One Frightful Characterization Tip That Will Transform Your Stories

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How do you write three-dimensional characters? How do you flesh them out so they feel real? In this article, we're focusing on one specific characterization prompt to help you discover who your character really is. What is your character's most irrational fear?

This Frightful Characterization Tip Will Transform Your Stories

Your Character's Fear Is Not Logical

People are complicated. I know, that's like saying, “Hey, fire is hot!” but when it comes to characterization, this needs to be said. Our tendency as authors is to stick imaginary people into tiny two-dimensional categories, forgetting that no human being fits into tiny two-dimensional categories.

One of the things that makes humans so confounded complicated is we are not logical.

Really. We're not. Take me, for example: I have an insane fear of spiders. This makes no sense. I don't live in a place with spiders that can actually hurt me. Nevertheless, they freak me out to the point that I will call for help (or maybe throw things from a safe distance) if I spot one.

But worse than that is my fear of needles. Oh, boy. Oh, boy. This is particularly relevant for me right now because my tooth went bad and I'm going to the dentist today. This fear informs how I'm behaving today. It's made me distracted and a little irritable. I can't stop worrying about it, though I know how dumb that is. It's one prick, then no pain—and yet I am stomach-twistingly afraid.

The Power of Fear in Characterization

This fear is illogical, yet it has dictated much of my day, and if I had an option that didn't involve needles, I'd take it. That right there is why you need to know your character's irrational fear.

That fear can change your character's entire direction. Fear affects the plot. Fear can change your character's decisions (which is the strongest form of characterization). It can even alter how they handle change, enemies, or whatever. And that makes it a powerful tool for characterization.

So here's your writing prompt for today: figure out your character's most illogical fear. Then take fifteen minutes, write, and make them face it.

This can be silly or serious. Your character can have a life-changing revelation, or just hide under a pillow going “La la la!” until it goes away. Write the response the way your character wants to respond.

This is very much a gut-exercise, not a thinking-exercise. Don't let yourself think too much. Trust the illogical nature of emotion and just write. I can't wait to see your responses.

How do your characters handle illogical fear? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Have fun with this one! Take fifteen minutes and write a scene in which your character encounters their illogical fear, then post your practice in the practice box below. If you post, don't forget to respond to your fellow writers!

Enter your practice here:

Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.

Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.

P.S. Red is still her favorite color.

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43 Comments

  1. Mary Johnson

    Thanks for just the boot in the patootie I needed today, Ruthanne. Will sit down with the pencil and notebook as soon as I procrastinate by going grocery shopping. (!!) — A hint about the needles, from an old OLD lab rat who has drawn more tubes of blood than the sky has stars: Have the dentist count from 3 down to 0, and as he/ she says “zero,” inhale deeply. Concentrating hard on when exactly to inhale and then actually inhaling is distracting, and distraction is what you need at those times. Try it and let me know how it works for you. Best of luck!

    Reply
    • nicewriters

      Nice one Mary. Lol

      Reply
  2. Rag Mars

    May I add as a Biologist…
    There is a huge incomprehensible difference between my inner world of thoughts, ideas,
    emotions, wishes versus that of others…what scares me may have no effect on someone
    else and vice versa. One reason why most literature is so ridiculous. A dark force may be so dominant and powerful, no matter what I try, I have no chance, as Conrad describes so picturesque in Youth…or
    the Iceberg and the Titanic, a horror story that still can be written, where the entire concept of that hybris was doomed from its first idea…up to the reincarnated souls of today still suffering nightmares…or the letter I found from my grandmother, when she refuses to board the titanic, with the original Titanic
    passenger ticket of second class in the old treasure box- destiny, why I am here…so I may feel the shudder and horror of the premonition of doom she had…etc. Story from me in progress..

    Reply
  3. Debra johnson

    Oh man, so sorry about your tooth, and worse about having to go to the dentist. I’ve been there, so afraid you become paralyzed. Mine happened before I was diagnosed with Gluten, msg, and dairy intolerance.I would literally cancel appointments or opt out of family friend trips because I didn’t know where we were going or where along the way we could stop so I could use a bathroom. I would go without meals before going somewhere. I would flat out ask where are we going so in my mind I could prepare myself, then once when a friend gave me a ride to the store for groceries decided to take a side trip else where real quick, I panicked. Almost frozen in my seat. I had to occupy my mind by singing songs or reciting scripture something to keep my mind and body from losing it. (Literally).

    Standing in my window day after day watching the world go by was how I spent months before they were able to nail it down. But out of this fear came something good, I now read labels and make better food choices.

