Fear – It’s Not Just For Sissies

Today, I want to talk about fear. I have fears. Practical ones too like a fear of heights, peanuts (I’m allergic), snakes, and tucking my skirt into my underwear. With our kitchen renovation I’ve become fearful of what I’ll see when we take down drywall – mouse droppings, mouse carcasses, or more frightening, improper structure. I am also fearful of the estimates from the trades people called in to fix the improper structure and clean up the mouse carcasses. Everyone has fears. Fear can be a huge motivator or inhibitor for us.

Having fears is different from being afraid. Fears we carry with us all the time. I know with absolute certainty that I will never ride on the High Roller on top of the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. I know this for several reasons:

  1. I fear heights so I wouldn’t go up there in the first place.
  2. It was dismantled in 2005.
  3. It’s just stupid.

Fear is something we have. Being afraid is a state of being and usually causes us to do something about being afraid. Little Man is afraid in the dark so he’ll turn on his lamp. I am afraid of being on a ladder so I get down. I am afraid of snakes and will run away (screaming like a little girl). Fear can paralyze us from doing something but being afraid can motivate us to do something.

How we become fearful of something is important because maybe you aren’t fearful of that thing but an associated thing. I am fearful of heights. Because it would hurt to fall from a height. A lot. It would hurt a lot. So, maybe it’s not heights but pain I’m fearful of. I am fearful of snakes. Because they can bite and some are poisonous. I’m fearful of being bitten (pain) and of being poisoned. I am fearful of peanuts. Because I have an allergy that makes me die. I have experienced the anaphylaxis and don’t want to do it again. I don’t go near them if I have control so I’m fearful of not having control over the food that is offered to me. I am fearful of other people’s carelessness and stupidity. When put in a position where the fear becomes a reality, that’s when we become afraid and act. I’m up high – I get down (carefully). I see a snake – I run. When people are offering me food – I ask what’s in it, possibly decline, never trust, and always have my EpiPen handy.

When developing your characters think about what they fear. How does that paralyze them? How does that make them act or react? What if your character is afraid of themselves or what they could be capable of doing? A. Marie Silver wrote a wonderful series on Fiction & Phobias that you can revisit here. In the series you will find a list of phobias that can be used in your character development or destruction. Just remember to analyze why your character might have a particular fear, what the fear really is, and what action does it cause them to do (or not).

We are now taking submissions for the May/June Issue of Pilcrow & Dagger. The theme is Three Wishes. If you had three wishes, what would you wish for? A fancy car? A big house? Lots of money? Children? No children? A vacation? How did you gain these three wishes? What are the consequences of them? If you could grant three wishes what would you grant? To whom? Don’t be afraid, write your story, poem, essay, recipe, flash, what-have-you and send it in! Deadline is April 16th and there’s no wishing for that extension.

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