From Writers Helping Writers:
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.
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Fear of Someone Taking Advantage of Them
A character with this fear may worry about potential situations where they might be taken advantage or exploited. These could be serious crimes, such as sexual abuse and identity theft or a simpler occurrence, like being used by a friend for some larger gain.
- What It Looks Like
- Questioning people’s motives
- Believing that other people can’t be trusted
- Highly valuing privacy
- Not volunteering information
- Being very independent
- Living self-sufficiently
- Doing extensive research (to avoid scams, find out if someone is reliable, etc.)
- Avoiding vulnerable situations, such as walking at night or being alone with someone
- Setting boundaries that keep others at a distance
- Avoiding situations where the character has been burned in the past, such as dating, shopping online, or sharing their creative work with others
- Not trusting certain types of people (politicians, salespeople, women, etc.)
- Pulling away when people try to get too close
- Seeing exploitation where there is none
- Taking careful security measures (locking up documents, changing passwords frequently, giving a false name, etc.)
- Demanding payment up front before offering services
- Difficulty working with a team
- Resisting new technologies or advances that carry an element of risk
- Being standoffish with strangers and new acquaintances
- The character being reluctant to help someone outside their inner circle who asks for help
- Common Internal Struggles
- The character worrying about a person’s trustworthiness, then wondering if they’re being paranoid
- Second-guessing the motives of others
- Living in a constant fear of betrayal
- Feeling unnoticed and underappreciated
- The character doubting their own judgment (because they’ve been wrong about people before)
- The character mentally warring with their body’s fight-flight-or-freeze instincts
Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers