“Fear makes men forget, and skill which cannot fight is useless”
~ PHORMIO OF ATHENS, 429 B.C.
Fear. The most powerful of emotions. It can strike you dumb and paralyzed, and make you forget a skill you’ve practiced for a lifetime. It doesn’t matter what else you’re doing, figuring your taxes, driving your car, or making passionate love to your dearly beloved, the second fear strikes, everything else, and I mean everything, is put on hold until it is dealt with.
You’re alone in that lovely cabin by the picturesque lake that you rented for a fortnight to work on your novel. You’ve had a productive day and a robust dinner, and turned in early, eager to make a full day of it tomorrow.
What was that?
You glance at the clock: Two AM. You listen to the sound of the wind in the treetops for a while, and finally convince yourself that it was the remnant of a dream, something that only happened inside your head. Your eyes begin to drift closed.
You ain’t sleepy now, are you?
Fear, then, is the greatest motivator in the human experience. I’m postulating that as a given, and if you can prove me wrong, I would love to hear the argument. People are afraid of different things. Snakes, rats, falling in love again… With me it’s spiders, flying, and rejection. That fear causes me to react with sudden and extreme violence when I see an eight-legged freak scuttling around my work area, or God forbid, on my person! Want to see get in a week’s worth of cardio? Just let me walk through a web! Flying? Forget it! The bravest thing I’ve ever seen anybody do is get on an airplane. Fear of rejection has made me the sort of recluse who grows into a writer; gotta do something with all that solitary time, right?
Much has been made in recent years of the so-called Hierarchy of Needs, but there doesn’t seem to be a corresponding hierarchy of fears. Most humans have a healthy fear of death. It’s healthy because it keeps us from doing stupid things like trying to jump between two skyscrapers, swimming with piranhas, or getting into airplanes. We try to avoid pain, though that may be classed as an aversion rather than a true fear. But once we get past those, there’s a much more “cafeteria” approach to it. Many people aren’t afraid of spiders, and snakes don’t bother me a bit. And if you want to get an idea of how many people are in the air at any given time without a care in the world, feast your eyes on https://www.flightradar24.com/
So, as humans, we all carry all of these different fears with us, and like the song says, my funk ain’t your funk, and your funk ain’t mine. How do you use it to shape your characters’ actions? And let’s clear something up here: A character who never feels, let alone shows any fear is about as one dimensional and uninteresting as anyone can get. Someone who is truly and deeply afraid, and is able to shake it off, pull themselves together, and do what needs to be done are generally considered leaders, heroes, saviors and the like. Those who can’t manage it join the ranks of the cowards who leave friends in the lurch, the damsels in distress that need to be saved, the ones who, in short, make heroes necessary.
In the course of writing this article, I have realized that I could do better at this. Could you? How have you used fear, and the reaction to it, to make your characters richer, deeper, more compelling? Have any insights you might share with us? Of course, if you’re a horror writer, fear is your stock in trade, but whatever knowledge you carry about this very primal subject, we’d love to hear it!
View from the Blimp
Not much here to expound on; I’m just chipping away at The Darklighters, though I do have room for a few more beta readers if anyone would like to get in on the ground floor, and obtain free signed copies of the finished work with your website highlighted on the acknowledgements page, not to mention getting to read new works before anybody else does. But, hey, don’t let me influence you… Drop me a line on the Contact page if I have, though!
On another subject, I’m toying with a new way of promoting new or fairly new works by my followers, and it can be seen below. An occasional reciprocal promotion wouldn’t go amiss, by the way; we indies need to support each other! Any thoughts? Like it, or does it clutter up the blog?
In Other News…
Denizens of Tampa, Florida have a huge treat looming on the horizon. Aethertopia, one of the major steampunk conventions (it actually bills itself as the greatest steampunk event in history), is coming to the Entertainment Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds on July 7th and 8th. This looks to be primarily a makers’ fair, but writers, artists, and costumers will get their due, so if you’re anywhere in the vicinity, be sure this one is on your calendar!
Writers After Dark, the very informative page of Raymond Esposito and S.K. Anthony, will be down for a month, give or take, while they set up a new site; they’ve found their current one to have become a bit restrictive. As they have over 12,000 followers, they expect this to be a project, but one well worth it. I’ll announce their return here, as I suspect many other loyal followers will as well.
My favorite Irish wit, Tara Sparling, dear sweet child that she is, has put her finger on the pulse of what it means to be a writer. If you’ve ever considered our calling as a career, feast your eyes on this; no one has ever said it better!
Raw Egg. The problem with Gregor Planks as a fictional character is that he discovers he is trapped in a book. Naive and arrogant, the adolescent Gregor abandons a home life where his literary ambitions are viewed as an excuse to avoid working. He soon finds himself in the town of Riverside, where a story-stealing seductress sets him along a plot that forces him to take up residence in a dilapidated motel room. In squalor, Gregor writes fiction on an old typewriter while attempting to support himself with menial jobs he believes no artist should have to endure. Gregor’s assumption that he is in control of the fiction he writes is soon disrupted when a recurring character he created begins to talk to him. Life quickly becomes a blend of fiction and reality for Gregor as he travels in and out of the stories he writes while attempting to win the love of Hannah, a gawky waitress who is immediately repulsed by Gregor’s disillusioned reality. Not to be left without a proper antagonist, the bulky restaurant owner – known to Gregor only as the hairy man – has an unquenchable desire to keep the would-be writer away from Hannah by any means possible. Blinded by his ego, Gregor overlooks the common threads of fiction that control his life and finds himself locked in a battle for his own existence. $2.50 on Kindle.
Savage Land of Jur. This is the second book in the Jur series. Trapped in the Jurassic period of Earth’s predawn, Ron and Odette search for the Ancient Ones in hope of finding a time portal that will return them to the twentieth century. Their journey is fraught with terror, and when Odette is captured by an Ancient One, they are faced by even more danger in this savage world of Jur. $2.99 on Kindle.
Vigilante: Into the Darkness pulls no punches when it comes to the horrific details of a worldwide grid-down situation, from the effect on the food chain from ants to rats. With so many dead, how do the survivors deal with rotting corpses, diseases, and villains? Will good triumph over evil? Maybe…
Levi Levins retires from the Army and is off on vacation before starting his new job. He suffers a horrendous loss accompanying “lights out” and must find a way to help humanity to keep his own sanity. He has no bug out bag, no hidden weapons cache, no transportation. What does he do, and how does he do it? Levi will walk us through his path to survival. Perhaps it may also be yours…
Vigilante: Into the Darkness takes us on a journey to try to stave off the New Dark Age brought on by a worldwide EMP apocalypse. Can Government survive when no food is being trucked to the masses? Can our military survive without the tons of food needed each and every meal? The answers are here. 99¢ on Kindle.
Night Shift. In New Angeles, crime is part of the daily business of running the city. But when an investigation of a dead body starts turning up more questions than answers, homicide detective Harold Peterson finds himself unraveling a decades-old conspiracy that leads him to the highest echelons of the city. Free on Wattpad.
Fear is in the Air is a mixture of facts and fictional stories about a sexy female stewardess named Ewa Lowe, that just also happens to be a serial killer with alien DNA. This book also has a volume II that will be available in 2019 named “Ewa 51”. It is available for free on the Apples iBooks store from 6th to 10th of each month in 2018, which this post unfortunately just missed, but mark your July calendars! Regularly $4.99 on Kindle.
And that’s 30 for this edition. Join me Thursday for more hilarious hijinx. Until we meet again, read well, and write better!