Writing Advice Wednesday
What better time than Halloween week to discuss fear- an important part of my Character Map eBook. Below is a short excerpt.
The Character’s Fear
At the deepest root of all these fears is: How the character believes he or she is or might become unloved or unlovable.
The character asks: “What must I hide or deny so that others will love and/or accept me? If others knew who I really am they would surely turn surely away from me.” This is the secret doubt or dread the character must face in order to live in his or her true self (instead of the false self of the mask). The character’s fear is that deep anxiety, worry, self-doubt of inner shame that prevents the character from making a Leap of Faith toward the true self. Indeed, it is only possible to be truly loved by taking the chance to be one’s self.
Indeed, it is only possible to be truly loved by taking the chance to be one’s self. It is only through honesty, openness, and vulnerability that intimacy can be built. Without such intimacy, there can be no real love.
A character’s fear is the greatest burden he or she carries. It is the yoke the character cannot escape. It defines the secret shame that character never wants to face or acknowledge. It is the unspoken reason the character truly believes he or she is (or could be) a disappointment or disgrace to others (and therefore could be or become unloved or un-loveable).
It is the unspoken reason the character truly believes he or she is (or could be) a disappointment or disgrace to others (and therefore could be or become unloved or un-loveable).
What secret fault or failing does your character hide? Does he or she ask— Am I unworthy of love? Will I ever deserve love? What must I do to win or work for love? What do I have to do to prove I am loveable? Will I always do or say the wrong thing? Am I such a failure or disappointment that I will never be loved?
Choose one of these questions and force your character to confront this issue in all his or her dealings with others— and especially with the antagonist. Force your character to risk everything in facing the fear behind the question. Unless your character faces his or her fear or secret shame, your character will never be free. Your character will constantly be forced to cling the mask and seek its “protection.” A character that hides a secret shame will never be able to live a truly authentic life. As long as that fear and shame exist.
Fear Drives All Conflict
Whenever you are having trouble with a scene, a sequence or an act, ask yourself— How is the character’s fear manifesting itself in this situation? How is the character denying, avoiding, camouflaging or hiding the fear? How is the character trying to cope with or manage the fear? How is the fear tempting the character to get into trouble? How is the character facing the fear? Or, how is the character surrendering to or personally manifesting the fear?
You can purchase The Character Map at the ETB store for more insights in creating a three-dimensional, engaging character that will help you craft the best character you can.