Human beings deal with fear every day, be it from external forces or internal pragmatisms. Usually hidden behind a fake smile or a cocky demeanor, it haunts our thoughts and bogs down decisions. Fear affects how we do things, see things, poisoning or strengthening us from the inside out.
Think about this. What happens once fear breaches the surface? The outcome depends on choice. Do we allow this particular poison to spread inward or outward? Or, do we stop it in its tracks? With each of us, the results are about how much we allow the fear to control us. How each of us deals with it is what can change everything. Or, if you’re a writer, it’s how it can change a character.
Paranormal romance novels can carry fear as suspense novels carry tension. Say, for backstory, ghosts or demons start haunting your character as a child entering puberty. What kind of adult did fear create ten years later? Would the incorporeal creature shape a hero or villain as it influences a child surrounded with love? Or is the child without love? In these circumstances, the result pushes either him or her, in most cases, to get help. Sometimes characters respond by dealing with them internally. If they don’t have a good support system, fear of ghosts or demons might result in a negative outcome, possibly causing some kind of psychosis. In walks your villain.
Paranormal romance can also take a fear and turn it into a positive giving enlightenment or sending the hero to rescue the fair maiden. Picture a child surrounded by loving support, she befriends the ghost she originally fears, because children are supposed be scared of what lies in the dark, but as the child grows up, the ghost becomes a safe, constant presence. It warns her of danger or tells her when something bad might happen, acting as a familiar, strengthening her against evil and those that would harm her. In walks your heroine.
External fear is everything else that isn’t inside a person’s head already. Take for example a dark alley. Do you like walking down dark alleys? Not many of us do, but it’s a good way to add fear as it applies to your characters physical reactions.
Imagine a demon, which you can only hear, not see, chasing you down a dark alley. The silence is heavy; the only thing you can hear is your own heartbeat, uneven breaths make your chest itch as you struggle to breathe. With no warning, something crashes behind you, breaking glass shatters the night, and you look back. There’s only darkness and the slapping of your high heels on cracked pavement. The second you turn your head, you trip and fall. In shock, the pain overwhelming, you struggle to get up on cut hands and knees when an icy chill slithers around your leg and up bare skin. What feels like a hand reaches and curls around your neck, tightening, the cold seeping into your flesh, darkening the world to nothing. You gasp for air as another hand, and then another, and another, violates you. You try to scream, but the fingers closing around you won’t allow it. About to die, a cold tongue eliciting a putrid smell licks the line of your jaw, your eyes start to water, the creature loosens its grip, and laughs but you’re the only one who can hear it say, “You’re mine now.”
Pretty creepy, right? How many of the five senses did I use in the scene? Sound, sight, touch, and smell. I didn’t use taste, unless you count the demons wayward tongue. Using the senses adds immediate fear to your characters vision, and you can connect with your readers as they fear for your characters well being.
Fear is part of a characters growth, or decline if that’s your desire, but it’s important that you look at it from both an internal and external point of view. How does it effect and affect the character you’re building? Think about what you want your character to be, a sociopath who hates cops, or a paranormal detective that sees dead people.
This gives me the idea to consider what fears my characters had or didn’t have as a child when building a profile. I think it can provide rich aspects to what motivates a character in the story.
I learned something new from your piece. I never thought of fear that way before.
Thank you, Claire
I think you did use taste. Reading this brought up memories of the worst taste I had ever experienced. Yuck. LOL
Thanks. I like the creepy factor in my writing to bring out the antagonist.
I heard that Anne Rice was afraid to be alone in her own house, because of the creepy stories she wrote…How well do you sleep at night, Wendi? You have a knack for the macabre.
I’ve had a few that have left me squirming, a couple I’ve woken up with a scream in my head. Yep I can use what’s in my dreams.