Dorothy and her friends are traipsing down the Yellow Brick Road when they hear a strange noise. Imagination takes over, and the next thing they know they are fleeing down the path they were enjoying but a few moments before chanting, "Lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my!"
Fear is a strong motivator. It releases adreneline into the bloodstream prompting the fight or flight response. Heart rate increases, breathing escalates, muscles tense ready for action.
Fear is also a great deterrant. It keeps doors, and minds, closed and locked. It can be immobilizing, freezing a man in place while he watches the bus, train, horse, tank, dragon, or whatever will injure, maim, mutilate, kill, or devour him approach.
None of us are immune to fear--as evidenced by a list of phobias longer than a man's arm. It is what we do about it that either makes us or breaks us.
It does the same for your characters.
Nothing quite like a butt-kicking heroine, dripping slime after annailating a slavering monster that thought her his dinner, cowering, back against the wall, inching toward the door because an arachnid less than an inch long is dangling from the rafters.
Sounds silly, but it can help make her real, accessible, and just like a million other women--sans slime.
Indiana Jones. Intrepid. Heroic. Courageous. Except when it comes to snakes.
Indy finds himself in a pit filled with vipers. He's not a happy man. He wants out. But he doesn't desolve into a quivering, helpless wreck. The fear motivates him, sets his intellect humming, seeking an escape. Fear and all, the man is a worthy hero.
Dorothy, when confronted by a lion, shivers in her ruby slippers. She's frightened. The lion is large, growling, maybe hungry. Then it threatens Toto. Dorothy's love for her pet overcomes her fear. She slaps the lion--and discovers she's stronger than that which she feared.
What fears lurk in the hearts of your hero and heroine? Will it motivate or immobilize? Is it based on experience? Awareness? Or is it a 'monsters under the bed' fear? How can you use it to help your reader connect, empathize, cheer?
How about your antagonist? Because, for the story to work, the reader must connect there as well.
Every world, real or imagined, has its own lions and tigers and bears. Which ones stalk your characters?
The Uneaten Meal
9 months ago