Before I started my WIP, I did a lot of thinking about my main character’s greatest fear. My WIP is a gothic novel, so I decided I wanted a fear that would be particularly pervasive in that sort of story—you know, genre expectations and all that stuff.
I also decided to take my main character’s fear one step further. I’m trying to make the fear active, not in the literal form of a flesh and blood antagonist, but in the way setting can be treated as a character.
My main character’s fear is of the dark. It’s not a small fear, like I had as a child. Her fear is depilating. She has created coping mechanisms, but she also has come to the point where she’s angry with herself because of the fear. In other words, her character is ripe for change. And, of course, she will have to face this fear as part of the climax.
I know this is not some new wondrous idea. Lots of writers use it. But this is the first time I’ve consciously focused on it as a writing tool. Have you used this technique?
How do you choose your main character’s greatest fear? Do you uncover it organically as you write or do you pick a fear which will challenge your character within the context of the story?