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Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Thoughts on Writing | 6 comments

A is for Afraid

be afraid, be very afraidHey, y’all. Today is the first day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Basically, you’re going to get a new post every day except Sundays (fingers need a break) featuring a different letter of the alphabet as it pertains to my books, my writing process or my life. To kick us off, today’s letter is A.

Be afraid, y’all. Be very afraid.

Being a afraid as a character

I think fear is a natural emotion for people to experience – in real life and on the page. Across all genres, the best characters are the ones who are afraid. It’s the way they overcome their fear – or don’t – that makes the plot interesting.

In some of my favorite stories, the characters I’ve loved most were afraid:

  • Bombs would detonate
  • Evil psychics would triumph
  • Justice would never be served
  • Someone would die
  • They’d never find love.

And here’s the thing…The best characters, the ones who stick with us long after we turn the final page, don’t let their fear incapacitate them. They race off into the path of danger regardless of the consequences. Sometimes, they don’t even consider the consequences. They just go for it.

Sure, yes, maybe some people are just naturally braver than others, but that’s not the point. Even the bravest of characters has that one thing that terrifies them to their core, that one outcome that they can’t face.

If they don’t? Uh, bor-ing.

What’s the point of reading about a protagonist who’s afraid of nothing and fends off trouble with their magic forcefield of awesomeness? While I don’t particularly want to read 100 pages of a main character trying to work up the courage to open a mysterious package from a chick named Pandora, I’d still like to care about them and their plight. I want the stakes ratcheted up as high as they go. I want to know  that all hell is about to break loose once Pandora’s Box is opened.

And I want to know that the character knows as well.

Then I want them to open the box anyway, all hell be damned.

I think that’s why I always make my characters afraid of something. Maybe it’s nothing overt like a fear of the dark or heights, but it’s there, simmering below the surface, waiting to incapacitate them in the moment when they need bravery most. Even my own Jackson Caldwell, brave as he is, has some deep-seated fears about his own abilities and motivations that rear their ugly heads throughout Agents of Deceit.* Actually, they’ll be his constant companions in varying degrees throughout the series.

Being afraid as a writer

I think being afraid is a necessary part of writing. No, I’m not convinced that there’s a ghost floating behind my chair, ready to rip my face off should I turn around. That would actually be rather distracting. How do you write a love scene when you’re so terrified that it’s all you can do to keep your head from swiveling around to face your doom?

The kind of fear I’m talking about is the fear that the writing simply isn’t good enough.

You see, writers have this split personality we don’t typically talk about. While we have the confidence that we can write novels worth a reader’s time and attention, we also often believe our work is never good enough publish. For many writers, this fear keeps them scribbling furiously in notebooks and journals that no one else will ever see. For others, fear turns to fuel.

Because I live in constant fear that my characters are flat, my plots are stagnant and my love scenes fizzle before they ever sizzle, that drives me to work that much harder to ensure I’ve developed the different aspects of the story. Will there still be readers who call the work a miserable failure? Yep.

And that’ll just add more fuel to the fire, driving me to keep improving.

Rather than being afraid of our shortcomings as writers, I think we should instead be afraid of the day we’re no longer afraid to release new works into the literary wild.

And now, Katt Lovers, I’m afraid we’ve come to the end. Next up: B is for Bank Robbery.

Have some thoughts on being afraid? Talk to me, y’all.

*Disclosure: I receive commission from affiliate link sales. Granted, you probably already assumed I was making money off my own book sales, right?

© 2013, Sydney Katt. All rights reserved.

photo by: gagilas
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6 Comments

  1. I’m probably just repeating hundreds of quotes and cards by saying this, but it’s what you do with your fear that counts. I think that’s why characters who overcome their fears are so magnetic to readers – we have those same fears, too, and want to see someone else triumph over them, as well. Great post!

    –Jessica
    SF & Fantasy Writer at Visions of Other Worlds

    • I actually rather enjoy a character who doesn’t totally overcome their fears. I love some of the avoidance techniques they try – and fail at. :)

  2. Oh there are tons of things I’m afraid of as a writer. TONS! Somedays just looking at my laptop freaks me out.
    Bank Robbery – that would be something to afraid of too.
    Dani @ Entertaining Interests
    #warriorminion

    • My laptop only freaks me out when I know I’ve got a pile of work waiting that I can’t hope to complete by deadline. ;)

  3. characters with no fear are fake and unlikeable.
    and we writers have all sorts of fears! ah!

    • Writers probably have more fears than the average person. But that makes us – and by association our characters – more interesting. Or at least, that’s what I’ll continue telling myself.

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