Love Fear Writing Steven Barnes

Love and Fear and Writing
By Steven Barnes
Steven Barnes

“Fear and love compete for the same place in our hearts”—Sri Chinmoy

“Briefly speaking, ‘fear’ kidnaps the ability to think clearly, increasing the possibility of being lead into error, and decreasing the chance of opening the positive exit doors that may be available. Depending upon the context, ‘fear’ can lead to complications, losses, and tragedies, both big and small.”--Jagdish N Srivastava

     One of the best approaches to characterization is to design a perfect human being, and then deliberately build in flaws. Damage them. Choose one or more of the seven key arenas of human life and create fear where they need courage.
     Then, you need only design a plot that gives them an opportunity to gain the lessons or allies they need to overcome, to grow, to evolve or heal.
     And how do I suggest writers gain the insight to accomplish this? Simple, really. Look within yourself. Ask yourself--where has fear stopped you in the past? Where does it stop you now? Too often, people won’t even admit that they want love, happiness, health, because they would then have to confront their demons.
     There are two basic ways of dealing with fear: increase the motivation to accomplish the goal, or decrease the actual pull of the negative emotion. Once you admit that you crave change in your life, you become responsible for that effect.
     You can actually have your dreams--but the first step is admitting you desire them. Don’t cheat yourself: life is entirely too short. Use your “Diamond Hour” today to write your goals in all three basic arenas: health/fitness, relationship, and finance.
     And tomorrow? Start bringing those dreams to life!
     And in your story?

     From the perspective of the  most important writing tool I teach, the Hero’s Journey, the ten steps of Joseph Campbell’s outline of world mythology’s core story might look like this (asking how fear and love impact on each of the steps!)
1) Hero is confronted with a challenge.  (Does it threaten something he loves?)
2) Hero rejects the challenge (what does he fear about this?)
3) Hero Accepts the challenge (either love increases, or fear diminishes)
4) Road of trials.  (What “gap” in distance, skills, etc. Must the hero close?   How do his emotions impact the process?)
5) Allies and Powers.   (What bonds his new allies to him?  Common purpose?  Familial connection?)
6) Confrontation with evil—defeat (What is the cause and consequence of the character’s largest failure, something that happens near the end of the story?)
7) Dark Night of the Soul (What is the moment of deepest despair, and how does it devastate the hero?)
Leap of Faith (what internal or external resource must the hero tap into.  What revelation must he have to triumph?  If he fails, to what can this be attributed?)
9) Confront Evil—succeed.    (Why couldn’t this success have happened initially?  How did the character have to grow and change?)
10) Student becomes the teacher.   (What is the nature of the “next level” to which the hero rises?   To whom does he now provide a positive or negative example?)

     This is a rapid overview of the kinds of questions that can arise, and if you will apply them to a project their usefulness will present themselves instantly.  If you find this approach useful, you should sign up for the LIFEWRITING MAILING LIST  at

Write with passion!
Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a New York Times bestselling, award-winning novelist and screenwriter who is the creator of the Lifewriting™ writing course, which he has taught nationwide.  He recently won an NAACP Image Award  as co-author of the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with actor Blair Underwood and his wife, Tananarive Due. Nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and Cable Ace awards, writer of the Emmy-winning "A Stitch In Time" episode of The Outer Limits, winner of the Endeavor and the NAACP Image Awards, Steven has written comic books, animation, newspaper copy, magazine articles, television scripts and three million words of published fiction published in seven languages, making him one of the world's  most honored, diverse and popular writers. Visit his website at   

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