Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life.
In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.
This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.
Fear of One’s Genetics
To varying degrees, every person takes steps to stay healthy because no one wants the discomfort and inconvenience of being sick or injured. But not all maladies are created equal. Imagine a character with a genetic predisposition towards a debilitating physical or mental condition. Not knowing if it’s going to crop up for them, or when it will show itself…that uncertainty and fear can create a host of issues that impact the character’s thoughts and how they approach life and the future.
What It Looks Like
Frequently visiting the doctor
Requesting tests and bloodwork to look for earmarks of the condition
Maintaining a healthy diet
Avoiding potential triggers (alcohol, being in the sun, etc.)
Heavily researching the condition
Conducting genetic testing to see if the character is at risk
Taking vitamins and supplements
Quizzing family members about their health
Doing frequent self-checks for symptoms associated with the condition
Participating in research studies
Deciding not to have children
Hypochondriac tendencies; believing the condition is presenting when it isn’t
Difficulty developing long-term relationships (because the character doesn’t want people around when/if their health deteriorates)
Being uncomfortable around people who have the condition
Participating in fundraisers to find cures for the condition
Avoiding doctors and testing
Ignoring any symptoms of the condition
Becoming irritated or angry when the subject is brought up
Hiding signs that the condition is developing
Pretending things aren’t as bad as they are
Not making long-term plans for the future
Common Internal Struggles
The character feeling like their body or mind has betrayed them
Being plagued with visions of what the condition will do to the character
Constantly worrying that the condition is starting
Worrying about what will happen to the people in the character’s care if the condition develops
Wanting to start a family but being too afraid of passing the condition to them
Being afraid of the future and what it might bring
Wrestling with depression
Being angry at God
Flaws That May Emerge: Controlling, Fussy, Gossipy, Judgmental, Know-It-All, Morbid, Nosy, Perfectionist, Pessimistic, Pushy, Unethical, Worrywart
Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Overspending on genetic testing, supplements, experimental treatments, etc.
Being unable to enjoy the present because the character is so worried about the future
Not preparing adequately for the future (because the character doesn’t see the point)
Making life decisions (about marriage, having kids, the pursuit of a dream) based on the condition presenting itself though there is no guarantee that it will
Taking drastic measures to ensure the condition doesn’t develop (such as having a hysterectomy to prevent ovarian cancer, though there is no guarantee it will happen for the character)
Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Watching a family member suffer with a genetically inherited condition
Experiencing symptoms of the condition
Getting a call from the doctor’s office about test results
Discovering that a family member’s devastating condition is genetic
Birthdays that bring the character one year closer to a possible diagnosis
Seeing great strides being taken to find a cure for a different genetic condition while nothing is seemingly being done for the character’s potential condition
Other Fear Thesaurus entries can be found here.
Need More Descriptive Help?
While this thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (16 unique thesauri and growing) is accessible through the One Stop for Writers THESAURUS database.
If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough for this site, and then give our Free Trial a spin.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Leave a Reply