    Reply
  4. nicewriters

    Jack was on-line with Norton Live to chat, his Norton provider would not work when optimising his files. Norton’s representative responded when he suddenly felt the need to go to the bathroom, and decided to take his computer with him. However, seconds before Norton resolved the issue by upgrading his computer with the latest issue a cockroach darted across the loo floor close to his feet. He reached for the bottle of coconut oil standing over the sink when the computer slipped off his knees and fell sliding across to the other side from where he was sitting crashing into the wall. There was no sign of the cockroach, until he picked up his laptop. Miraculously the lap-top survived, but not the cockroach that was squashed with barley moving legs stuck to it. He asked himself, (“Why am so afraid of spiders and insects that could not harm me, and else could I have done.” He cleaned up his mess and searched the house for small plastic bottles, and placed one bottle easy to reach in each room. The next day while sitting in the lounge watching TV, he saw another cockroach. He braced his shoulders backwards, then grabbed the nearby plastic bottle, and covered the cockroach. By sliding a thin flyer under the bottle, he managed to capture it and through it back outside. Moral of the story is being frightened of something harmless is to change things around and feel good of the self.

    Reply
  5. nancy

    You raise a topic I’ve been worried about. My character has a slightly irrational fear. There is a problem, but his brain has extended it to every aspect of his life. My issue is that he is a very intelligent man, and I’m afraid my readers won’t buy his being this irrational because, after all, he is a man, and they are supposed to be brave.

    Reply
    • Jessica Lesh

      No, do it! I think the most intelligent people are the ones who are also irrational bc that comes from their emotions and not their brains! It gives him depth!!!!

      Reply
    • Billie L Wade

      I think your character might appear more human. I know a man who is 6′ 2″ tall, weighs 280 pounds, and is almost deathly afraid of spiders, regardless of size. It is his one spot of vulnerability.

      Reply
    • All4U

      I know someone who is also a very intelligent rational person who has an irrational fear. Anxiety does that too you, it’s irrational and controls everything you do and no amount of rationalizing it helps him. That reads kind of like a stereotype of men, maybe one of the problems that causes them to hide their mental illness. Your readers would love to know what your manly man is afraid of and why/how he conceals it. Especially in light of Bell mental health awareness. We often don’t share this side of us from a first person point of view so being able to write about someone going through it and what they’re feeling can be powerful to read. I would finish the story to find out how he deals with it, successful or not. Happy endings aren’t a necessity.

      Reply
  6. Ross Perkal

    Tick, tick, tick….

    I have lived a life of words, hundreds of words, thousands of words, millions of words, mostly on the page, of course but oral too and words are me. Now I am confronted with the terror of changing the kinds of words and the meanings of words and the purpose of words, from legal words and threatening words and demanding words and cajoling words to words of literature and creative substance and real meaning.

    Ten years at college of learning technical words, two engineering degrees, with numbers as well as words, and an abandonment of those kinds of words for different technical words, the words of rights and duties and breaches of duties and consequences, monetary and otherwise, and bullying words on behalf of others with no recourse to the author.

    Forty years straight of do this or else words, by this deadline or die words, if not done then this consequence words, just letters combined together, but powerful nonetheless. Done with those words, resigned from that dictionary, on to new, softer, creative words, designed to please many, not just one legal client, but will those words flow and if not what are the consequences to the author, and where will he run and hide.

    Scary words, words that mean something, not legal crap but living, breathing, organic, important words. Words that move people, not by threat but by feeling, not by consequence, but by choice, words to inspire, emote, feel, reflect upon, and live by. Are such words inside this being? Is it too late to open the carafe and let them out now? If they don’t flow where can I go, who can I be, what will become of me.

    Words can be few or many, and my legal words were mostly many, do this, stop that, move out, perform the contract, pay the bill or die, mean words, fierce words, wordy words, designed to intimidate and coerce, to scare and incentivize, those words are all gone, to be replaced by new, more humane words, right?

    The terror is worst at night when sleep won’t come and I am alone with thoughts. Scary thoughts, thoughts of failure, of incompetence, of inabilities, of not being willing to open up and say who I am and who I have become and when/where/why/how and how does it feel?

    How to turn thoughts into words that will inspire and bring hope and some joy and reality into the lives of others, to make the planet better by making its inhabitants saner and safer and able to look inside without the terror that confronts me when I do so? Is this possible? Have I bit off more than I can ever chew or even begin to bite? What will become of me if/when I fail this final frontier? Who will have compassion on a broken-down utterer of legal tripe? Does failure condemn me to purgatory, one worse even than that where worn-out lawyers go to die? Shall I refuse to start, refuse to try, refuse to live, and choose to die?

    Some have night terrors. This struggling new author lives in a plastic house, where fear is the oxygen and terror the meals. Will I expose my weaknesses and let you critique them and me? This is the dilemma I confront every waking moment and in many dream-world frights. Publish or perish in universities and here too. Creation not coercion now, expose yourself or eradicate you. I can’t talk now, have to decide, more later I hope, but if not then, when?

    Reply
  7. Vincent Novak

    Great idea! Thanks for the ‘practice.’ This was one those “oh, yeah” moments.

    Reply
  8. Aparajita

    Hi, I’m totally new to this. Will you give me a feedback, please?

