|Photo credit: ia7mad on Flickr|
What do I mean?
Fear humanizes us. It's something we all share as a species and an emotion that our characters should share as well—even the bravest and baddest of them all. You see, a character without fear is automatically unbelievable and more difficult to connect with—not to mention missing out on plenty of plot opportunities a character with a few fears has.
When looking to develop your characters, I highly recommend you get to know their fears—five each is a good place to start. The fears should range from anywhere as deep and integrated into the plot such as the fear of dying alone, to something as silly and simple as the fear of butterflies (which is a real fear by the way, linked to the fear of moths and called lepidopterophobia, but I digress).
It's not enough to be aware of our characters fears, however. Once you've developed a list, it's time to take a look at them and figure out how you can incorporate a couple of them into your plot.
Is your main character afraid of rabbits? Make sure she comes across a field full of those adorable little bouncing fluff balls.
Is your secondary afraid of bright colors? (again, a real fear believe it or not)—send him on a trip to Vegas.
Is your antagonist terrified of losing a loved one? Incorporate it into the plot.
I'm sure many of you noticed in my last example I used the antagonist, which brings me to my next point: evil characters have fears, too.
Yes, I know, it sometimes seems like an oxymoron to think of our antagonists as actually afraid of something, but the best, deepest antagonists have fears of their own that often color their actions and—at times—even causes them to make some fatal mistakes.
When it comes to fears, your antagonist should be no different from your main character —even the most nefarious of villains must be afraid of something to be believable. Their fears could be simple and linked to the plot—fear of losing power, for example, or fear of failure. I recommend, however, that you try to give your antagonist a normal, humanizing fear as well.
What if your antagonist's greatest fear really was losing a loved one? What would happen if his fear came true—or, perhaps, if it already did?
Discovering and developing our character's fears is a fantastic way to deepen your host of characters and make them more believable—not to mention the plot possibilities it provides you (how many times did Ron Weasley have to face his fear of spiders, for example? Or Indiana Jones and his phobia of snakes?)
Then once you've figured out what your cast is afraid of, it's time to start incorporating them into the plot.
Do you know what your characters are afraid of? Have you exploited their fears in your WIP?