But enough about that *shudder*; I'm starting to look over my shoulder, half suspecting Shelob or Aragog to appear and haul me off to the Forbidden Forest. What frightens you? It could be something very real, like spiders, the dark, the threat of war or disease. It could be something in your mind: fear of being alone, of never measuring up, of always having to settle for second best. Or it could be completely fantastic. I grew up reading ghost stories and watching spooky movies. Not horror movies mind you; never liked the things. Out of all the ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night, I was terrified of the Headless Horseman. Every year at Halloween, my sister and I, after trick or treating, would settled down in front of the Disney Channel and watch A Disney Halloween. Remember the weird mountain demon from Fantasia? Or how about The Sorcerer's Apprentice? It never failed, toward the end of the program, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow would air. My favorite Halloween tale of all. And yep, every year I would sleep with the light on, convinced I would hear the horseman's gallop underneath my window as he came to claim my head.
You want to know something kind of silly? I'm still a bit scared of him today. I went and saw Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" twice just to prove to myself I was an adult and could handle the old Hessian. It's a legend, right? There's no basis for facts, right? Heck, I live in Georgia, hundreds of miles from the Hudson River Valley. There's no way old headless would gallop all the way down here for my noggin'. Would he?
See where I'm going. We're all afraid of something. And that something can give real zing to our stories. You don't have to write suspense or even murder mysteries to throw in a good fear factor or two. Fear makes our characters appear more real. I enjoy reading about a character who has fears and flaws. I can identify with that because I have plenty of both!
Dredge up an old fear, or use a current one in your story. See what happens when you give it to different characters. Try on different fears, see what works, what doesn't. Perhaps you could try your hand at writing some suspense stories. I have a small collection of them now that I'm hoping to compile into a short story anthology. I find I love writing scary stories. They really creep me out. I work on them and glance over my shoulder, shudder, and keep on typing.
What kind of fears could you use on your characters? Me? I think I have a headless horseman just begging to be put to use. (I don't think I could stomach the spider research!)