    Minnie stood in the lobby grasping her portfolio. She squinted at the long signboard.
    She found the name of the company where she had this late appointment – it was
    on the 24th floor, the sign said. All around her people were pouring
    out of the elevators and heading home. There were four banks of elevators, all
    gleaming chrome, their lights flashing like crazy as people got in and out of the
    different floors. Minnie slowly walked towards the elevators, her heart
    thumping uncomfortably. She glanced at her watch – only five minutes left for
    the appointment that may land her an interesting job. The Advertising Director
    had been very positive about her work, and wanted to see her portfolio with the
    rest of the team.

    Minnie had a phobia of elevators. She was a bit claustrophobic, in any case, but elevators
    made her go silly with irrational fear. She felt ill as soon as the doors slid
    shut and the journey upwards or downwards started with that slight jerk. Minnie
    avoided elevators whenever she could, but today was going to be different. For
    one, she had the heavy portfolio. And though she was in reasonably good shape,
    she didn’t want to arrive late and out of breath after climbing all those 24 floors.
    She clutched her portfolio and walked resolutely towards the elevators, and one
    arrived almost immediately. A group of people poured out, chatting, bidding one
    another goodbye. No one else was waiting to go up, and she forced herself to
    step inside. She saw herself reflected in the mirrors – pale face and wild
    eyes. She stepped forward and pushed the button for the 24th floor. The
    door closed with a soft ‘whoosh’ and canned music filled her ears. Minnie shut
    her eyes and felt the upward movement in the pit of her stomach. She had just
    started to relax a bit when the lights went out and the elevator stopped in
    between two floors…

    Reply
    • NatalieHawaii

      Hi Aparajita.

      Congratulations on stepping out in the open. I loved your short. You have great visualization and concise writing format, which is great. What I would suggest is to explore “Show-Don’t-Tell” version of some “On The Nose” expository statements (Minnie had a phobia of elevators. She was a bit claustrophobic, in any case, but elevators made her go silly with irrational fear) – which were telling us what she feared vs SHOWING that she has that particular fear by perhaps sweat dripping off her forehead, hands shaking, shortage of breath, etc, and then SHOW her initial reaction to avoid the obstacle by all cost (give us understanding of what is at stake so we emotionally connect to your girl) – her decision to succumb to her fear vs facing and it.

      What it does, it gives some room for her growth where you can put her into a life threatening / challenging situation where she has no other choice, but overcome her fear and do what she can to help someone, smth, achieve her goal, etc., – whatever you have her do in order for us to learn and understand that we are in control of our destiny.

      Keep writing! Never stop! Best!

      Reply
      • Aparajita

        Wow Natalie. Thank you so much. Yes you’re very right. I’ll try the tell tale signs. Thank you.

        Reply
        • NatalieHawaii

          My pleasure.
          Allow your audience a pleasure of discovering her inner world and be on a journey with her.
          Cheers!

          Reply
    • Vicki Baldwin

      You made it very scary to me. You did a great writing.

      Reply
      • Aparajita

        Thank you so much Vicki. It means a lot to me.

        Reply
  9. Jessica Lesh

    My character has a fear of being trapped in any sense, and will do what she can to avoid being indoors or in any one location for too long. Still developing the idea. Her name means “freedom”, so I’m trying to play on that. Another character has a fear of losing control, because I want them to balance one another out. These are always such helpful and amazing articles. Thank you. So much.

    Reply
  10. Azure Darkness Yugi

    “I hate this.” Ling said with a wimpier. Going through a hunted house house attraction with her little sister. Who can’t help but smile because her big sister can fly, have super strength, and shoot energy blasts out of her hands. Is afraid ghosts.

    “It’s all right sis, I’m here.” Ying said holding her sister’s hand. She didn’t fear the risk of her older sister accidentally crushing her hand. Because it’s the only time where she can be the older sister.

    Reply
  11. Jack Francis

    Fear is Logical

    Hi Ruthanne;

    I’m not trying to disagree with you. Well maybe just a little, so let me explain why.

    Fear is primal at its core; it’s a survival reaction to the stimuli in the world around us. It’s run to survive. A primal reaction that early humans had to face on a daily basis from the creatures in their world, although we’re not running from a sabre-tooth tiger it’s still with us today. It’s our alarm system that says; hey, this situation hurt you once before, run because it’s going to hurt you again, or it could even kill you. Fear is as logical as math. Well perhaps not quite, but I hope you get the point.

    A good example is your fear of needles. Also a fear of mine. And since I had to have a lumbar puncture yesterday that fear is well founded.

    So there are no illogical fears, only the way you or others perceive those fears. The core issue with fears is what caused them in the first place. I have two characters in the new series I’m presently writing, twins; one is pilot, the other afraid of flying. Illogical? Perhaps in the eyes of the pilot, but certainly not to the other brother. Something caused that fear.

    Fears are rational, (survival) and they do make sense; especially to the one fearing any given situation or stimuli. Again my pilot. He has a fear of heights. He can fly a plane as his as high as it will go, but don’t even think about asking him to get on a ladder. Crazy huh? Perhaps, but why is he afraid of ladders? Let the reader know.

    Using your characters fears to dictate the outcome of an event in your story shows just how human even the most macho character really is. On the other hand letting the reader know why your characters have certain fears lets them better understand and associate with that character. It’s something you can also have fun with. Explaining why a character has a certain fear can be a frightful story in its own, or it can be an extremely comical situation.

    Also by letting your reader know your characters flaws will let them anticipate how a character will react when certain situations arise in a scene.

    I love to play on my character’s flaws and fears, and I want my readers to know enough about the characters so they will anticipate in advance how a character will react in a scene. It keeps them on the edge of their seat and in the end you can hear them say. “I knew it.”

    Oh, and I hate dentists. 🙂 One of my best friends and fishing partners is a dentist. Let me be honest , he’s only my best friend when I’m not sitting in that chair of his and he has that monster needle hiding in his hand behind his back. Illogical? Ah, perhaps, Mr. Spock might think so, but I don’t.

    Reply
  12. Amber

    I strode confidently along the path, gravel crunching beneath my boots. Dust and sun made it slightly hard to see, but I didn’t mind. Despite having only just discovered it, the desert already seemed comforting to me. The cacti soared high, much higher than the sparse trees in the area. And little wrens and such birds scuttled about from one patch of pale shade to the next. I breathed in the green, dry air and paused for a moment behind a large boulder. The brief respite from the sun did me good, along with the crumbling granola bar I found in my pocket. My lack of water didn’t seem like such a problem with the knowledge that I was only a mile from headquarters.
    Suddenly feeling a little giddy, I unlaced my boots, peeled off my socks, and extracted my sweaty feet. Wriggling my toes in the slight breeze felt oh-so-good. If only I had water to trickle onto them.
    But I of course couldn’t stay long. I stuffed my sore feet back in my socks, regretting that I had gotten them caked with dust. Then, I shoved the granola bar wrapper back in my pocket and picked up my left boot. I brought it toward my foot, and an icy tremor ran through my body. In the first millisecond, I wasn’t sure why. Then I registered what my body had already reacted to.
    There was something moving inside my boot. Glinting scales and bared fangs told my eyes what it was, but I didn’t, couldn’t believe it. Not now. Not right after–
    Without thinking, I flung the boot as far away as I could. It hit a cactus squarely in the middle and dropped to the ground. Goosebumps erupted along my arms, and I realized I hadn’t been breathing for at least thirty seconds.
    Shuddering all over, with ice running through my veins, I stood jerkily. I couldn’t stay. I quickly picked out the position of the sun and padded along the east-bound trail in my socks, not quite managing to stop little jumps from becoming part of my gait.
    Of course there were snakes in the desert. Why had that never entered my mind?
    And what would everyone at headquarters think of my panicked reaction? How would I face them?

    Reply
    • LilianGardner

      I like your story and the picturesque description of the desert. I could feel your fear when you knew there was something in your boot, forcing you to fling it away. Good description of panic.
      Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  13. LilianGardner

    Hi Ruthanne.
    You’re scared of spiders? and the dentist? So am I! But snakes literally terrorize me. I imagine it, (the snake) will chase me and drive its fangs into my leg. Uugh! Maybe it’s because we had a nest of cobras at one end of the garden when I was six years old. I watched them emerge from their holes, mesmerized at how fast they moved, sliding gracefully on the dry ground. Fortunately, a family of mongooses lived in another part of the garden, and I learned from my dad that the mongooses would keep the cobras from the house. We fed the mongoose family and let them swim in the spare tub of water during the summertime, to encourage them to hang around, which they did.
    I’m scared of many other things, such as total darkness, drunkards, fierce dogs, and deep water.

