trees of goodness!) but when it comes to something we actually hate, we probably won't admit it.

Despite this though, I think we can all agree that hate is a strong driving force in many novels that we read and also in the ones that we write.

Katniss hates the Capitol, Harry Potty and Voldemort both hate each other, Regina hates both Emma and Snow White in "Once Upon a Time", and the Loric hate the Mogadorians in the "Lorian Legacies" series. In my novel, "Crec", Ollie hates Shadowfore, the controlling force of the planet.

Hate drives all of these characters to do the things that they do. Many times, it leads to the climax of the story like it does in "Mockingjay", "Harry Potter", and "Once Upon a Time". It's a powerful force!

Just like the triangular theory of love, the triangle offers seven different types of hate all at different levels as seen below.

A visual for the triangular theory of hate

So here's the breakdown:

Cool Hate—just disgust: "I have no desire to be anywhere close to this person"

Hot Hate—just anger/fear: "I absolutely despise this person" or "I'm positively afraid of this person"

Cold Hate—just devaluation: "This person has no place in this world."

Simmering Hate (Loathing)—disgust + devaluation: "These people are the scum of the world, I don't want to associate with them in any way shape or form."

Boiling Hate (Revulsion)—disgust + anger/fear: "Do you honestly think I want to be near them after what they've done?" (can be taken in the context of both fear and anger)

Seething Hate (Revilement)—anger/fear + devaluation: "Why do they even exist? They do nothing for this world." (can be taken in the context of both fear and anger)

Burning Hate (Need for Annihilation)—disgust + anger/fear + devaluation: "I will stop at nothing to rid them from the world. They don't deserve to exist."

Hate is a dreary topic. Here's a cartoon to lighten the mood ^.^

My textbook cites Sternberg by saying, "Groups and governments that 'teach' hatred of other groups are experts at portraying these groups as evil and worthy of distain . . . . we perceive them as "subhuman" and worthy of experimentation, like insects and pests"
Part of some of the types of hatred (specifically the strong types) is the belief that the person or group is better than the group that is hated.

So did Katniss think she was better than the Capitol? Not in a narcissistic way but morally and ethically? She certainly believed firmly that she knew how the districts should be treated. This thought led to her believe that the Capitol (and Snow) should be annihilated.

A lot of the information in my textbook deals with hatred of groups by groups. However when reading up more on the topic, I've discovered that the same principles can be applied to individual people. Instead of influence by a government, perhaps their influence is coming from what their friends' opinions are or their own research and experience.

Hopefully this post has offered some insight that you can use for your story! If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below :)

Who and what do your characters hate and why? Can you pinpoint a type of hate that applies to them?

Write on, Wordlings!


  1. This is an awesome post! I've seen the love triangle(haha), but never the hate triangle. Super cool to think about. Can't wait to see more posts like this!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Yeah I didn't know about the hate triangle until school either! It's definitely a neat way of thinking about things.

      Thank's for the comment :D

  2. I love this! Psychology is fascinating, and when I can connect it to writing, it's even better. Like Krissy, I've seen a version of the love triangle, but never the hate triangle.

    This is great timing, too, because I'm about to gear up for redrafting book 2 in my fantasy series. This book's cast is big, and there'll be plenty of relational conflict happening. >:) Mostly cool hate...annoyance, strife, difference of opinion. The main villain surprisingly holds burning hate for only a few select people/groups. He doesn't really hate the masses at all. He just has twisted ideas about unity and world peace. XD

    This looks like it'll be a great series, Cassia! School is an inspiring place, isn't it?

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! Psychology is fantastic for writing. I've learned so much already that can be applied to writing ^ ^

      Woot, woot! Relational conflict is always fun to write! Annoyance and strife make for WONDERFUl tension. Personally, I love reading that kind of thing ;)
      That's interesting to hate a villain that doesn't hate the masses. Especially since it's so popular right now to do so. I like your approach.
      Oh gosh XD Once a villain twists those things up...there's no going back!

      Thank you! Yes it's probably one of the largest sources of inspiration I have right now!

      Thanks for the comment, Tracey :D

  3. Great post! I hadn't thought of breaking down hatred like this before. ^ ^ Bookmarking!

    1. Happy to make you think about something new ^.^

  4. This was really interesting. I don't think I've ever seen the forms of hate (or love, for that matter) divided into a triangle, but it's a really nice system, and I really like how you broke it down. It's definitely something to keep in mind as I'm writing and editing.

    In my current, most-prioritized work in progress, I would say that my main character hates the people who have ruined her life. *nods*

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I love the triangle method! To me it gives both complex emotions a different level of clarity. I'm glad it was insightful for you :)

      I'd say hating people who ruin your life is a pretty darn good reason to hate them *thumbs up*

      You're most welcome! And thanks for commenting!

  5. Nice post! Hatred is an important aspect of my WIP on both societal and individual levels, so this has given me something to chew on.

    "Groups and governments that 'teach' hatred of other groups are experts at portraying these groups as evil and worthy of disdain . . . . we perceive them as "subhuman" and worthy of experimentation, like insects and pests."
    This is chillingly relevant to my story... and to society today.

    I look forward to future installments!