Fear fuels conflict in storytelling

Don’t be afraid to explore fear as a storyteller.

By Daniel Dercksen

Fear fuels action, conflict and motivation, and ignites the internal and external journey of characters.


The physicality of fear manifests itself in monsters and villains, and emotionally in evil and dark malevolent forces and deadly secrets.

It is great for writers to use fear as a tool to reveal the true nature of characters.

Character is action, and what a character does will ultimately reveal his or her true nature and intention, and sets the transformation of the character in motion.

The motivated action allows characters to take action, react to whatever happens, and interact with other characters and the world around them.

This creates conflict, which is the heart and soul of storytelling and allows us to empathise with the characters.

Read more about The Art of Creating Conflict in Story

  • The Free State of Jones is an epic action-drama that tells the extraordinary story of a little known episode in American history during which Newt Knight (Matthew McConaughey), a fearless Mississippi farmer, led an unlikely band of poor white farmers and runaway slaves in an historic armed rebellion against the Confederacy during the height of the Civil War.
  • Lights Out is a tale of an unknown terror that lurks in the dark.
  • The life of a non-believer is changed when he is tasked to solve the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion in Risen.
  • The fear of being targeted by the Russian mob forces a crew of dirty cops to execute an impossible heist in Triple 9.
  • The human drama Twee Grade Van Moord looks at homicide from two very different points of view: one reflects the ultimate act of self-centredness, the other a selfless act of mercy.
  • Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore plays the role of “invader” in Where To Invade Next, visiting a host of nations to learn how the U.S. could improve its own prospects. “I’ve never been a cynic,”says writer-director Michael Moore, who broke documentary box office records  with his 2002 Academy Award-winning film Bowling for Columbine and the Palme d’Or-winning Fahrenheit 9/11. ‘’I’ve always believed that cynicism is just a different form of narcissism. And I do believe in the goodness of people and I do believe that most people have a conscience, and they know right from wrong, and they know what we should be doing, and they’re just afraid, or they’re ignorant, and once those things get fixed, we stop living in fear and we stop being stupid, things will get better.’’