I now turn my attention to fear and the fears of others. Certainly not just my own fears because I don’t particularly subscribe to many. Do I have them? No doubt. Most I would simply class as rational fears that many experience on a daily basis. Now that I am a father it is only natural that fears for your offspring nag away. Every time my daughter approaches an intersection on her scooter at speed my fears increase. But these are natural concerns or worries even.
If I track a history of my own less than rational fears my first is an adolescent standard. From the mid to late eighties I was scared of the dark. It began at about age ten and continued pretty constantly for a couple of years. I needed the door left open a crack so there was always light spilling in from the hall. I wasnt the only one in my group of friends who may have been experiencIng this same fear. When I consider what may have accentuated the fear it seems quite obvious now. In those years immediately preceding our teens we were introduced to imagery that was targeted at a much older audience and I’m not talking about the porn mags one of my uncles kept under the house.
As ten year olds, now and then we would see movies that weren’t age appropriate. Maybe that occurred as I wandered past adults watching a violent movie or perhaps I was invited to a birthday where the parents weren’t really screening the movies we were watching. My ten year old mind simply had a hard time rationalising the blood and guts I saw at the time and the idea that a monster was under the bed just sat inescapably at the forefront of my mind. The good thing about my fear of the dark was that I grew out of it(as most do)as my mind developed. My youngest brother developed a fear of the dark after seeing a movie. It was at a friends birthday sleepover and was about alien abduction. It was realistic enough to create a fear that lingered and like me, he took time to grow out of it and to finally rationalise it the way our parents would.
In my teen years I was probably at my most fearless but that still didn’t stop my wild imagination from developing what I can only describe as a fear of ‘involuntary teleportation’. It was simply the idea that when I was in a vulnerable or embarrassing position I would sometimes be weary of how ghastly it would be to suddenly be transported to another place in that same position. An example would be sitting on the toilet and suddenly find yourself in the middle of the pitch at Eden Park in the same position. Another was taking a shower and suddenly finding myself in the middle of my high school, dripping wet and starkers. But this is without doubt the most irrational my fear has got and in terms of fear factor it was low on the scale as it was nothing more than a passing thought.
In recent years if I have been asked what I am most afraid of I usually say ‘being alone’ or a fear of ‘dying alone’ although these days I wouldn’t say I am particularly afraid of death itself. Isolation is not quite the same thing and as a writer, periods of isolation are inevitable, so that also holds no fear for me. To me, the fear of being alone probably stems from the thought of being left by those you hold most dear. It is a natural fear when phrased that way.
Although analysing ones own fears has a dark nature to it, it is something that is going to help me as a writer, as is trying to gauge the fears that others possess. To make a novel taut, one of the best ways is to play on the fears of the reader. Without knowing the fears an individual posseses it should be more a matter of asking around to find the commonalities that put some on edge or, at times, make their skin crawl.
My wife has a fear of spiders and I consider it quite irrational. There is a certain time of year where we get an unusually high amount of arachnid visitors and simply to avoid getting in a row about the benefits of spiders managing the fly population, I just play the pest control guy and get the slipper out. I don’t plan on writing about snakes and spiders any time soon but like my own fear of the dark it manifested itself from other events. It’s understanding those events that let’s the writer construct their own fear factory.
I look forward to picking the brains of the more timid members of the reading public…..figuratively of course.