Saturday, January 2, 2016

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

If the first day of a New Year seems appropriate for an investigation of beginnings, the second day theme well might be the theme most probable to slip through the cracks.  One way or another, January 2 and all prior and subsequent days, no story can hold its place without the presence of fear, within its boundaries, in orbit about the writer, or, for good measure, both.


Fear is as necessary to story as a white blood cell count to the mammal condition.  No matter what a character claims to want, fear exists to challenge the outcome. No matter how confident the writer is of having pushed the characters beyond the boundary of safety, fear is the cement holding the nuances of plausibility together.

Characters tread the cusp between fear and confidence, at any given moment vulnerable to forgetting one or the other, of mistaking the one for the other.  These same characters may fear having gone too far or not far enough.  They fear failure, disapproval, or rejection, will take great risks to be noticed, but hold in the special vault reserved for hidden fears the sense of being somehow ridiculed when they are being shown approval and admiration.

Writers pace these same unpaved trails in ways only those who create can fully appreciate. Not only is a work of theirs out in public view, at risk of potential ridicule, their additional fear of not having exposed enough will persist. If, they will reason, you haven't exposed enough, that means you haven't got it in the first place.

Among the useful dramatic emotions, Fear dominates by its nature of being least susceptible to logic.  You can explain fear into a proposition, but you can't argue it out.  Any attempt to explain away what seemed like a bogeyman under the bed or in the closet can be met with the irrefutable response, "That's easy for you to say.  The bed isn't in your room."

There are cutoff ages by which one has customarily burned off most of the sort of anger that made one an interesting person in the late teens and early twenties, allowing one to move on to one of the more amusing terms you've heard of, Anger Management. 

Not that you don't lose it--meaning your composure or calmness--from time to time; such moments are cherished when they come, leaving you with the memory of erupting anger and the impulsive carrying it forth into some action, the memory of which now leaves you cackling with mirth over your own excess.

There is also a point around the early fifties where ones recognizes the presence of fear, seeming to lurk everywhere, having the effect of bringing you to terms in which you take fear as much for granted as you do oxygen.  As you know where there are places in which oxygen is at a premium, you also understand there are places more apt to provoke fear.  Your need for oxygen has not kept you from the bottoms of filled swimming pools, nor has your growing awareness of the places where fear dwells kept you from a visit.

In some ways, fear keeps you on the young side of the equation that is you, saying Why not? to risk, more thoughtful and aware of the risk that when you were younger and more contemptuous of risk and the fear risk brings.

You are more likely to laugh at your fears than ever before, which has the effect of being an agent provocateur, causing casual fears to rise up, join forces, unionize, presenting you with dire outcomes.

You are less prone to making the mistakes with anger and fear you made when you were younger and acting out of rebellion, which in its neat, twisted way is a form of fear you couldn't see then.

You are now able to jump with greater ease from the Real World into the world of characters.  At one point, you were to content merely to ask of them (and of yourself) What do these individuals want?  Now, you have another metric by which to move them closer to some ledge:  What are they (and you) afraid of?


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