Really Scary Scenes
Readers see the character (s) fears and courage, and how they cope with each situation the author puts them in. But there a different levels of danger and fears. The author can show how serious the problem is by a character’s reaction to the situation.
In Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance series, Tassehoff Burrfoot is a kender. He’s a little guy, three feet tall, with a very long, thick pony tail sprouting from the top of his head, called a topknot. His sticky fingers tent to find, or borrow, the most unusual things. The kender is an optimist who is always looking for an adventure.
Tassahoff is fearless, nothing about life bothers him. He excitedly enters a cave that might be filled with ghosts or goblins and is disappointed when the cave is safe. When his warrior friends cautiously back off, Tass boldly treads forward.
A young wizard needed to enter the Wizard Raislin Majere’s private laboratory. But the laboratory was in a tower surrounded by a protective garden full of hellish creatures, that will drag anyone trespassing, into their underground hell. In the tower there are disembodied eyes that will suck the life from a person and turn them to dust.
The warrior heroes would rather battle a league of fierce dragons than enter that garden and tower. But the kender wanted to experience the danger and was disappointment, when his friends sought an alternative way into the tower.
There are many times in the Dragonlance series when heroes are afraid. They either have the good sense to avoid the danger or gather their courage and plan their battle attack.
So how are the readers to know when something extraordinary fearful comes up. Something so terrible the reader should be worried for the heroes. The heroes have been afraid before and have survived. How is the reader to know this is different?
Enter Tassehoff Burrfoot.
When the truly fearless is afraid and is shaking in his knee-high, leather boots, there is something different about this danger that the heroes might not survive. This danger is a mystery the reader must keep reading to see how the heroes survive or if one of them will die.
Comparison of objects can also show intensity of fear.
Harry Potter’s Ron Weasley was willing to stand up to a two headed dog to solve an age old mystery. He was willing to go to the debts of Hogwarts and face a snake the length of a city block to save his little sister. But he is undone by spiders.
If Ron is afraid of a normal size spider, imagine his fear of a spider the size of a two story house? His fear is increased by the size of the problem. Readers may have laughed at Ron’s fear of little spiders, but they cringed when Ron was surrounded by spider’s children, spiders the size of a car.
Don’t just say something is really scary, show it. Give the readers a reason to believe this is truly dangerous. Make them feel the character’s fear and worry for him or hers safety.