Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Phobias in our reading

I'm reading Nosy in Nebraska, a collection of three Maxie the Mouse Mysteries by Mary Connealy.
The first in the series, Of Mice and Murder, has a heroine who is out of her mind scared of mice. So of course, she must live in a rodent-infested mansion.
And the hero just happens to be a guy who can catch a mouse when he has to.
Which got me to thinking about phobias in characters. I mean, we all have at least one phobia. What are you afraid of? Public speaking? Heights? Spiders? Going bald?
What phobias do your characters have? How can you use a fear to deepen your character and how can you use that phobia to show strength of purpose to overcome it? How can you force your character to deal with the fear?
In The Marriage Masquerade, (coming in January 10) my hero, Noah, wants to flee the guilt he feels because he captained a ship that wrecked and killed several seamen. So of course, I put him in a position where he has to choose to captain a ship or allow another man to die. His phobia about being responsible for seamen aboard a ship haunts him until he must act on it.
Anyone have any examples, either from literature or from you own WIPs?


  1. Phobias fascinate me, I didn't intend to use illiteration there. I took an abnormal psych class in college that had an entire unit on phobias. There are some crazy ones out there.

    I used to have a major phobia of bird...but that's toned down a little. I also went through this weird stage as a little kid where I was terrified of squirels. I'd cross the street in order to avoid walking by one.

    I definitely need to give my characters more phobias! The one you have for Noah sounds awesome - HIGH conflict there!

  2. That's an interesting question. It's fits so well with the series I am working on right now. In the series, three women are fighting a spiritual battle and they must face some of their greatest fears. These include small phobias and events from the past that helped make them who they are.

    By the way, the book sounds good. You've been talking about a lot of fun books lately. I'm going to have to start writing them down :D

  3. Ooo, good question. I must work on giving my heros and heroines phobias. Yet another way to inflict torture ;)

  4. My grandmother had an old farmhouse in Kansas and I would go there frequently as a kid. One fall, there was a really bad infestation of moths. I was pretty little, but I still remember going into that farmhouse and the walls were COVERED with moths. It was horrible. To this day, I have a genuine phobia of moths.

    My head knows it is ridiculous, but I can't help it. My mom was scared to let me start driving as a teenager b/c if one happens to get in the car, I really freak out. I had to train her to leave the porch light OFF in high school b/c if there was one fluttering by the light when I came home, I would not go in the house, even if it meant missing my curfew.

    Unfortunately, this phobia has also generalized to butterflies. I can't stand them and if one gets close to me I almost have a panic attack. I REALLY need to work on this because I don't want my son to pick up on this and have such a silly fear, too!

    What a crazy thing to be scared of! People think I'm kidding until they witness an encounter! :)

  5. Katie, I am not a bird fan either! Unless it waddles. I have a great affinity for ducks, geese, and penguins. :)

    Cindy, I've hit a hot streak lately with good books. My TBR pile is bursting with books I want to read. After the Nosy in Nebraska series, I've got Miss Fortune and Miss Match by Sara Mills and A Promise of Spring by Kim Vogel Sawyer.

    Georgiana, if you torture your characters any more, I'm going to need smelling salts! LOL You are the QUEEN of torture!

    arika, EWWWWW I'd be freaked out by moths too! Guess the butterfly garden at Cypress Gardens is a no go, huh?

  6. Erica,
    Your book sounds intriguing! I'll have to chat with you more some time about those pesky historical romance "guidelines!" I think there's definitely room to write outside the box of what's most popular, but as a first time author, we want to attract the most readers we can. Since we don't have our name or reputation to draw readers, the story really has to grab their attention.

    I love the idea of giving a character a phobia! I'll have to keep that in mind for my next novel! That would make for some interesting conflict! Thanks for the idea!

  7. I've not tried working with phobias yet, but this has inspired me to. Thanks, Erica!

  8. I must say Mary's The Husband Tree (her next one) sounds soooo good! Can't wait for that!
    As for phobias, I don't really have on. Heights are a bit scary for me and hair...ugh...more of a aversion. (you know, hair in the bathroom, in the tub, bleh...)
    I haven't written any phobias for my characters but I need to! What fun!