Writers Facing Fear for Our Characters and for Us as Human Beings (Part One)

There are a few things (okay maybe more than a few things) I simply don’t like.  Arrogance and entitlement. Waiting (even having four children I still have the bare minimum of patience.)  People who have loads of money but still cry poor mouth. Chaos.  Poor hygiene. You get the point.

The bottom line: there are things I don’t like.

However I manage when faced with them. For example, I have waited thousands of hours for my children at doctor visits, team practices, after school activities, orthodontist appointments, carpool and so on.  So even though I have little patience I’ve learned (perhaps been forced) to work through it and have some semblance of patience (having my laptop or a book help a lot.)

As for arrogant and/or entitled people? I tolerate them for the sake of keeping peace. Although I cringe every time they open their mouth. I tighten my lips together for fear of speaking my mind and telling them to get over themselves and get a life.

Not liking something is different than dread. And there are situations that plummet me into straight out fear, anxiety, cold clammy palms, racing heart, dizziness and near panic attacks.

What is it?  Acrophobia. Yes, I fear heights

Yet- at some point in my life I have done the following:

Parasailed way up in the sky while in Acapulco, Mexico

Rode countless steep scream inducing rollercoasters

Went up in a hot air balloon over cornfields in central Illinois

Have been a passenger on a hundred plus airline flights

Went in Willis Tower Chicago’s glass Sky deck

Walked on Germany’s Marienbrucke bridge over a deep ravine to get a good picture of Neuschwanstein castle

Took a 26 mile Bike ride down Maui’s steep Haleakala mountain

You get the point- these are not activities normally associated with someone who is afraid of heights.  But I have done them.  I have pushed myself though my fear, often holding (okay nearly crushing) someone’s hand while talking myself through my fear as I go to a height beyond my comfort level (anything over six feet.)

For example in the glass Skydeck in Chicago’s Willis tower (formally Sears Tower) I crawled (yes on my hands and knees- okay so maybe sometimes I am a little embarrassing) onto the glass box which extends 4.3 feet and  looked down the 103 stories then immediately scrambled out.  A side note, my fear must not have a genetic link.  My sister-in-law Dawn told me a story of when she and my brother Leon had gone to the Skydeck. Leon had decided that standing in the glass Skydeck was not enough- he felt that he needed to jump up and down while in it. This cleared the whole glass box and left my brother to jig his heart away alone in the sky.

Now to the point (finally) of this post.  Some of the best characters are those that move beyond their fear (even if they revert back.) We can relate to them. It makes them richer and deeper.

Do you remember when you moved beyond a fear?  What visceral reaction did you have?  Can you put your character in the same situation and describe it?

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Comments

  1. Sibel Hodge says:

    What a fab post, Lois! most of us have fears of some kind, and passing those flaws onto a character can be a great way to add depth! Like you, I hate heights, but earlier this year I went in a helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon. What an amazing trip! :)

  2. Lois Lavrisa says:

    Sibel- Thank you- and your helicopter ride sounds wonderful, well after I get through thinking of how high it must have been:)

  3. D.D. Scott says:

    Great post, Lois!

    I think every great accomplishment I’ve had in my life has come about because I first conquered one of my fears. I’ve never been one to let fear stop me. Oh, it’s resulted in hours on “therapy” couches (just kidding…sort of), but I pop off those couches and run with the freakin’ bulls!!! :-)

    Indie Epublishing itself was a fear of mine…only because I’d been wrapped up and brainwashed by the TradiPub World for over ten years, and you know the horrible things they used to say and still do about those who dare to self-publish. And damn, if I ain’t laughin’ all the way to the bank after kickin’ that fear and their views to the curb.

    Here’s the ironic part…all that nasty ass-ness comin’ from that camp, it’s motivated by fear too…the fear that we’re all getting smarter, goin’ out on our own, which means they might not have jobs in the near future.

    I hope they can get past their fear too and embrace technology for what it is – once they do, we’ll all benefit in ways none of us ever imagined possible. Best of all, so will readers the world over.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      Oh, and as far as taking those fears into my characters…

      All of my characters are the proverbial bulls in the china shop. Hmmm…wonder where they got that trait?! Damn! Back to the big ol’ “therapy” couch…

    • I love your analogy of running with the bulls, D.D.! In my book, Carpe DiEmily, running with the bulls is one of the items on my character’s bucket list. It’s something I actually did in real life (when I was young and fearless – LOL), and I highly recommend it, both literally and figuratively!
      :D

      • Lois Lavrisa says:

        Me too:) Love it DD

        • SK Holmesley says:

          That’s funny. I never had any desire to run with the bulls, but my grandpa (long deceased) raised beef cattle. There was more than once across the summers we visited the farm when my brother and I inadvertently walked between a cow and her recently born calf and had to run from (hardly with) the irate mama bovine. It’s amazing how quickly one can scale a fence when there is incentive not to stop to open the gate. :-)

  4. Lois Lavrisa says:

    DD- you are so right getting of fear and conquering it has helped me the most in my life as well:)

  5. I couldn’t agree more with your post. My main character in Carpe DiEmily (Part 1 offered free on Amazon and iTunes !) is filled with fear at the beginning of the book. She lives a very structured and dull life until a series of events throw her onto a wild ride. She decides to make a bucket list (a wacky one, at that), and attempts to do every item on it. The result? A series of hilarious adventures that force her to confront her fears and learn to truly live for the first time. It’s a journey all of us can relate to, especially as authors when we need to push past our fears every day to make our dreams come true!

  6. Jim Guigli says:

    Try being the only man who shows up at Sisters in Crime meetings.

    T-shirt slogan: It Takes a Brave Man to Join Sisters in Crime

  7. Jill James says:

    I suffer from claustrophobia, but it is mild. That is, it was mild until we rode the mini elevator to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Imagine that you are sitting, five to a car, all your knees touch, even though you are short your head almost touches the ceiling, and the only thing going past the itty-bitty window is concrete. Then imagine that after you finally make it and get to enjoy the view at the top (no fear of heights, that is the husband) you now must get back in the little car to go back down.

    • Juanita Rice says:

      Jill, I remember those seats on the Gateway Arch and you are right. But the view from the top was worth it; although I can’t say I enjoyed the swaying. :)

  8. Funny you should be talking about this today. I’m writing piece on how my own fears motivated my novel No Place Like Home. I was getting nightmares prompted by the classic “bag lady syndrome” and decided to write about a successful woman who suddenly loses everything and ends up homeless. By making my character live through what I fear the most, I managed to alleviate my own anxieties. Making your character face the “unthinkable” helps you to think it through. I hope it will help my readers do it too.

    • Lois Lavrisa says:

      Anne- I just love this therapy through writing ” By making my character live through what I fear the most, I managed to alleviate my own anxieties”:)

  9. Juanita Rice says:

    Great bit of advice…not only for character development, but for real life. :)

  10. I used to have a fear of snakes. I conquered it with a course of behavior modification and a slinky fellow named Benjamin.

    I gave ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) to an FBI agent in my book Badwater, and all did not end well with him.

    • Lois Lavrisa says:

      Toni- I love that you made your FBI agent fearful of snakes I will have to read your book and see what you mean when you said it did not end well- although I am pretty sure I know what that means:)

  11. David Slegg says:

    Hi, Lois.

    Great post! Way to face those fears and apply that experience to your characters.