I’ve talked and written about fear often on blogs for writers, but never to fans of reading, mostly because readers don’t think about fear as being a motivating factor in whether they like a book or not. But for me, fear is all about writing and reading and becoming enthralled with a story.
Normally, joy and fear don’t go together except for roller coaster rides and scary movies with buttered popcorn and cold colas. The movies and food, not the roller coaster and food. That would just be really messy. We’d never get the popcorn butter out of our hair.
For writers, there are a lot of fears, most of them stupid in the extreme, but then, fear isn’t always a rational logical thing. We have fears like: fear of showing our work to others, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of quitting the dependable job, fear of tackling something new, fear of deadlines, fear of writer’s block (Which does not exist. Does not, I say!) fear of having multiple computer backup failures and losing *everything*, fear of having to perform (koff koff) , fear of reviews that say we suck, fear of actually writing things that really do suck, fear of giving up, fear of not ever giving up when we might should have, fear of not being a good writer, fear of falling into a writing crutch and not being able to see it until someone else (worse,
some *important* someone else) points it out to us, fear of embarrassment, fear that people are patronizing us or feeling sorry for us when they say we write well, fear of winning awards, fear of not winning awards, fear of never even being nominated, fear of not being able to make a living with our writing, fear of wasting our lives and time, fear of spoiling our one good chance to get published (or published ever again) by saying / doing something stupid, fear of making a fool of ourselves in public, did I say fear of failure yet? And of course, fear of repetitive, run-on sentences.
Are you the creative type? Did you see your own fear in here somewhere? Do you have others?
Most religions have a scripture (and nations have wartime leaders) that say(s) something like, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” And how terrifyingly true that is. Fear can be debilitating, and because it’s a survival instinct honed by millennia of lucky, fearful, fast-moving success stories, and is hardwired into us by evolution and/or design (not getting into that here)we can’t make it go away. And if we did, we’d be dead pretty fast, because fear keeps us from
stepping in front of cars, driving sleepy, kicking fire-ant hills, spitting into the wind, stepping on Superman’s cape, and other foolish acts.
But when it comes to reading, everything changes. That hard-wired addiction to fear turns on its head and we want the fear! We want/need fear in every book. We want: fear that the guy and girl might not get together, fear the army of the light might be devoured by the armies of the dark leaving the princess to fight on alone, fear that the hobbit might give up the ring, or worse, use it, fear the car will explode before the hero can save his canine friend, fear the doctor won’t spot the tell-tale symptom and save the patient, fear the potential lovers won’t actually become lovers, fear the magic sorcerer will be too strong for the hero, fear the boots won’t hold up under the strain of fighting, fear the dress will fall off (or won’t), fear the horse will lose the race, fear the child will die because the new heart has been hijacked by vampires along with a Red Cross blood supply, fear the hero will drink the poison—and then when she does, that she won’t survive the mind-blowing trip to the world-between… So many fears! So many books!
These fears are tantalizing, with a come-hither appeal that keeps pages turning. And that fear works, and keeps us readers buying a writer’s books because we know that writer will address those fears and give us “bang for our buck,” meaning that by the end of the book, the fear has been satisfied and the problems solved. And when the writer does her job, the joy is exquisite! Total satisfaction that the plot and problem and conflict and fear have been dealt with.
We writers live with the, “What ifs” of life all the time. “What if” is a question integral to our creative process. We can’t write if we can’t look life’s “What ifs?” in the face and challenge the whole kit and caboodle, like David facing up to a well-armed, well-trained, armored, angry, giant— Goliath—with only a sling full of rock, talent, and moxie.
And that is where the writers’ joy comes in. The joy is a direct result of walking up to fear, wearing nothing but a metaphorical loin cloth, carrying a leather slingshot and a bag of rocks in a goat-skin bag, staring up at the ten-foot giant that has you ready to pee in your pants and putting
all your talent and strength into your weapons (in this case your keyboard) and raring back and slinging all you have at the fear. Winning is … fantastic. Euphoric. Joyous. Even if you lose, you still have joy because you didn’t hide from the fear or drink it away or run away like the scared little rabbit you really are, Faith Hunter. Yes. I’m talking to myself here.
As a reader, one of my favorite non-fantasy books is the Stephanie Plum series, and my favorite fear-ploy was and is, who will Stephanie end up with, Ranger or the cop? In my favorite fantasy series, by my pal Kim Harrison, I keep wondering how Rachel Morgan and her demon will end up. Will one die? Can one die? And what about Trent? Please tell me she ends up with Trent!!!! Nope. I don’t know. I would never ask Kim and she would never tell me. Why spoil our fun—her as writer and me as reader.
I work really hard to keep the reader guessing about Jane Yellowrock’s life, not out of cruelty, but out of a delicious sense of joy. Well, that and the fact that I don’t know how the series will end! Not yet, anyway. But I do know what shaped Jane and how she became the woman she is today. I cover a bit of that in the new e-book compilation of shorts, Have Stakes Will Travel, which will be out Sept 4th everywhere that e-books are sold. Don’t have an e-reader? You can download one for your computer at Amazon and other places on the web. Google “free e-readers” and you’ll see plenty!
So, think back to your favorite books and ask yourself the questions—what did I fear? What fear was the writer using to keep me panting for so many pages? And—what do you fear about Jane Yellowrock? What do you hope? What do you want to know?
Faith Hunter, fantasy writer, was born in Louisiana and raised all over the south. She writes the Urban Fantasy Skinwalker series, featuring Jane Yellowrock: Skinwalker, Blood Cross, Mercy Blade, Raven Cursed, Death’s Rival (Oct. 2012), Blood Trade, (April 2013) and two short story compilations, Cat Tales and Have Stakes Will Travel. Her Rogue Mage novels, a dark, urban, post-apocalyptic, fantasy series—Bloodring, Seraphs, and Host—feature Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage. A role playing game based on the series, Rogue Mage, just went to press!
Under the pen name Gwen Hunter, she writes action-adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. As Faith and Gwen, she has 20+ books in print in 27 countries.
Hunter writes full-time and works full-time in a hospital lab, (for the benefits) tries to keep house, and is a workaholic with a passion for travel, jewelry making, white-water kayaking, and writing. She and her husband love to RV, traveling with their rescued Pomeranian’s to whitewater rivers all over the Southeast.
Learn more about Faith Hunter below:
To read reviews of this author’s work go here.
Fan page https://www.facebook.com/faith.hunter#!/official.faith.hunter
Beast (character) fan page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beast/135860763157310
Jane Yellowrock (character) fan page https://www.facebook.com/janeyellowrock?ref=tn_tnmn
Penname Gwen Hunter https://www.facebook.com/#!/gwen.hunter1
Pen name http://gwenhunter.com/
Rogue Mage RPG http://www.roguemage.net/rpg/
RPG fan page https://www.facebook.com/RogueMageRPG