To engage your reader, it's important to always show, not tell, the traits of your characters.
Jealousy is a complex emotion that is often triggered by a perceived threat to one's relationship, possessions, or status. People who are jealous may experience feelings of envy, suspicion, and insecurity, and they may engage in behaviors such as possessiveness, aggression, or manipulation. Jealousy can be a negative trait when it leads to harmful actions or thoughts, but it can also be a natural and healthy response in certain situations, such as when it motivates people to protect their loved ones or strive for personal growth.
As a writer, portraying jealousy in a nuanced and realistic way can add depth and complexity to your characters and make them more relatable to your readers.
Possible Causes of Being Jealous
You might want to weave these into your jealous character's backstory to build a more believable character:
Mental health issues such as anxiety or personality disorders
Lack of trust in others
Childhood experiences of neglect or lack of attention
Unresolved emotional issues or traumas
Cultural or societal influences that value possessiveness or competition
Fear of abandonment or rejection
Past experiences of betrayal or infidelity
Low self-esteem or self-worth
Insecurity about themselves or their relationships
Attitudes Related to Being Jealous
You may be able to show jealousy through your character's attitudes:
Insecurity about one's worth or position
Fear of losing something or someone valuable
Self-doubt and self-criticism regarding one's ability to compete or succeed
Envy toward others' possessions, achievements, or relationships
Resentment toward those who seem to have advantages or privileges
Suspicion and paranoia of others' actions or intentions
Obsessive thoughts or behaviors related to the object of jealousy
Anger or hostility toward those who threaten the object of jealousy
Thoughts and Struggles Associated With Being Jealous
Here are some ideas for things your jealous character may think or struggle with:
Difficulty trusting others, especially those who have relationships with the person or thing they are jealous of
Difficulty feeling happy for others' successes
Constantly comparing themselves to others and feeling inferior
Guilt and shame for their jealous thoughts and actions
The need for validation and reassurance from others to feel secure
Obsessive thoughts and behaviors regarding the person or thing they are jealous of
Fear of losing what they have to someone else
Feeling threatened by anyone who seems to pose a threat to their desired object or person
Insecurity and low self-esteem
Emotions Related to Jealousy
Here are some ideas for emotions your jealous character may experience:
Fear of loss
Facial Expressions Associated With Being Jealous
Here are some facial expressions your jealous character may exhibit:
Sneering or curling upper lip
Tense or rigid facial muscles
Heavy sighs or grunts
Intense or piercing gaze
Body Language Related to Being Jealous
Here is some body language your jealous character may exhibit:
Frowning or scowling
Glaring or staring
Tense facial expression
Pacing or restlessness
Behaviors Associated With Being Jealous
Here are some behaviors your jealous character may exhibit.
Competing with others to prove their worth or superiority
Sabotaging the success or happiness of others due to envy
Becoming irrationally angry or upset when a partner talks to or spends time with someone of the opposite sex
Comparing themselves to others and feeling inadequate or inferior
Feeling possessive or controlling in relationships
Feeling resentment or bitterness toward someone who has something they desire or covet
Obsessively checking a partner's phone or social media accounts
Growth and Evolution of Jealous Characters
Here are some ways that your jealous character may grow and evolve over time:
Acknowledging and accepting their jealousy as a flaw
Practicing empathy and putting themselves in other characters' shoes
Letting go of control and learning to trust others
Forgiving themselves and others for past mistakes and misunderstandings
Attempting to understand the root causes of their jealousy
Recognizing and celebrating others' successes instead of feeling threatened by them
Making amends and actively working to repair damaged relationships
Learning to communicate their feelings in a healthy way
Developing a sense of self-worth and confidence independent of others
Stereotypes of Jealous Characters to Avoid
Try to avoid writing stereotypical jealous characters like these examples:
Don't make the character jealous to the point where they become unsympathetic or unlikable to readers.
Avoid making the character resort to extreme or violent behavior due to their jealousy.
Avoid making the character jealous in every situation or toward every character.
Don't make the character jealous without a clear reason or motivation.
Don't make the character overly possessive or controlling.
Avoid making the jealous character one-dimensional or solely focused on their jealousy.
Negatives of Being Jealous
Here are some potential negatives of being jealous. Note: These are subjective, and some might also be seen as positives depending on the context.
Jealousy can lead to negative emotions, such as resentment, anger, and bitterness.
Jealousy can damage relationships and create a toxic environment.
Jealousy can lead to irrational behavior and poor decision-making.
Jealousy can cause individuals to become possessive and controlling.
Positives of Being Jealous
Here are some potential positives of being jealous. Note: These are subjective, and some might also be seen as negatives depending on the context.
Can lead to open and honest communication about feelings and concerns
Provides motivation to improve oneself
Helps identify what one values and desires in a relationship or situation
Can be a sign of deep emotional attachment and care
Verbal Expressions of Jealous Characters
Here are some potential expressions used by jealous characters:
"You're mine, not theirs."
"I don't want anyone else to have what we have."
"I don't like the way they look at you."
"You're hiding something from me."
"Why do they always get the attention?"
"I just want to know everything about your day."
"I can't believe you would do that to me."
"I saw you talking to them; what were you saying?"
"You're spending too much time with them."
Relationships of Jealous Characters
Here are some ways that being jealous could affect your character's relationships:
They might try to isolate their partner from others, making it difficult for them to maintain other relationships.
They might become possessive and controlling, limiting their partner's freedom and social interactions.
They may become angry or upset when their partner spends time with friends or family without them.
They may constantly check their partner's phone or social media accounts for signs of infidelity.
They might become emotionally manipulative, using their jealousy to guilt their partner into doing what they want.
They may become physically or emotionally abusive in extreme cases of jealousy.
They may hold grudges or keep a scorecard of perceived wrongs, leading to resentment and further jealousy.
They might feel threatened by their partner's friendships with members of the opposite sex.
They might become suspicious or accusatory without cause, leading to arguments and tension in the relationship.
It's important to remember that jealousy is a complex emotion and can manifest differently in different people and relationships. If you or someone you know is struggling with jealousy in a relationship, seeking professional help is often the best course of action.
Examples From Books of Characters Who Are Jealous
Humbert Humbert from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Amy Dunne from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Tom Buchanan from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Iago from Othello by William Shakespeare
Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Writing Exercises for Writing Jealous Characters
Here are some writing exercises you might try for learning to write jealous characters:
Write a scene from the perspective of a character who is the object of jealousy. How do they perceive the jealous character's behavior toward them?
Put your character in a situation where they must confront their jealousy. How do they handle it? Do they overcome their envy, or does it consume them?
Think about a time when you felt jealous. What triggered the feeling? How did you react? Try to describe the physical and emotional sensations you experienced.
Consider the different ways jealousy can manifest itself. Is your character passive-aggressive or do they lash out? Do they become obsessive or withdrawn?
Write a scene where a character sees someone they envy succeed in something they themselves have failed at. How does the character react? Do they try to hide their jealousy or confront it head-on?
Create a character who is envious of someone close to them. What are they jealous of? How does this affect their behavior toward the other person?