Writing a Character Fear Profile

Sometimes, it’s easier to approach something when you can fill in the blanks; characters’ fear reactions are no exception. The following is the skeleton of a possible way of recording a character’s fear profile; her standard reactions, her greatest fears and those most expected but least likely to actually bother her, her sensitizations and habituations, and the role that fear plays in her life.


Default instinctive fear reaction (Choose one of fight, flight, or freeze):

This is the initial message the primitive fear system most often sends to the character, that later consideration expands upon.

Exceptions to instinctive reaction:

What sorts of situations can override the standard instinctive fear response at the instinct level?

Reasoned fear response:

This is the character’s usual conscious approach to dealing with normal fear stimuli; most often, it’s a refinement of one of the Big Three responses.

Greater stress response:

What’s the character likeliest to do if she gets overwhelmed by fear or stress?

Coping mechanisms:

Most people have some way to downplay their fear or reduce it to a level that they feel they can oppose. What tricks does your character use?

Major and minor fears (include fear, level of effect, and reason—I recommend using both fears that have resonated/unexpectedly failed to resonate with the character, and ones that either show up a lot or that you expect to show up a lot. Detail helps!):

Role of fear in the character’s life:

Some people welcome fear; some try to chase it away. There are those who can’t respect people who show fear, and those who can’t understand people who don’t; ones who are easily overwhelmed, and ones who easily ignore it. What is the relationship between this character and fear?

Additional Notes

Try profiling a character or two. Does this help you make sense of their fear reactions?

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Impractical Applications (Tuyet’s Fear Profile) | Exchange of Realities
  2. Characterization Exercise: What is Fear to You? | Exchange of Realities
  3. Wednesday Night Writing Exercise: Dexter’s Fear Profile | Exchange of Realities

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