Fear as a Motivator

What are you scared of? What gives you chills at night? Do snakes terrify you? Bees? Burglars? Gang members?

What do you do when you’re scared? Imagine being in bed, the room is dark and you hear a sound. You listen intently and think it’s coming from the front room. Your purse/wallet is lying on the counter. Your laptop/phone/iPad is on the table. You make your breathing as shallow and quiet as possible. You think about reaching for the phone on the nightstand next to the bed and calling for help, but don’t. What if the phone makes a noise that alerts the intruder? What if there is no intruder? That it’s only a figment of your imagination?

Everyone experiences fear. It could be while watching a movie that keeps you perched on the edge of your seat. It could be thoughts that run rampant when an unexpected call comes at night. It’s how we react to that fear that tells something about our personality.

So it is with your characters. To be human means to carry a wide range of emotions, fear being one of them.

Make a list of five things that your character fears. Beside each, write the reason why.
Choose the most powerful fear. The one that causes the most anxiety.

Write a scene in which the character’s fear dominates the action. This means that you have to know the setting that triggers the fear. For some, it is the dark of night. For others it is walking down an unfamiliar street and seeing loiterers leaning against building walls.

In your piece, the character must experience the fear and then react to it. Reactions do not have to be rational, but they can be.

When you are finished, reread. Is the scene intense enough? Does the reader identify with the character? Is the fear palpable? If not, rewrite.

Have fun with this one.

Good luck.

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