Wednesday Night Writing Exercise: Dexter’s Fear Profile

For this week’s writing exercise, I revisited the fear profile. I made the (possible) mistake of asking for prompts, which left me with a character who in all my years of gaming has never been onstage with something that legitimately scared the whey out of him—nor anything that he had much reason to fear at all, really. It’s a lot easier to analyze how a character handles fear when you’ve seen him scared.

Lack of experience, aside, though, I hereby present a fear profile for Dexter the curtain-rod-wielding elder prankster.

Default instinctive fear response: Freeze. This works well for Dexter; it gives him time to make sense of whatever it is he’s dealing with, and it’s a lot easier to cover up.

Exceptions to instinctive reaction: If someone else is getting hurt on his watch and shouldn’t be, he switches to fight. The more undeserved the injury, the more violent the reaction.

Reasoned fear response: Pause for quick analysis. If applicable, share this analysis with those around him, probably in a somewhat mocking way (see coping mechanism, below.) Move on to Doing Something as soon as possible. Never stop analyzing.

Coping mechanisms: Humor, by a long shot. Dexter is the kind of person who will perform joking psychoanalyses of omnicidal maniacs as he’s performing stalling actions against legions of their minions, and who occasionally amuses himself by pranking his worst enemies. Typically, these double as a way of getting useful information to his teammates—and often calming them down a bit. The jokes stop being near as funny as he approaches his limit.

Greater stress response: Takes two forms. Part of it is a tendency to babble—instead of witty commentary, Dexter’s dialogue devolves into verbal diarrhea. Another part is the attempt to either remove anyone who might be looking up to him from the battle, or to remove himself and some number of opponents from the current situation, or possibly a strategic retreat/broken-winged bird gambit hybrid—basically, any result that means that he doesn’t have to worry about someone else hearing him lose it and lose heart.

Common/relevant fear sources

Dexter has lived several mortal lifetimes, so many standard sources of fear are ones he’s long since dealt with, or that he just keeps around in case he wants to raise his heart rate. (Yes, I can see him gardening his own fears.) He finds social threats, even those posed by his definite superiors, easy to laugh off; as long as he can find any justification for the idea that they cannot directly harm him, he can handle them.

Direct threats to existence as he knows it, particularly those that probably could take him in a fair fight and have no intention whatsoever of fighting fair, are the likeliest things to provoke a greater stress response from him. Note that, given his age and attainments, things that trigger this reaction are usually older than the world and probably pushing unkillable, or show no apparent weakness and a greater strength than his.

He is also intimidated, if somewhat more indirectly, by anything that can have a greater effect on his allies’ morale than he does. Dexter puts a lot of stock in his ability to maintain his allies’ ability to cope; if he becomes unsure of that, doubt in his ability to manage the conflict itself soon follows.

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