Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In the Face of Fear

The other night, a strange sound woke me. I turned over but I couldn’t see the alarm clock so I had no idea what time it was. I saw a lump lying next to me, so I knew my hubby was sleeping, as always, like the dead. The dog wasn’t making any noise either.

Maybe I imagined the sound?

Then I heard it again. Someone was right outside the bedroom door. I could hear the floor boards creak.

I panicked. Normally, my doggy is a wonderful watch dog but he wasn’t barking. What if the intruder came in and silenced my dog already? And my husband, that useless sack of weight that could sleep through a hurricane! Surely if someone broke in, he would wake up?

Then again, I wouldn’t even attempt to underestimate my husband’s ability to tune stuff out. A few months ago my stepdaughter fell off her bike and came home, doors slamming, crying her eyes out, making it into a bigger deal then it was, and he slept without even budging.

I still panicked, fear racing through me when I heard that sound again, somewhere in the bathroom now.

I considered calling the cops, but I was too scared, so I placed one hand on my husband, hoping against hope he would wake up.

Only my husband felt strange. He had more hair and it was softer. And then, the creature beside me turned to reveal a long snout and big ears.

You can only image the sense of relief I felt when I realized my hubby got up to go to the bathroom and the dog took his place beside me.

So I learned a lesson that night, I’m a wuss.

Actually, that I already knew. What I did learn was an element of writing; fear.

So many new writers concentrate on making their characters likable but slightly flawed, yet many of them forget to write about fear. All of us are scared of something, be it something big like a break-in or something small like bugs. Some of us, have more than one fear. Ever seen that show Monk? The man has a million fears and he’s my favorite TV detective. Why? Because he’s a wuss. I’m a wuss. And actually most people are scared of something or other so most of us are wusses.

So here’s a question: Do you write character fears into your books? And when reading, do you enjoy characters who have fears?


  1. I love a flawed character but, as always, it has to be believable, not contrived. And I'm a total wuss! That sound you heard would have had me totally panicked, my heart racing, my throat tight. Yikes!

  2. It would have scared me worse when I touched the dog thinking it was my husband. My characters don't usually have a phobia of any sort, but do express their fears when a situation arises.

  3. My characters always have a fear (usually hidden). I think it makes them more empathetic and realistic.

  4. Definitely! One of my characters suffered from agoraphobia, now that's fear! ;)
    Fear makes them human. They have to be real characters otherwise, they're not really real.