Creating Characters
Characters: Creating Characters
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Defining characters by their fears

Hates, fears, phobias, and superstitions have a common element of irrational behaviour. We may hate someone because they have wronged us in some way, but we can equally hate someone because they belong to a different group to us. Hate is an underlying theme in stories of revenge. You can hate someone without fearing him or her.

Fears can involve hate as when you fear and hate an enemy, but generally fear relates to situations that are out of your control. You would be fearful in a haunted castle because you have no idea what is going to happen or how to deal with it even if you did know.

Phobias are also fears, but a special kind of fears. You may fear spiders irrespective of their size, danger, or proximity. Such a person may even be upset seeing photos of spiders.

Superstitions are also fears of a special kind. We might fear walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror in case it brings bad luck. We might create our own superstitions by associating events with things we have at the time of the event.

Characters gain credibility if their hates, fears, phobias, and superstitions are shown. Here are some variants on the themes.



Our fears fall into several categories:


Fear of ourselves. Fear of loneliness, illness, failure, boredom, not being able to cope with life. Fear of losing those close to us, losing power in rank and ability. In general fear of not being part of the society we want to be part of, and playing the role we want to play.


Fear of those around us. People who might threaten us in various ways. Criminals, those who know our secrets, those who want to undermine us, those who threaten us and the ones we love.


Fear of events around us. Catastrophes, disasters, tragedies and accidents. These are situations beyond our ability to predict and deal with.


Fear of the unknown. Being frightened of the dark, fear of heights, fear of crowds, various phobias and superstitions that have no rational basis.

In fairy tales our fears were embodied in gods, devils, giants, dragons, monsters, witches, trolls, hobgoblins, and variations of evil incarnations that threaten us and those we love.

We get into another area of fear when it touches on the unknown. This is the area of evil spirits, ghosts, the supernatural, aliens, zombies, poltergeists, and things from other worlds.

Though these may be imaginary, there are many that will claim experience of them. It touches on religion and various beliefs that form part of our culture. In fact such beliefs are common in most parts of the world.

The spectrum of fear covers, ourselves, those close to us, our environment, our social setting, world conditions.


Give ten examples of each fear.



Phobias come up in film stories in various ways. We expect a person to be frightened of height, so situations involving this will have a dramatic impact.

We can also assume most people dislike insects on them. Make those insects large, intelligent, and hostile, and even robots or alien and again you have a drama.

More subtle phobias include people who have to have everything perfectly orderly (Ataxiphobia), or continually wash their hands in case they catch germs.


List ten phobias.


Related to phobias are compulsions and obsessions. They are irrational behaviour patterns that we have little control over. We might be compulsive eaters who eat for the sake of it rather than when we are hungry.

Some mental disorders include people who act in compulsive and anti-social ways such as having to touch everything, including people. obsessions come and go. Someone might be obsessed with a person and end up stalking them. We might be obsessed with a computer game and spend all our time playing it.

Geniuses are sometimes people obsessed with a subject. Mathematics, Chess, Computers, and music are typical examples. Sports heroes and heroines are often totally involved in their sport to the point where little outside of it matters. Sherlock Holmes was obsessed with crime solving. There is no evidence in the stories that he ever took time off to do anything outside of that.

Addictions and habits are another variant. We start to do things and find we cannot stop even though it is harmful to us. Obviously areas of drug and drink addiction can be related to crime, but so can addictive buying of clothes, or need for speed thrills.

Money itself can be an addiction, and people who are rich may well devote it to making more just for the thrill of it. The story of King Midas is about obsession for money.

Sherlock Holmes was a drug addict. He was also very orderly so may well have had a phobia about disorder. Several of his crimes were solved on knowing the habits of criminals.

Allergies are in some way similar in effect to phobias except that allergies have a rational basis. People may be allergic to cats, perfumes, foods, certain textiles, etc. These items have a bearing on the life style of the person. It may seem far out to think of cartoon characters that have allergies, but the 'War of the Worlds' by H.G. Wells ended with the aliens being defeated by the common cold.

Religion, Voodoo, Black Magic, Supernatural, Psychic powers, Clairvoyants,Witchcraft, occult, astrology, mysticism, divination, metaphysics, paranormal, mediums, and the like are areas of drama as people turn to these in times of need.

Aspects of these come out in palmistry, crystal gazing, numerology, star charts, Tarot cards, I Ching, and various forms of fortune telling.

Again, there are superstitions that most of us have. They can be common ones like not walking under a ladder, or they can be based on our own experience in tending to do things in the say way, and feeling uneasy if we don't.

Individual superstitions: The champion chess player who wears the same 'lucky' tie when playing. Those of us who identify certain items with good luck and use them when we need good luck in spite of our common sense telling us that the items have no relevance at all.

The people who claim to foretell the future include: Mystics, Clairvoyants, Gypsies, Fortune-tellers, Prophets, Visionaries, and psychics.

Another field that falls between belief and science is alternative medicine that includes Faith Healing, Hypnotism, and various types of therapy.

Stories can be built around such superstitions, or the characters can be superstitious as part of their personality. It is a real and powerful element to use.


List three stories where predicting the future is an essential part.

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