    Reply
  14. Robert Augustine

    Jill held Franklin’s hand tightly as they entered the fairgrounds. She could hear the carnival long before they got there; kids screaming on the Zipper as they tumbled head over heels towards the ground, only to be whisked back up at the last possible second before smashing into the platform. Buzzers and bells from the game room reminded her of the song, “Jukebox Hero,” as they walked by the game room and a group of people erupted in laughter where four contestants shot streams of water trying to pop their balloon first. The smell of sausage and onions wafted over the warm summer night and mixed with the aroma of home made fair fries, popcorn, and cotton candy.
    The sun had just set and the bright lights twirled and blended together in one big sensory smorgasbord that her senses feasted on as they walked through the center fairway of the carnival. Franklin’s hand was a comfort as they waded through the sea of humanity. She was exultant as they walked and she smiled up at another set of screaming passengers on a ride she didn’t recognize as they whizzed by overhead.
    They were halfway down the fairway when she saw someone selling balloons. She squeezed Franklin’s hand and pointed to the sea of balloons. “Buy me a balloon, handsome!” she called over the noise of the carnival.
    He smiled and nodded and led her through the crowd until they got to the forest of brightly colored balloons. There were red, green, blue, yellow, and orange ones rubbing and bumping together and suddenly the man holding them turned and her breath caught in her throat.
    A clown with silver eyes and sharp teeth grinned at her. Gibbered at her as he held the floating horrors in his left hand. She squeaked and stepped back and felt a few drops of pee escape involuntarily into her panties. Her hand flew up to her mouth and her eyes opened wide as she struggled to keep the scream inside. Franklin looked at her with his eyebrows nit together and leaned in and spoke in her ear, “Are you ok? You look like you’re going to be sick.”
    She closed her eyes tightly and when she opened them again she saw the clown, now wearing a smile painted over his mouth and bright red half moons over his eyes. Even under the makeup she could see that he was concerned and he stepped towards her and said, “Miss? Are you ok?” she squealed and in one smooth motion let go of Franklin’s hand and bolted away from the clown, who stood there with eyes wide open and mouth framed in a surprised O.
    Franklin caught her halfway to the exit and put his hand on her shoulder. She screamed again half expecting the clown with silver eyes and pointed teeth and when she saw it was Franklin melted into his chest, holding his shirt and crying quietly, trying to get her breathing under control.
    He held her for moment then pushed her back so he could see her face. “You ok?”
    She nodded and fought for control of her voice, then explained, “When I was a little kid my older brother watched that Stephen King movie called It. Remember that? It was about a clown named Pennywise.”
    “Vaguely,” he said. “I’m not a huge Stephen King fan.”
    She laughed faintly and said, “Me either, after that. My brother didn’t know I was watching from the stairs and by the time it was over I was a mess. I think I was about six and every time I see a clown now I feel like I’m a kid again huddling on the stairs wishing it were over, but unable to stop watching it.” She looked up and searched his face and said, “Is that totally weird?”
    He looked solemn for a moment then laughed. “It sure is! C’mon, let’s get some cotton candy. We’ll stay away from the clown ok?”
    She hesitated a moment, then smiled back at him. “Don’t let him get me, ok?” He nodded and gave her an encouraging look.
    They turned and headed towards the food and she smiled at Franklin. When he looked away she quickly glanced over her shoulder looking for a glimpse of Pennywise. Her irrational mind whispered, “He won’t give up that easy, Jilly. They all float down there.”

    Reply
  15. All4U

    The morning sun is shooting bright piercing beams of pain into my half shut eyes. Normally this is my favorite time of day, but not today. I’ve been fighting sleep all night knowing today’s the day. The day I have to walk to the store by myself and buy something, anything, just to be able to say “I did it” to my therapist later today. I don’t know what terrifies me more, the thought of doing this one simple task everyone does everyday without even blinking, or facing the disappointment of failure and possible setback or depression. My stomach hurts, I think I’m going to throw up.
    Sigh
    Well I need to move, pets to feed, breakfast, shower, so much to do, so little time.
    I’ve contemplated my lot way too much lately, but I feel, I’ve made great progress so far. Not very long ago, I couldn’t even step out my front door. My stomach is seriously aching now, no more thinking, get up!
    As I swing my feet to the floor, I feel the familiar knot in my stomach just before I toss my cookies. Damn, didn’t make it to the bathroom. One more mess to clean.
    I have an epiphany as I clean the contents of my stomach off my bedroom floor, “Maybe I should just stop thinking so much” “Maybe I should feel without analyzing everthing to death”
    A nice thought, but won’t happen. I continue my chores as my anxiety strengthens it’s grip. I’m really tired of this routine now.

    Reply
  16. TerriblyTerrific

    We are definitely complicated creatures. Thank you for this article….

    Reply
  17. EndlessExposition

    This prompt turned into a little background story for one of the main characters of my WIP. Reviews are always appreciated!

    “I still don’t get why you didn’t want to come.”

    I shrugged, trying to infuse the gesture with as much relaxed nonchalance as possible so Steve wouldn’t notice me edging closer to him. “I just think it’s a little weird for two childless adults to be spending their Fourth of July at the circus.”

    “It’s a carnival, the circus is just one part of it. And anyway I think it’s neat! I didn’t get the whole Americana experience growing up in the city.”

    “Uh huh.” Steve wasn’t wrong. The Founding Fathers themselves couldn’t have organized a Fourth of July celebration better than Oak Ridge, New Jersey. We had just come from the baking contest at town hall where Mom’s caramel pecan bars had snagged first place, again. She and Dad were still there, hobnobbing with friends and acquaintances. Steve had insisted on going down to the park to check out the festivities.

    The scene was idyllic, I’ll admit. The sun beamed from a cloudless sky onto the red and white striped circus tent dominating the center of the soccer field. Carnival games and vendors had sprouted up around it. Laughing, shouting children swarmed the park, running giddily from the dunking booth to the pony rides to the cotton candy. Indulgent parents followed their offspring at a leisurely pace. I hadn’t been home for the Fourth in ages, and I wanted to enjoy it. But I couldn’t shake that buzz of anxiety that sat low in my stomach.

    “Alex?” Steve was looking at me with puzzlement. “Everything okay?”

    I forced myself to smile. “Yeah. Just spaced out for a minute.”

    Steve pulled out his phone. “We’ve got another twenty minutes till the circus show. Let’s go check out the games. I’ll win you a stuffed bear or something.”

    I snorted. “Or something.” We both knew he couldn’t hit the side of a barn.

    He chuckled and slung his arm around my shoulders. “Humor my fragile male ego for once.”

    Five minutes later he was doing a fine job of shattering his ego all by himself. He’d paid for two turns at the milk bottle game and all the bottles remained standing. “Steve,” I interjected as he handed another two dollars over to the operator, “don’t spend all your cash on this thing.”

    “One more try! Then I’m done, I swear!” He took the three baseballs the game operator held out to him. The first one missed by a mile. The second grazed the top of the pyramid. The bottle wobbled but didn’t fall. “Oh come on! This thing has to be rigged!” His already sunburnt neck glowed even redder with frustration. I was quaking from holding in my laughter. I had actually forgotten all about the lurking danger in the fairground.

    Big mistake.

    I felt it rather than saw it. A presence hovering at my elbow. A wet breath on my neck. The scratch of a shirt cuff against my shoulder as it reached for me. I turned. I screamed. I swung. Crash.

    I dimly heard Steve call, “Alex!” as I scrambled away from the prone figure on the ground clutching his eye, his orange wig knocked askew and striped clothes twisted around him. My feet started running before my brain finished the suggestion. I ran and ran and ran. I didn’t stop until I reached the trees on the other side of the field. When I did stop, I wiped my hand desperately against my shorts, scrubbing off the white greasepaint on my knuckles. My knees decided they had done enough for one day and I sagged back against a tree, shaking.

    “Alex!” Steve bounded up and then doubled over, panting. “What – what the hell was that?”

    The ridiculousness of the whole situation started to dawn on me. I laughed weakly. “Er…have I ever mentioned that I’m afraid of clowns?”

    Reply
    • Vicki Baldwin

      A very good description of your feelings

      Reply
    • Nava P.

      Really liked how it turned from seriousness to humor. Really entertaining. ^^
      Enjoyed reading it. Good job!

      Reply
    • Maggie Cashman

      This is so good! I was on edge reading it.

      Reply
    • jflah

      Love this line, “My feet started running before my brain finished the suggestion.” And I enjoyed the engaging writing style you’ve got going here. There are so many things that could be scary at a carnival and clowns never came to mind – I kept thinking elephants until after the shirt cuff sentence. Great job!

      Reply
  18. Davidh Digman

    One supporting character in my WIP is an ‘Ubermanly man’s man’ who has a deep-seated fear of being regarded as unmanly or weak. He therefore prizes manly things and putting on a display of manliness.

    One manifestation of his fear is his misogynistic humour he inflicts upon those around him, even when others make it clear they do not appreciate it.

    Another supporting character is ambivalently straddling her need to please the funding bodies that pay for the work her team does, and the often conflicting needs her staff have to not be pressured so heavily.

    This ambivalence stems from her having to reconcile being a decent, nurturing person as per her father with the expectations of career success she learned from her overachieving mother. Her fears of displeasing or at least dishonouring both mother and father create an inner turmoil that has defined her career and her role in contributing to the downfall of the second major character that is the core conflict of the story. Her problem is that the act of psychologically honouring one parent threatens to act to psychologically dishonour the other parent. So she sits on fences and really is neither a good administrator nor a good boss.

    Reply
  19. Srividya Ganapathy

    The garden was a riot of colours. She loved going to the garden early in the morning, to smell the blooming Edward roses and the pink jasmine. The pleasant fragrance wafting from them was a great pleasure to inhale in the early hours of the day. Each day as she stood near the rose bushes that were next to the jasmine creeper, she would hear intermittent rustling. It involuntarily sent a chill down her spine. One day she spotted a white rope like object hanging in the jasmine plant. She could again hear the same rustling today as she stood and the same fear gripped her as she spotted the reptile that was making the rustling sound. The cobra just slithered down the jasmine plant and slithered away beyond the garden. She was shocked into silence so much that even the scream got locked in her throat. She broke out in cold sweat unable to move, as she stood rooted to the spot. To this day she is scared to stand near the jasmine plants when she went home for the holidays. The snakes are long gone but the fear it instilled on that pleasant morning never faded.

    Reply
  20. Slater Bonga Ncux

    Hi guys Slater here may I get some feedback as well.

    Eric, a fifteen year old boy lived with his mother Josephine in Mozambique in the capital city called Maputo. His mother worked at a bakery store, meanwhile Eric was attending fitzburg high school. While is was just the two of them, Eric and his mother were living in fear of xenophobia. They are originally from Kimberly in South Africa but they migrated during apartheid in to find peace in the neighbouring country. It did not turn out well for them as they were living in the shadows. They had to lie to the locals around that were born and lived in Mozambique but people could tell with the way they talk that they are not from around. Josephine was scared to go to work everyday as they were people following her and Eric was being abused at school by other students calling him names and telling him he does not belong here. One night when they were eating dinner they heard noise outside. When she looked out the window she saw people carrying bottles with fire, some were carrying boards that were written go back to where you come and from and others were carrying guns. It was a riot. Traumatised she was, she did not know what to do so she ran to the kitchen told her Eric to pack his bags but not too much just enough for them to escape. As they were packing the neighbours saw was about to happen and immediately called the police. She planned on using the back door as an escape but they had surrounded the house. They are were now trapped. The locals started throwing bottles at the house and it slowly caught fire, they fired some shots in the sky and the neighbours wondered where are the police. When josephine realised that her and Eric are about to die. She whispered to her son “let’s take a knee and pray” and so they did. While they were praying, citizens from a different neighborhood came to help them. They tried to hold down the ones who were trying to burn the house along the policemen and the firefighters arrived to the rescue. Josephine was burnt from the back so and Eric was severely injured on his right leg but they survived. After treatment they were immediately deported to their homeland.

