How to Write Conflicting Fears

Every character fears something--whether it be the dark, heights, drowning, or more specific things like never falling in love, leaving home, or failing a school project.
Fears are an important part of any story, as they give a realistic and relatable aspect to the characters.
I love figuring out what my characters fear, simply because I like to then force them into situations in which their fears come true (I'm so nice.)
But sometimes, character fears can be really, really important for character growth. In fact, in my current WIP, Awaken, the fears of my characters are the core of the story. And not just any fears--conflicting fears.
We all have conflicting fears. Don't get that confused with contradicting fears, either. Contradicting fears are fears that contradict a character's personality. (I.E. Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon and can breathe underwater, yet develops a fear of drowning.) Conflicting fears are different. These are generally two fears that a character has that conflict with each other--meaning if the character gives into one fear, the other fear will come true.
Let's take a closer look at the main characters of Awaken, Amelia and Sebastian, to understand conflicting fears a little better.


1. Fears should conflict

Amelia is my main character. She is a senior in high school and struggles with making her own choices in life. She listens to what everyone around her says about college and future jobs rather than listening to herself, or even giving herself a chance to think about what she truly wants. Amelia is terrified of making her own choices.
However, she also struggles with a lot of guilt and uncertainty. Because despite the fact that allowing everyone else to make these decisions for her relieves her fear of making her own choices, Amelia is also terrified of never finding herself.

Her boyfriend, Sebastian, also has conflicting fears. Sebastian is an artist. He's very talented and passionate about art, but he tends to compare himself to others and drive his own confidence down. Sebastian is terrified of putting himself (and his art) out there.
But, deep down he knows that he has true talent and potential. He's seen his work receive positive feedback, and if he doesn't put himself out there, he'll never get anywhere. He's terrified of never being recognized.

2. Giving into one makes the other come true

If Amelia gives into her fear of making her own choices and allows her Mom, friends, and teachers to make all the decisions for her, she won't have to worry about her fear of making her own choices. However, that will directly result in her other fear coming true: never finding herself.
The same goes for Sebastian. If he gives into his fear of putting himself out there, he will be able to just paint and create art and enjoy himself without having to worry about what other people think of his work.
But, that also means his other fear--never being recognized--will come true.
This circle of fear and frustration gives characters something to stress about, and ultimately, force them to make a choice.

3. To resolve one fear, the other must be dealt with.

If giving into one fear will make the other come true, then your character will have to decide if they are okay with that, or if it's time to deal with both fears. Because in order to resolve one fear, the other must be dealt with!
If Amelia wants to find herself, then she must start making her own choices. If Sebastian wants to be recognized for his talents, then he has to put himself out there.
This gives your characters a choice to make, and also forces them to be real with themselves. They have to ask, "Is it worth it?"
Amelia must decide if staying comfortable and letting others make her decisions is worth never finding herself. Sebastian must decide if saving himself from the possibility of his art being rejected is worth never being a respected, well-known artist. Will they deal with these conflicting fears? Who knows! You'll just have to read the book some day to find out ;D


Dealing with fear isn't easy--and dealing with conflicting fears is even harder.
I deal with conflicting fears every day--in fact, I am right now! I, like Sebastian, am terrified of putting myself out there. Writing blog posts and tweeting and posting (when I remember) on Wattpad is difficult for me. What if no one responds? What if no one listens? What if I'm doing all of this for nothing?
But at the same time, I am terrified of my voice never being heard or my words never being read.
But if I don't face my fear of putting myself out there, then my fear of never being heard will come true. And so, I press on! I deal with my conflicting fears and put myself out there because I have decided that being a little anxious and afraid when I hit that "publish" button is worth it if it means my voice and words will be heard.

What do you think? Do you use conflicting fears in your writing, or deal with any yourself? Let me know in the comments!


Comments

  1. Great post, Miranda! I always appreciate your articles:)

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    1. Aw thank you so much! I'm glad to hear that!

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  2. Now you have me thinking of fears and getting to know my characters more! Thank you!

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    1. That's awesome! Glad I could help! :)

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    2. Thank you so much, Miranda. You have helped me to understand that I have to identify my own conflicting fears to make the character that represents me in my memoir come to life. Kind Regards, Gloria

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