Fear Thesaurus Entry: Change

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.

Fear of Change

Most people are averse to change at some level, and a certain amount of unease when it comes to change is normal. It only becomes a problem when a person is so determined to keeping things the same—possibly because they don’t want to give up control or are afraid of the unknown—that their quality of life is impacted, relationships are damaged, and they’re unable to grow and evolve in a healthy manner.

What It Looks Like

  • Dismissing new ideas without considering them
  • Humoring people; giving the appearance of considering something new but always rejecting the opportunity
  • Avoiding making decisions that require change (so the status quo can be protected)
  • Reacting emotionally rather than logically
  • Using outdated sources or ineffective arguments to make a point
  • Becoming emotionally activated when new ideas are being considered
  • Clinging tightly to “old school” methods: resisting technology, ignoring scientific advances, rejecting tools that deviate from what they’re used to, etc.
  • Sentimentality
  • Loyalty (to people, a job, a community, etc.)
  • Inflexibility
  • Repairing and fixing material objects rather than replacing them
  • Living in the same house even when it’s falling apart or the property value has skyrocketed
  • Sticking close to home; not traveling far or taking long trips
  • Frequent strife with family members who want to make changes the character is resistant to
  • Resenting others for moving on and leaving the character behind
  • Going to extremes to avoid change (manipulating others, lying, being mean or lashing out at someone who is suggesting a change, etc.)
  • Being more interested in the past than the future

Common Internal Struggles

  • Disliking being left alone/behind but being unable to embrace the changes required to keep up with others
  • Feeling obsolete
  • Feeling selfish for being so unbending but not knowing how to be more flexible
  • Wanting to go back in time to when things were happier or simpler
  • Struggling with anxiety or depression
  • Feeling stuck in a situation but being unwilling to make changes

Flaws That May Emerge
Confrontational, Controlling, Cynical, Defensive, Evasive, Hostile, Ignorant, Inflexible, Irrational, Judgmental, Nervous, Obsessive, Oversensitive, Paranoid, Possessive, Resentful, Stubborn, Uncooperative

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life

  • Staying in a situation that makes the character unhappy or is unhealthy because it’s preferable to facing the unknown
  • Difficulty making even small changes to a daily routine
  • Missing out on meaningful activities with others (a trip with friends, a family reunion, dinner at a friend’s house, etc.)
  • Becoming isolated from others
  • Difficulty utilizing modern advances that most people enjoy because the learning curve is too great
  • Always having to make excuses for turning down an opportunity
  • Avoiding people who are likely to suggest activities or changes that threaten the character
  • Always needing to do things their own way; resisting new methods or ideas that would make their life easier

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear

  • New technology or processes at work that must be learned and used
  • A scenario requiring the character to move (the house being condemned, no longer being able to pay rent, etc.)
  • A spouse having to move into a retirement home, leaving the character on their own
  • Grown children moving across the country and asking the character to come with them
  • The culture shifting to embrace ideas the character disagrees with
  • Being given a new phone, a computer, or some other tool the character isn’t comfortable with but must learn to integrate into their life
  • The character’s children wanting to deviate from a long-held tradition

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers