Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Fear the thing, and make your character do it anyway

The thing on my mind is fear.

I'm staring out the wide balcony sliding doors at the summer-sleeping peak at Crested Butte. It knifes the sky, brittle-looking and sharp. An old avalanche or maybe erosion has created a soft bump on one side halfway up, and my guess is that this is where most winter skiiers get their thrills.

But then there are the others.

On the edge of knife's blade, a discernible path carves its way from sharp tip to hilt. It snakes through tall aspens and at times it looks to be almost completely vertical, a fierce, blinding drop through white with sudden death-fingers of hazards grasping at your skis.

I would never even ride the ski lift that scales that peak -- my kids went up the lift yesterday and report back that it was as harrowing as it looks. (Also way fun, they giggle, for they are crazy. I get a spine-shudder just thinking about them up there, even with Dad white-knuckle holding them onto the lift.)

But not even those fearless smallfolk would ski down the steep path. They aren't that crazy.

However, I would totally send a character down it. Face-chapped, sun-blinded, and chased by bears. Hell yeah I would. That scene would totally rock!

Stories are a writer's -- and reader's -- secret cheat, a way for a sometimes-scared-of-toast soccer mom to experience a visceral thrill like that ski path.

And that oft-heard wisdom about fearing a thing but doing it anyway? Is not my mantra. Instead I prefer this version: fear the thing, but make a character do it anyway.

Because authors may be just a touch evil.


  1. Wow. You brought me to the balcony outlooking Crested Butte. Wow. And I'd so be right there with your kids, white-knuckling it and laughing the whole way!

  2. Great post. Thank you for sharing.