Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Using Fear in Writing for Children

Since it’s Hallowe’en, I’ve been thinking about how kids love to read spooky books and what scares them. Some fears reported by kids I know:
  •  walking home alone
  •  nothing
  •  the creaking closet door when it's a little bit open and it looks like someone is staring at you
  •  spiders and bugs
  •  injections
  •  heights
  •  hurricanes
When I think back to some of the things that frightened me as a child, I can see that some of my fears are similar, while others have completely changed. Some of them, like my childhood fear of talking to adults who were not part of my family, I've grown out of because of my life experiences. Some of them are still with me, like getting spooked by unfamiliar noises when I'm home alone at night. Or my panic at the thought of taking up downhill skiing.

It’s interesting how some fears change over time and some don’t. Some things to think about when using fear in writing:
1) The backstory is important. If a character is fearful, then there are memories and experiences related to the fear that can provide more depth for the story. It doesn't have to mentioned in the story, but it gives more insights into the character.
2) Think like the reader. Since I write for children, to really get into my character’s mind, it’s helpful to list some of my own childhood fears (and other emotional experiences) as a reference for the kinds of fears kids might have. My adult fears can be different -- maybe not even something I was aware of or thought much about as a child. It's all about perspective.
Are you still afraid of anything you were afraid of as a child?


  1. Yep, I'm still scared of spiders, but not like I used to be. I had to get over it for my kids' sake.

    Fortunately I'm not longer scared of my closet. But that fear went away when I moved from my home in England. There was something about that closet that freaked me out.

  2. My mom is terrified of mice and over the years I caught it. Now I scream like she used to. But I remember when I was little not being afraid of them. Brainwashed!


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