Monday, November 5, 2012

Use Fear To Develop Character And Conflict

By Heidi M. Thomas                                          
If you find this post helpful kindly leave a  comment below.

We’re all afraid of something.

That fear can shape who we are and can create jeopardy in our lives. We’ve all been to the dentist, right? For some, just the word could make you break into a cold sweat. Maybe you’re afraid of the pain, or the buzzing sound of the drill. But most realize that the fear and anticipation of that dental visit is worse than the actual procedure.

Fear of the unknown is a similar situation. For example, both my husband and my sister-in-law recently underwent chemo. We were all nervous about what to expect. What would it feel like? Would they immediately get sick? What would their reactions and side effects be? Our imagination can conjure up all kinds of “what-ifs”. But, usually, once you’ve experienced it, you know what to expect the next time, and it’s not as scary as it was before.

Use that fear and anticipation to build suspense in your writing. Suspense is about anticipation. It is about what we do not have, what has nothappened, about what might happen. It’s about the process of watching events unfold. (i.e.While the victim is being stalked, suspense looms. Once the victim is murdered, the suspense disappears.) Waiting to find out builds suspense and drama.

Fear may be something our character needs to overcome, her internal conflict in the story. That takes us on her journey of development, how she reacts to her fear, how she deals with it, how she wins over it in the end or is changed by it.

As an author, you can use your fear to drive your character (and maybe overcome your own in the process).

A native Montanan, Heidi M.Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series. This post originally appeared on The Blood Red Pencil Blog.


Ruby Johnson said...

What a straight and to the point explanation of using fear to add conflict. Thanks for appearing on our blog.

MattB said...

Great advice! Sure you can scare people by showing them a 10 foot monster, but even more effective is NOT showing the creature, perhaps just some tracks, the aftermath of its attack, and its distant cries riding on the wind to let you know it's still out there.

Thorne said...

MattB is correct. It brings to mind, awakening in a dark room with moonlight shining on a slightly open closet door then you start imagining someone in the closet. You muscles tighten, your hands clinch, and you hold your breath waiting..

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