Once upon a time when I was back in school one of my good friends happened to be one of the most clever girls in our entire year. She may even have been one of the most intelligent people in the entire school. Think Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter novels. The only problem was she suffered terribly from atychiphobia. What in the world is that? Well simply put it is an intense fear of failure.
All of us can relate to this fear to some degree I am sure. Most people suffer from some degree of it. What turns it into a true phobia is the intensity of the fear. My smart friend feared failure so much that on days we had big tests or exams she actually became physically ill. Her parents used to think she was actually ill and would keep her home from school. The problem was that the exam was still there waiting for her when she returned. She had to face her fear and take those exams anyway. Psychologists would argue that is actually the best way to deal with atychiphobia anyway. I would say it took a good year or so but eventually after many top marks confirming her abilities she eventually got to the point where she felt some butterflies before those big exams but nothing as severe as she had once been.
Since this is fear many people can relate to it is the perfect fear to use in character development. Character A is so terrified that they will fail at Activity A that they will not even attempt it but then after being forced to do Activity A or Activity B which is almost the same activity they learn to conquer their fear. Voilà character, plot and outcome sorted. Throw in a couple curve balls, a few more characters and some settings and you have yourself a novel.
Many of us writers are fickle people with fear of failure too. It is that fear that will hinder us from reaching our goals. Some of us will never trust our writing ability enough to let others read our work so we remain closet writers (I was guilty of this for quite awhile). Some of us will come out of the closet and let others read our work but will never think it is good enough to be published and will never take those next steps.
The only way to win and move on is to face these fears. I started my blog to overcome my fear of having others read my work. It was a big step and I am so pleased I did. Now I am even looking to the next step which is working on getting published. I am nervous people will not like my stuff because I guarantee some people out there won’t but I no longer let it be a fear that controls my actions.
How about you, do you suffer from Atychiphobia? Have you written a character with such a strong fear of failure?