My Fears: Can I make them work for me as a writer?
I watched the rain continue to come down last week and watched our little trout stream turn into a raging river. Oh no, I thought. Not again. Two years ago the stream spilled over its banks leaving our basement filled with three to four feet of water. The worst part wasn’t the basement. It was the fear the night before that the river would sweep the entire house away.
I’ve always had a fear of drowning. My parents did not have the money to buy swimming lessons in the summers when all the other kids were learning to paddle their way the length of the community pool. It was not until I was in my teens that I learned to swim, but I never passed my beginners’ test because I was too terrified to jump into the deep end of the pool, a requirement to pass. I swam with my head out of the water, never able to put it under water and learn to hold my breath. I still swim that way although I’m more comfortable being in the water. I can do almost every stoke as long as I don’t have to put my face in the water.
I have recurring dreams about driving down a road and the road leads into a lake which I drive right into. I usually wake up. So no, I’m not water nymph.
Seeing that water rise again this past week brought back all the terrors of the flood two years ago. I was alone then because Glenn was on a cross country motorcycle grip promoting his book. He’s here this year, so I felt comforted by his presence, yet still frightened by the prospect of another flood. The last time they declared a state of emergency which means no one is to be on the road, a real catch twenty-two. How as I to get out of the way of the waters if I couldn’t drive off? The best I could hope for was someone pulling up to my back deck in a boat while I handed them my two cats and abandoned the house. That’s if they found me and not the house floating down the river with me and the cats in the attic.
To my great relief the rain let up and the waters subsided the next morning, giving me the emotional space to think about fear and to realize that my fears have colored my writing.
I don’t think I have many fears, but fear of drowning in a flood found its way into several of my books as well as the feat of wild fires. I’m big on finding natural disasters particularly terrifying for my protagonists.
But there are the little other fears that are more personal. I do use these to provide exciting moments for my sassy country gals. I have a fear of heights that has developed over the past five years. It is related to a medical condition, vertigo. My protagonist in Angel Sleuth finds she can deal with being hung over a chasm and handle the challenge of getting to safety. Good for her. She should be better than I, don’t you think? I hate snakes. Now isn’t that a kick when I live in Florida where we can grow ‘em big and scary? For some reason I’ve been reluctant to use this fear in my writing until just recently as I was working on the second book in my Eve Appel Murder Mystery series. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I used snakes not simply to scare, but to work for my protagonist.
When I was a kid I used to be scared of vampires and werewolves. Not now, so you won’t read about my protagonist turning into a vampire any time soon.
What are your fears? Do you use them in your writing? Do you like protagonists who share these fears and overcome them?