What scares you?
I’ve returned to fear, as I’m about to begin writing my sixth Cornish Detective novel Kissing & Killing which will hinge on fear and insecurity. My protagonist Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle is a laid-back farmer’s son with a team of detectives who are better trained at violent confrontations than him. One is a judo black belt, another officer is as big as a wardrobe and a Cornish wrestler, while Neil’s deputy is of the Indian Rajput clan and is trained in their scimitar-based martial art of pari-khanda, using dummy swords and shields for lessons. Neil has police force martial arts training, but up to now has preferred to out-talk suspects, rather than overpower them.
He had no choice at the end of Book 5 The Dead Need Nobody, where he was stabbed with a sword, fighting for his and a hostage’s life. He beat his assailant to death, using an extendable baton. Owing to blood loss he was placed in a medically-induced coma to protect his brain. He comes out of it facing an official enquiry into the death of the murderer who attacked him.
Neil seems to be OK, but he’s soon aware that his personality has changed. He’s more combative, relishing violence. He becomes afraid of himself.
He’s also feeling insecure, from falling in love for only the second time in his life, with a woman who may be concealing a criminal past from him.
I’ve known people afraid of the dark, crowds, dogs, cats, snakes, spiders, fish and toadstools. For my part, I’m irrationally intimidated by bears (none of those in Cornwall) and dislike petty officials with too much power—and they’re everywhere!
Some fears are rational. I don’t like great heights or depths, as falling or getting trapped can kill me! I know a man who explores abandoned Cornish mines, going underground without special equipment and not telling anyone where he’s going, which is crazy.
Writing frightening scenes is tricky. I’ve read several crime novels this year which failed to scare me at all, even though awful violence occurred. The main characters weren’t emotionally affected, which left things feeling flat as if the author was relying on his readers having moral outrage.
What scares you?
What scares your characters?
(A common fear of writers!)