Fear itself. (FDR)
I've been a bit busy to blog lately, and I haven't had much to blog about in my daily life. Writing is going slowly, as usual. But of course I'm going to make time for the Blog Chain. This time around, Kat picked a suitable topic for this time of year:
What are the primary fears that drive your characters? Do they battle aliens or gangsters or monsters? Or do they battle unreconciled issues in their lives? Which do you prefer writing about? What do you fear?
Amanda posted before me, and Eric will finish the chain tomorrow.
As I thought about this topic, I realized the main character of Across Two Universes has two main fears: that he will lose someone else he loves (since his mom was murdered at the beginning of the novel), and that he will lose his own identity and be forced to permanently play the part of Sean Quinn, the rock star Paul was cloned from. The monsters he faces are human, however. One is his great-uncle, whom Paul believes had his mother killed to make his life like Sean's. The other is Sean's own murderer. (Paul travels to an alternate universe where Sean is still alive in order to create a hologram of Sean, which Paul will need when he confronts his great-uncle.) Throughout the story, Paul tackles his fears head-on. By meeting his genetic twin, he confronts his own issues with being a clone and realizes he's still a unique person. As an actor, Paul is experienced in playing different roles. He learns to regard Sean's character as another role; the trick is keeping control in his own hands. But his weakness is his love for his friends; a threat to them could make him follow his great-uncle's wishes.
Many of Paul's actions are driven by the guilt he feels over his mother's death. His friends, however, fear more for his safety. They view Paul's attempt to save Sean from the man who wants to knife him as a suicide attempt. Their fear for him drives them to do things they wouldn't do under normal circumstances. One will face her own fear, one will acknowledge her true feelings for Paul, and one will betray him--for his own good.
I think external threats to characters often serve as a metaphor for internal fears, so by writing about one, you're also writing about the other. While I'm more interested in the internal lives of my characters, they often need something external to challenge them so they develop. Fear is not a bad thing in and of itself; it's a way of making sure we protect ourselves. It becomes a problem when we overreact to the point where we can't lead a normal life.
As for my own fears, I've commented on other people's posts about my fear of driving in ice and snow. I also don't like heights, although I can face them. I climbed to the top of Saint Paul's when we were in London a few years ago; I just clung to the walls when I reached the top (which is outside). But my biggest fear is something that's too nebulous to provoke a physical reaction. I fear for my son's future. When I read reports about global warming, overpopulation, and concerns about the future food supply, I worry what life will be like when he grows up. Will the climate be stable? Will there be enough food and clean air and water? How will instability in other regions of the world affect us here? Is what we're doing right now enough to head off a catastrophe?
Perhaps it's too bad we can't be afraid of global warming in the same visceral way we're afraid of heights.