    How did I do?

    Reply
  21. Vicki Baldwin

    Walking in the forest looking at the beautiful trees is a very pleasing time. That is until a snake arrives on the path in from of me. I stop and take a few very slow steps backward away from the snake. The snake doesn’t move but his eyes are very large and I know that he is thinking of me. He wiggles a little and I’m sure he is getting ready to attack. I bite my nails and find tears rolling down my checks. The snake is staring at me. Can I get away?
    The next moment the snake wiggles his body and in a minute he disappears into the bushes on the other side of the path. I jump back and give myself a large sigh.

    Reply
  22. Jason Bougger

    Great idea. Irrational phobias, can especially play a part in character development.

    Reply
  23. Jack Francis

    I would like to know why my post was marked as spam?

    Reply
    • LilianGardner

      Maybe the same is happening to my email because I don’t get replies.

      Reply
  24. irene wheeldon

    This is a final revision to the beginning of a short story I have written for a competition. I hated presentations at uni! They terrified me but had to be done…A* grade achieved!

    I cringe and tremble as twenty-odd fellow students enter the lecture room. The tasters, in my pointy ears, dry. Glittered, lilac skin turning purple. My minty hair spirals stiffen.
    You can do this, Eniw, I think. Not listening.
    “Er, g…g…good morning everyone,” I say.
    They’re bored already. Always happens. Altor gives A* for my essays. Presentations? Don’t ask.
    “I, er, v…visited Bilboa, Spain, Earth. Erm, my humanet was there on honeymoon.”
    Faces? Blank. I wring my three-fingered hands.
    “Erm, I thought her moon was made from honey!” I chuckle. Nobody else does.
    “Humanology covers aspects of relationships, honeymoon being one of them,” Altor says.
    I look down.
    “Yes, I wrote an essay on it…I…er…”
    “Just get on with it.”

    “Right…er…yes…ok.” With my headtop on, lights dimmed, images of Bilboa, float around the room. Lush mountains, vast blue skies, grapes amongst sun-drenched leaves, ageing wine barrels, me.

    ME? Swigging from a bottle of wine, wild, crazy. Everyone starts laughing.

    “I…I don’t know how that got in there,” I say trying to close the image.
    “Leave it on, it’s funny!” a student calls out.

    I glance at Altor. He’s laughing too? I think fast.

    “We have seen negative effects of alcohol affecting humans, and… me.” Students giggle. “I believe we can enjoy and appreciate wine with respect.”

    Students hooked, I start.

    Reply
  25. Nava P.

    I wrote this short part when we had to write a fight scene. It’s based on one of the characters in a story in progress. Kinda long, but I figured that it would fit here.
    Don’t know if people will see this, but I’ll post it anyway. I know it’s not really polished up, but I hope it’s goid nonetheless.
    Anyway, here it is: (Sorry if it’s a bit unclear.)

