Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Scaredy Cat

I read with horror about the riders stranded 35 feet above the ground at Carowinds when a ride malfunctioned.

"I would have died of fright," I told my husband. This may or may not be literally true, but I am terrified of heights. I don't mean mildly frightened; I mean "my body won't move" terrified.

Then I realized I would never have gotten on the ride in the first place.

I can't remember exactly when this fear began, but I recall when I knew for sure it had taken over. A few summers ago I was paralyzed at Grandfather Mountain when the rest of my group crossed the swinging bridge as if it were a footpath across the beach. I could get just so far and then my feet refused to budge--except in retreat.

I believe everyone has a secret (or not-so-secret) fear. So do our characters, and part of the fun of writing is getting them to overcome it.

Maybe it is a physical fear, like heights or water or open spaces.

It could be a fear of dogs, cats, bats or rats.

Maybe they're afraid of non-physical things such as speaking in public, being embarrassed or humilated.

Maybe they're afraid some sordid event in their past will be revealed.

How does this work into the story? Can the hero or heroine face his or her fear and conquer it? What would motivate them? Love for another person? A lost treasure that, if found, will change her life? An inner need?

In "Angels Unaware," Kat was afraid of being on her own.

In "The Lunch Club," Harriet, Jane Anne, Beth and Melody all fear an uncertain future when the "Golden Years" turn out to be fools gold.

What are your characters afraid of?


  1. Great subject!
    Some fears sneak up on you because you didn't know you feared until you ran smack into the situation.
    What a terrific idea for a story.
    Thank you for the post!

  2. I'm afraid of high places, but I have lofty dreams. Hi Sandy.


  3. Fear, in many ways and on many levels, is the gist of any story. The fear of being alone, the fear of failure or losing someone you love. It motivates a story forward to see how that person overcomes their fear. Great post, Sandy.

  4. Personally, it's dogs. Small or large. I freeze. In my dystopian, my young characters fear losing the right to choose their own futures, then discover the fear of losing each other to be greater. In another it's the fear of hidden past coming to light. Great post Sandy. Loved the comments above... "lofty dreams."

  5. That's a great subject. What are our characters afraid of? The most usual suspects are heights, spiders, snakes and closed spaces. I love it when I read a book and one character is afraid of something unusual, like being in front of a crowd, or having a camera pointed at them.