Articles from April 2011



Writing the Fear Reaction

Over the past week and a half, I’ve been writing about factors that are going to influence how characters react to something that scares them. Now let’s put it all together and look at a step-by-step process for writing a character’s fear reaction.
First (assuming an immediate threat), let the instinctive, startle-reflex reaction hit: fight, flight [...]

Characterization Exercise: What is Fear to You?

You’ve probably noticed one of the more odd blanks I put on my fear profile template: the role of fear in the character’s life. After all, not all characters deal with fear in quite the same way; there’s what they think of experiencing it, how willing they are to show it, how much it affects [...]

Fear: Responses vs. Coping Mechanisms

I find that people’s ways of reacting to fear stimuli fall into two general categories.
On the one hand, you have direct responses to the fear itself: attempting to in some way eliminate the immediate need to be afraid. For some people, this might be removing themselves from the location of the fear-source, or trying to [...]

The Generic Villain on Baleful Polymorphing the Heroes

Turning people into animals. It’s an interesting little trick, lots of room for embellishment and plenty for extra cruelty factor, usually relatively common knowledge in any given fantasy universe, and lots of folkloric precedent. So is it any surprise that many of us, once it’s an available tactic, tend to find lots of excuses to [...]

Impractical Applications (Tuyet’s Fear Profile)

Not long ago, I discussed creating fear profiles for characters. This is an example using my old favorite PC, Tuyet.
Name: Tuyet
Default instinctive fear reaction: Fight
Standard reasoned fear reaction (basic): Do something that might help. Then try something else. Then something else. As level of fear increases, improbability of plans increases proportionally, and consideration decreases, to [...]

A Week of Reading 4-15

More adventures from the reading list!
On a recommendation from my weekend coworker and partner in plotting, I read through All I Can Handle, Kim Stagliano’s book about her life as the mother of three autistic children. It’s a fascinating read, and one that keeps me sure that my idea of raising a family will still [...]

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, [...]

On Fear: Social and Long-Term Threats

For a lot of people, it’s easy(ish) to imagine fear reactions when dealing with immediate threats to life and limb. Big guys with bigger weapons and apparent invincibility? Earthquakes that create yawning chasms right under them? Thing in the darkness picking off their allies one by one? Straightforward, for fear. But not all threats are [...]

Classifying Fears

Fear reactions don’t just vary by character—they can also vary within a character’s emotional range by what exactly the fear stimulus is. How long-lasting is this threat? How intense? What sort of thing is it? How much room does the character have to respond to it? One of the things we can do to get [...]

Looking at the Fear Reaction

A while ago, I talked about attempting to evoke fear in the audience. But it didn’t really touch much on the other side of the equation, how to write a character experiencing fear. I started thinking about this yesterday, and discovered that it rapidly got very, very complicated: there was the matter of coping mechanisms, [...]