Writers Facing Fear (Part Two)

On January 23, I wrote “Facing Fear (Part One).” Today is “Facing fear with a comrade.” As you all know from the January 23rd post, I have a fear of heights, but still manage (barely) to do activities that require heights.

Last month my husband and I went on an adventure that included (in my view) outrageous heights plus speed. We went on a two and a half hour zip line tour in Hilton Head South Carolina. I so wanted to enjoy this experience with my husband, who is a thrill seeker (opposites do attract.) Although I kind of had the delusion that the zip line course would not be that far off the ground. Yeah right, it is like thinking that I could have an outdoor picnic without bugs.

Back to the zipline. Was I afraid? Heck yes, I was terrified. While our two leaders Tom and Lisa were strapping on our gear and helmet, I made sure they knew my fear of heights. They assured me that they had successfully helped many before me work through their fear. I assume that meant no one fell too.

In our group of 10 – only one other person had Acrophobia- Frank a 77 year old retired marine (almost three decade older than I.) Somehow having a fellow “scaredy cat” (as Frank called he and I) helped me feel safe and not alone in my phobia.

Although, on the first launch, as I sailed over the ground hanging on for dear life, I made up my mind that I could not go any higher and would immediately stop and climb back down to terra firma.  But then I saw Frank fly through the first launch. And I thought, okay maybe I can do just one more.

The zip line course started somewhat low to the ground (about 15 feet) but the as the course progressed every platform was higher. As we hooked in and zipped to the next platform, we would climb stairs on the platform to get to the deck of our next “launch spot.” At one point, we climbed a three story tower. At times, we walked on a swaying suspension bridge that felt like walking on a tightrope (although I have never done that and probably never will.) At the highest launch point (I do not exaggerate) we stood atop a platform and looked down at tree tops. Yes. Down. At. Tree. Tops. I swoon when I remember that.

Each launch made my stomach flip, heart race and head spin. My knees shook and my legs felt weak. I questioned my sanity. I wanted to surrender to my fear- it would have been so much easier to quit.

But there was brave Frank urging me on.

I strengthened my resolve to go on as I zipped to each platform high in the trees. Don’t get me wrong, I was never ever comfortable. Spending most of the course purposefully not looking down. And when I could I’d cling to trees- this prompted Tom the leader to call me an environmentalist (because of my love to literally hug trees.)

With the encouragement of the group, specifically my partner in fear Frank, I took it one launch at a time eventually making it through the entire course (including the final 900 foot zip line race to the ground.)

Afterward, Frank said because of me he completed the course. He said he kept saying “If Lois can do it so can I.” We were each other’s support, strength and motivation in a terrifying (at least to us) situation.

So what is the gist of this post? My previous post on facing fear asked if you had ever pushed yourself in a situation you feared and to translate that same visceral feeling to your character as they face a challenge.

Today I want you to think about a struggle (self imposed like my zipline or otherwise) in your life. Whether a fear, a task, a situation, an event etc. Was there someone that supported or motivated you to succeed and help you get through the challenge? Now look at your story. Remember how you felt having someone there as you overcame an obstacle. Could your character have a comrade as well, and what would it mean to your character to have this buddy with them as they overcome odds? Would it help deepen your story, and have your readers feel more connected to your character?

The Best of Writing Wishes — Lois Lavrisa

Lois Lavrisa writes Mystery with a Twist. Her first mystery, Amazon Top 100 Bestselling and Amazon Hot New Release, LIQUID LIES, is set in an affluent lake town in Wisconsin, and asks the question “Would you tell the truth, even if it meant losing everything?”

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Comments

  1. Nice post, Lois. The situation that comes to mind for me is something that happened on December 3, 2012 when my life and the lives of my parents totally changed. I wrote about this on my blog, “Laugh With Me,” although it really wasn’t funny.

    Here’s some of the blog…where I talk about my comrades, my best friend, Karla, whom I’ve known since 1973, and my cab driver, Greg, whom I’ve known since 2009. It might be 2008, I still can’t think straight.

    I talked to my parents on Sunday morning, and they seemed fine – my mom was talking about me winning the lottery and how I should buy a ticket. I called them back several times that day and that night, but kept getting a busy signal. I’m laid off now, so Monday morning, I planned to check on them, and then do some grocery shopping. Needless to say, I never made it to the grocery. I called my friend and he drove me to their house. I found out something was wrong with the lock on the back door and I couldn’t get in with my key. He tried the front door and it was open. My parents were lying on the floor. My dad was in the bathroom, and my mom was in the hall. My dad was talking, but my mom was unresponsive, Greg had to pick someone else up, but he asked me to call him and he’d come back and check to see what was going on. When he did, we helped my dad onto the couch, but my mom was still in bad shape. I called 9-1-1. They were in the hospital and now in skilled nursing rehab. Now we have to think about if they have to stay there or if they get to come home with nursing care. And I thank God Greg is my friend. Even during this serious situation, he still got me to laugh.

    Then there’s Karla. I’m laid off and money’s running out fast. She has been unbelievable, getting me to the grocery and pharmacy and giving advice without being too obnoxious about it. I have several relatives who my parents and I always say “Oh, they mean well…” about. Believe me, if we say that, it isn’t a compliment. I’m not really fond of people who mean well. I like people like Karla and Greg who aren’t helping out because of what’s in it for them.
    My friends, you are the best.

    I haven’t put my characters in a situation like I’m going through right now — it’s too raw and too soon. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to write about it, but I write romantic comedy so it might be hard to put a comedic spin on a bad situation.

    • Yikes — I didn’t realize that post was so long! Sorry!

      • Lois Lavrisa says:

        Nancy- Whoa- what a lot to take on- is everything okay now? Friends can be such an great support through tough times and it sounds like you have some great friends:)

      • Nancy,

        So sorry to hear your story and the trial you are going through. Were your parents overcome by carbon monoxide? About 20 years ago, I suffered with panic attacks, and I’ve been able to take that experience and humanize my characters with some of the things I learned from that episode of my life. You may not want to write about exactly what has happened, but I’m sure you will be able to channel the emotions into another story. My heart goes out to you and I wish you better days ahead.

        Janice

  2. Angela Brown says:

    I’ve been lucky to have a partner in helping to promote our different novels and work towards getting our work out, one project at a time. Neither of us are very good at self-promoting…a certain shyness we both share. But we both enjoy sharing good news about others so it works.

    I’m working on a MG story now where the main character has to go on a self-imposed adventure if she wants to return home, and no, she won’t be alone when she does it. Adventures are especially better with a friend.

    • Lois Lavrisa says:

      Angela- like you I have a buddy who is also a bestselling author. We have been with each other every step of the way- and like you- I am not great at promoting but with her we seem to manage just fine:)

  3. Tamara Ward says:

    Thanks for this post, Lois! As I write mysteries, I think of all the great sleuth sidekicks, like Watson to Holmes, Lula or Ranger to Stephanie Plum!