Character and Reader Fear Levels: Some Handy Graphs!
Happy All Hallows Eve! And thanks so much to Book Chick City for inviting me over here. My topic today is FEAR!!
Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be confessing this in a post, but one of the hardest things for me as an author is getting a character’s level of fear right.
If you dial the character’s level of fear too high, you have a paranoid character. If you let it be too low, you have a too stupid to live (TSTL) character. Both are book killers!
This is all complicated by the fact that, as an author, YOU know what’s lurking behind the closet door, you know what is hiding under the bed.
However, one little secret author trick is that when you want to make a scene scary, you just bump up a character’s fear. You just can’t do it too much, or you get into paranoid territory. I totally use this trick sometimes. My most shameless use of it was in HEAD RUSH!
What is the right level of fear for my UF heroine when something is actually scary?
As you see, the APPROPRIATE FEAR zone for my Disillusionists heroine, Justine, is in the more fearful half. Because, it’s reasonable to be frightened when something’s scary. When a UF heroine is not at all frightened, I feel a little ripped off.
OKAY, then there is the opposite problem, when I’m not going for fear. As an author, I always know what is in the upcoming scenes, so there are never unknowns for me, which is, of course, a great source of fear for others. So, sometimes I don’t think things are scary for my main character, but readers get scared on her behalf.
In the bank robber erotic romance I write under my Annika Martin pen name, I deleted an entire half a novella because part of the fun and smutty storyline scared a critique partner. Erotic romance shouldn’t be scary, or at least, the erotic romance I write shouldn’t be. And sometimes it’s easier to just delete and start over. Look, another handy chart-graph!
How much fear should a reader feel when reading fun erotic romance?
It’s okay with me if my Annika readers feel scared when my gang robs banks, because that’s the adventure part of the story, but generally, I like to keep the fear level low, to maximize the smutty fun.
In MR REAL, my heroine discovers that she has this magic computer virus that makes jpgs appear in real life. She’s not the kind to take things too seriously, and at first she conjures up great outfits and accessories, but on one drunken, lonely night she brings this spy from a TV commercial to life for a sexy visit.
It was a big thing to get the fear level of that right, because, on one hand, he’s a sexy spy from a commercial for liqueur, so how threatening would he seem to her? In early drafts, I had her feeling like it was all fun and games when he first showed up, but that didn’t seem entirely realistic. Yet, because my heroine is kind of reckless, too much fear wouldn’t work for her. Look, another graph chart thingy!
My heroine fear challenge in MR. REAL
It was kind of fun thinking through this and getting a fear level right, but not easy—I wanted to stay true to my heroine’s plucky/reckless personality without making her TSTL.
Hey, thanks so much for stopping by! And, I came bearing treats! Up for grabs: A copy of MR REAL when it releases on October 30th, print or ebook, International.
Here’s your question to enter: What was the book that frightened you most this year?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carolyn Crane is the author of the Disillusionists trilogy, assorted novellas, and the upcoming Mr. Real. She lives in Minneapolis (U.S.) with her husband and two cats. She works a day job as a freelance advertising writer, and has for years. She’s also waited tables at a surprising number of Minneapolis restaurants and bars (though not as many, incidentally, as her writer husband has). She’s also been a shop clerk and a plastics factory worker, which she was dismal at (think I Love Lucy).
Also, Carolyn can relate almost any life experience to one or another Star Trek episodes, and if you invite her to your party, your cheese plate will be in grave danger. During rare moments when she’s not at her computer, she can be found reading in bed, running, helping animals, or eating Mexican food. (Photo © Deb Tschurwald)
ABOUT THE BOOK: The girl of his dreams…with the secret agent of his nightmares Alix Gordon is a girl who doesn’t take life too seriously. What’s the fun in that? So when she stumbles across occult software that can bring any computer image to life, she conjures up lots of awesome outfits and accessories. And then, on one drunken, horny night, she conjures up Sir Kendall, the sexy TV ad spy… who looks exactly like Paul Reinhardt, the super-sexy martial arts teacher who kicked her out of class a few years ago.
Fighter Paul Reinhardt has good reason to hate Sir Kendall, the character he brought to life to land a part in a TV ad; he’d do anything to forget him. A cross country road trip seems just the thing… until Paul finds himself inexplicably drawn to Minnesota and is shocked to discover Sir Kendall – in the flesh – with the girl he’d once loved from afar. He barges into Alix and Sir Kendall’s love nest, determined to stop the madness – somehow. But is superspy Sir Kendall transforming into something more dangerous anyone can imagine? And what will Sir Kendall do when Paul and Alix finally give into their mad lust for each other?
Carolyn is giving away a print or ebook copy of Mr Real when it releases on October 30th.
For entry into the giveaway please answer the following question and then fill out the form below: What was the book that frightened you most this year?
This giveaway is International and ends 31st October 2012
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