Friday, October 1, 2021

2021 - October through December — Fears Worse Than Death

This year's posts have all dealt with "lists" (also known as Cheat Sheets) that help a writer recall necessary elements before (or after) writing that make for a story worth telling and selling. Such Cheat Sheets are the backbone of a producing writer's Project Bible. 

Fears Worse Than Death 

One of the key elements to collect and put on a Master Character Worksheet or Questionnaire and to ask only of your main characters is: What is your fear worse than death?

That's right — 

There are things far worse then death or dying. Among them are fears and phobias. 

Often a fear or a phobia is the Protagonist's or Antagonist's Achilles' heel, their weakness, their vulnerability, which will play out in the story in some way, often in a major or catastrophic way.

Such a fear or phobia makes the character more human or adds a quirk to their personality. For instance, Indiana Jones's fear of snakes. My own fear is of wasps and hornets. I've been stung so many times over the years that I am now allergic to their stings. As a result, should I hear a buzz, I about panic looking for the culprit to kill it before it stings me.

It's important that a writer avoid plastering just any fear or phobia onto a character. The fear or phobia has to be part and parcel of the character's character because their fear or phobia resulted from a "cause." That is, something happened in the Protagonist's or Antagonist's past that created that particular fear and that fear, in turn, affects how the character judges and reacts or tries to avoid dealing with the fear or phobia they have acquired.

These fears-phobias fall into three groups: debilitating, life-threatening, and extremely humiliating. The result it that the character (or a person) will do just about anything to avoid facing that fear. One example is the fear of public speaking, which to most seem to result in the ultimate of humiliations.

Of course, often the character doesn't realize what affect that original fear-inducing incident had on them until "The Wise One" or "The Voice of Reason" type of character in the story points it out to them—or the Antagonist uses that fear or phobia against the Protagonist (or vice versa). What Lex Luther villain doesn't enjoy jabbing a little kryptonite into Superman?

Over the years, and from many different sources, I've put together my own extensive list of "Fears Worse Than death" (which includes phobias) that people have. You can start your own list by checking out:

Such a list should go into your personal, master copy of your Story Project Bible.

* * * 

October 9, 2021  — I will be giving two IN-PERSON writing workshops in Erie PA at the WRITER'S ROAD TRIP #9. This is the 9th year for the event hosted by Area 1 Pennwriters, part of Pennwriters, Inc. 





Janet said...

Spooky picture, Catherine. My niece's fear is spiders. She would scroll down your page fast after she got a glimpse of the spider on the skull.

Catherine said...

Hi, Janet,

I chose the spooky spider-skull to go with the topic. And to some, spiders are a fear worse than death. :)