All perfectly understandable from a survival/cleanliness perspective. But the most interesting fears are those that are irrational, the ones that come from the sub conscious. Such as Coulrophobia the fear of clowns, or ornithophobia – birds, or Gephyrophobia, the fear of bridges.
All totally ridiculous, unless you’re Stephen King,
See, that’s the point, quite often even the seemingly irrational turns out to be circumstantially very rational.
The parallel with dreams is one that instantly springs to mind. These subconscious adventures take place while we’re safely tucked up in our beds and are described by some as psychological rehearsals preparing us for the trials and tribulations we face on a daily basis.
So it is with being scared.
We need look no further than fairy stories for the template. It’s no accident that giants and ogres and trolls are always depicted as big. After all the most dangerous thing a child can come across in the real world is undeniably an adult.
How does that help you as an author or a reader?
Fear responses boil down to ‘fight or flight’. Unless, of course, you’re writing a teen film where the weird noises from the basement always entice the skimpily clad girl to investigate. On her own. With a flickering torch.
That’s not rational, not a real ‘f or f’ response, but one designed to cause anxiety in the audience. And in that case, it’s completely false, but circumstantially rational in the context of the film maker’s aims.
If you write urban fantasy, your pitting your Jo Normal against the unexpected and irrational. So there are no rules in terms of how to respond. No one knows what the appropriate reaction is to a demon or a ghost or a Ghoulshee High Priestess (The 400Lb Gorilla).
That’s the beauty of it. You have an empty canvass. Admittedly you might need quite a bit of red for said canvass since blood tends to play a major role, but you get my drift. And having your protagonist face his fear is a great way to find out what makes him tick.
But if you really want to scare someone, you could do worse that read this great blog from The Sarcacstic Muse on the core elements of a Horror Story. Don’t say I never give you anything.
Double negatives rule!