    Holding a gun was one of the scariest things Nina ever had to do.
    She knew that when she signed up for this quest that it would be dangerous, but she never volunteered to have a weapon.
    No matter how bad it was, she comforted herself, I may never have to use it.
    But, of course, she was wrong.
    When they reached the streets of France again, looking for the culprit Jon told them about, tension filled the air. It was so heavy, she could basically breath it. It filled her insides in something that made her stomach churn, and suddenly she had a strong urge to flee.
    Calm down. She told herself. Everything will be alright.
    That was the same moment that they heard cold laughter come from behind them.
    “My my, you five are asking for trouble, aren’t you?”
    The figure was tall and muscular, wearing a smug smile on his face. His blue eyes could have been warm once, but at that moment all that was possible to notice was how cold they were. He was so cold, it was like he was emitting ice.
    Nina shivered, and automatically neared the gun to her figure, making sure that her finger was at the exactly on the trigger, if necessary.
    “We want help,” Rose approached him, holding the gun to her side. Her black eyes were cold in seriousness, and she showed no sign of fear as she neared him. Why should she? Four other allies were holding weapons, waiting to kill at the first sign of danger. “We’re searching for a way to fight The Curse.”
    “Let me think about it… no.”
    Jon advanced in his acquaintance’s direction, his dark blue eyes shining in warning lights, which were the complete opposite of his usual friendly behavior. “Help us,” he hissed, gun at the ready, “or else.”
    “You know, Jonny boy, I never expected from you to show signs of violence, but that doesn’t mean that I never prepared myself for something like this.” The stranger motioned to something with his hand, and suddenly five more figures surrounded him, holding identical handguns, which were all pointed at the group of five. They were all staring at them, waiting for their boss’ command.
    Which, unfortunately, didn’t take much time to come. “Get rid of them.”
    Their enemy walked away, leaving them all to deal with another group, which looked all too capable to handle them.
    Nina’s hands were slick with sweat, and she did her best to keep them on the gun. Her legs were shaking, her heart pounding like the fastest drum in the world. Her whole body begged her to stop, to make sure not to repeat her mistake, but survival instinct assured her that if she wouldn’t fight, she would die.
    I can do this. She assured herself.
    She could feel Nixon’s cold smile in her back, and Max’s callous gaze which flit over all the other bullies in front of him. Jon was still standing in front of her, his messy hair looking like the strongest combination of fire and blood. He was holding his gun in a way that ripped off all evidence of innocence from his behavior, willing to do anything in order to reach their goal. Even Rose already took out her handgun, licking her lips in anticipation.
    When the first bullet was shot, Nina finally managed to find out how any second can change everything.
    Each of their five enemies chose one victim, and focused solely on them. Nina could see Rose and her opponent dancing a deadly dance across the alley, shooting and dodging the perilous bullets. Jon was attacking his foe like a savage animal, focused solely on its goal. Nixon…
    A bullet whizzed past her, and she backed away in fright. How could she give her opponent such an advantage? He had the perfect opportunity to kill her, with all her carelessness!
    “You’re making this too easy, little girl.” The man sneered, nearing so he was standing in his full height. He looked almost middle-aged, but the thick muscles that showed confirmed that he wasn’t weak. His dark eyes were boring into her, causing her to shiver. What did he want from her?
    “Come on,” the man taunted, driving her into a corner. “Make this little fight interesting.”
    Nina stared at her opponent, and tried her best to ignore the growing lump of fright. She swallowed it, and forced herself to look for any weaknesses. What could she use to her advantage?
    She couldn’t fail this. She owed Rory.
    Her eyes met the handgun in his hand, which was pointed downwards, in a position where it couldn’t cause any harm. This was a fatal mistake, that was done in a careless fashion.
    Nina raised her eyes toward him, and before the determined look in her eyes could register in his small brain, her fingers pressed down on the trigger, releasing the fatal bullet straight into his heart.
    The next things that happened were all a blur. Scarlet red blood in a gash, that felt as if it could never be bigger. Enraged shouting, mixing with silent cursing of the man’s allies. Some of them glanced her way, their jaws as stiff as a statue’s. It was as if she was in a bath full of pain, soaking the same sensation into her body instead of water.
    Her breathing quickened and her body was as hot as a fire. She felt the strongest urge to run away and find a secluded corner to hide in, but her body wouldn’t oblige. She couldn’t move, stuck in the same place, as if a special human-magnet was freezing her in place. Dimly, her mind told her that she was now standing in the most vulnerable position she could be in, but she didn’t care.
    Rory, I can’t. Can’t kill anymore…
    Nina felt her legs give way and the tears start to break free. She felt as if she was back in those dreadful moments, the screams of the battle transforming into her best friend’s screams as she burned to death.
    What have I done?
    She was almost happy when a bullet shot through her chest, giving her the strongest sensation of pain yet. Nina smiled weakly, welcoming the familiar darkness that enveloped her, and let her eyes drift close. Her vision of the world slowly disappeared, and instead she started walking the same way she knew that Aurora took as she was taken away.
    I’m coming. She thought, We can finally be together again.
    And then, the darkness finally took over, leading her in the kindest way possible to a world where there was no coming back from.

    Reply
  26. Courtnie

    Big ones, medium ones, small ones. They all surrounded me. I was so scared it look as though they was staring back at me. Every since I was a little girl, I have had this fear of statues. I can’t walk pass them I just freeze with fear. I can’t move, my heart starts to race and I begin to cry. To me I truly believe that they are going to hurt me. I know it’s not logical be that is how I feel. To this day I am still deathly afraid of statues.

    Reply
  27. Beverly Brown

    Judas is My Character
    His irrational fear is not getting enough food.
    Jesus sends out the seventy disciples to witness in this town and they can’t take any extra provisions with them; no extra coat or, shoes, food etc. they have to depend on strangers inviting them in, accepting their message and eating what’s set before them. Well many reject their message so they have to take their message to some one who does. Judas starts to fear no one is going to invite them in and he starts to panic! He becomes vulnerable. He is the treasurer for the group. Starts to make bad decision. He starts to steel from the money bag. Others notice but Jesus doesn’t say anything until he criticizes Mary for breaking a very expensive alabaster box of oil to anoint Jesus. Judas complains that the money could have been put to better use if given to the poor. The religious leaders get word of the spending is for food and they offer him 30 pieces of silver to betray the Lord. He figures Jesus always has large crowds that protect him during the day and this might force Jesus hand to become the worrier messiah every bodies looking for to save the Jews from the Romans.

    Reply

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