What do You Fear?

It’s true we all fear many things.  In answering the question what do you fear, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

When we start analyzing our fears we may find there are more than we originally thought.  We’ll also realize we have different types of fears.  Most of us possess a mortal fear, whether it be mild or strong.  None of us what to die or to lose loved ones.

Possibly your first reaction to the question is you’re afraid of spiders, for example.  But as you give thought to your fears no doubt you’ll realize you have a few phobias, maybe even a lot.  Analyze each of those.  Are you equally afraid of each or are some stronger phobias than others?

As we pry into our fears, we’ll unearth smaller ones.  Possibly these are financial strains, fear of losing a job or displeasing your boss.

Maybe you’re starting to wonder where I’m headed with all of this?  Here’s the thing:  you possess layers of fears, do your characters?

If we fail to incorporate fears into our characters we risk flatliners.  Although our characters are their own entities, we need to build them by means of incorporating human qualities, thought processes and emotion.  This is why I had a series on this blog entitled “The Human Observation Project”.  It helped breakdown some human reactions to different situations.

In TIES THAT BIND, Madison Knight is a complicated woman working in a field dominated by men.  She’s hardheaded, speaks her mind and is determined to find the killer even if her direction in the case doesn’t please her superiors.  What does she fear?

Madison Knight fears not finding the killer – of having another cold case on her record.  She doesn’t fear an imperfect record as much as thinking she may have somehow factored into another murder.

On a personal level, she fears commitment as she’s had her heart broken before.  She also has a strained relationship with her mother and even though she’d admit this to no one, her mother has more power over her than she’d like.

As comes out more in JUSTIFIED, the next in the series, Madison also fears the sight of blood.  You’ll find out where she pulls the strength to work through this and do her job effectively, and why with such a fear she even chose to become a detective in the first place.

In my upcoming release ELEVEN, my main character FBI Special Agent Brandon Fisher has claustrophobia.  Of course that’s not enough.  That’s only one large fear.  He also fears the people responsible for the murders, especially the one killer who still roams free.

Brandon also possesses fears on a smaller scale.  He doesn’t want to displease his boss, Supervisory Special Agent Jack Harper, but fears he won’t be able to control his temper long enough to make it through his two year probationary period.

Maybe you think the fears I’ve given my characters sound great.  If so, thank you.  But are they enough?  I’ll flip the question back to you – does only one person in your life possess fears, that being you?  To just assign fears to our main characters would be like eradicating humanity from the rest of the cast in your book. I’m not saying that everyone needs to have them layered and textured as do the main characters, but give thought to your supporting characters.  Do they have some fears that evidence themselves?

In TIES THAT BIND, Madison’s partner Terry Grant fears losing his marriage.  In ELEVEN, I don’t want to risk giving too much away, but trust me when I say supporting characters also possess fears.

So in conclusion, if we’ve established our characters’ fears – is that enough?  No.  It would be pointless to assign them fears if they never factored into the plot of the book.  Make them face them!  As the popular saying goes, there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.

Face fears with Madison Knight in TIES THAT BIND as she tries to stop a potential serial killer from getting to the next victim. 

TIES THAT BIND is available in print or for Kindle.

Join Brandon Fisher in ELEVEN as his claustrophobia is pushed to its limits as he goes underground to investigate the burials of ten victims.

ELEVEN is coming 11.11.11.  But you can watch the book trailer and read the first chapter on my website.

Learn more about Madison Knight’s fear of blood in JUSTIFIED, coming this December.  You can read an excerpt on my website.


  1. Fire and loneliness!

  2. How true. Fears,flaws and mistakes are what make characters real. Even villains should be multidimensional.

  3. Very Interesting Blog, Carolyn. Shows your quality as a writer!

  4. Excellent, Carolyn. I don't know how many times I've heard that writers need to blog about the subject matter of their books and not just their books. You did a masterful job of "teaching," giving great advice, but still managing to bring your books to my attention. Well done! :-)

  5. David, I suppose I could second those!

    Shawn, very excellent point.

    Thank you Niamh.

    Rosie, you picked up on that? LOL :) Thank you.

  6. Very well put. Something I didn't know I did this with my characters, but thinking back, I did. Glad to hear that developing them as "real" folks, with flaws and fears, or bringing about mistakes, thinking back on what I've written thus far, I can come up with some for each...even the bad guys. I was using the "fears & flaws" to bring conflict and didn't even realize what I was doing. Thanks so much for posting this very valuable piece of insight for us rookies. ;-)

  7. This is a good point, and very relevant for me now as I start to build/breathe life into a brand new protagonist. What does she fear? Thanks for the prompt...

  8. Great post Carolyn! Makes you take a good look at yourself and your main characters :)

  9. Great post Carolyn and a wonderful reminder to dig deep for all your characters and make them 3D so that your reader will feel like they are in the room with them, feeling and seeing what they are, instead of just words on a page.
    Your stories sound like terrific reads...much success to you!

  10. Hey ladies, great to hear that you enjoyed my post and found it beneficial :) And thank you for the well wishes Christine.

  11. Hmm...my fears. My first though - the macho thought, the one that comes from the ego - is "none". And to some extent that is true. I have no obvious phobias that most people know about. I have my anxieties, but they are under control for the most part.

    I used to have a phobia of bumblebees though, haha.

    As for what fears I have now though, I'll have to get back to you on that one. It's something I'll have to meditate on haha.

    As for my character's fears? I write short stories so there are a lot of characters and a lot of fears. Most times they are average folks, and like most average folks they don't meditate much on their fears until those fears are staring them in the face in all of their morbid glory.

    Sometimes we don't know what we fear until it is in front of us, is what I guess I'm trying to say. It might well be the same for our characters...I know it is often that way for me!

  12. Andrew, very good point. Sometimes our characters won't know what they're afraid of until they face it but I believe as writers we should know their fears. Interesting point, though, because we wouldn't want to have our character's narrative focusing on "I'm afraid of this and that". LOL


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