This is not a titillating TMI Tuesday, sorry. I’m thinking about giving my hero a phobia. Phobia may be the wrong word, because it’s not exactly an irrational fear. But a strong fear of something in particular.

This can be hot when done well, right? I mean – I’m thinking Indiana Jones. “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes.”

Or even the OCD extreme, like Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good As it Gets, or Tony Shaloub on Monk.

Why is it that we love strong heroes, but a phobia can be dead-on sexy?

And now for the TMI. What’s your biggest, most irrational fear?

Me? I’m horribly afraid of suffocation and drowning, which usually manifests as a fear of being more than a few feet underwater. Love swimming, love snorkeling. But I tried scuba once, and it was not pretty. I can’t tolerate watching movies that take place underwater, or in outer-space, or anywhere where the people have a limited air supply. Literally cannot watch.

32 comments to “TMI Tuesday – Fear Factor”

  1. CM
    · June 12th, 2007 at 4:58 am · Link

    Ooh. Big, irrational fears. I think my biggest fear is heights. More specifically, I’m not afraid of falling, but I am afraid of doing something stupid, like throwing something over the edge. It’s completely bizarre. If I’m standing at the edge of a building, I can’t hold anything, because I’ll constantly imagine throwing it over the edge. Like a purse. I wish I could explain this better, but I can’t. It makes my whole body tingle just thinking about it, and I have to hold the item in question very, very tightly.

    My other thing isn’t an irrational phobia–I don’t think–but it’s truly irrational. I hate making phone calls to people I don’t know. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Double hate awarded if I have to ask them to do something for me. I will procrastinate something fierce if I have to do it, and if there is any way I can do without it–like, for instance, go without electricity for four days–I’ll probably choose the latter option.

    If I’m asking for something big enough, this extends to people I know. Like asking for letters of recommendation? HATE IT. It usually takes me two weeks to be able to work up to it.

  2. Tessa Dare
    · June 12th, 2007 at 7:04 am · Link

    Oh, yes – the phone! CM, we have discussed this before, but I have *exact* same phobia. Thank goodness for email, or we never would have connected at all. And what a shame that would be.

  3. India Carolina
    · June 12th, 2007 at 7:10 am · Link

    I have two. First, a real live actual bug phobia. My heroine in Twist has this too. Or did I cut that? Can’t remember. I acutally underwent systematic desensitization therapy while I was in graduate school (from one of my profs) that helped quite a bit. Now I merely cringe and cry when I see a cricket.

    And like CM, I have a phone phobia. Over the years I have learned to deal with it; but it’s painful. I understand this is very common. Not sure why.

  4. India Carolina
    · June 12th, 2007 at 7:12 am · Link

    LOL. Tessa, you have a phone phobia too? This is why the three of us are email junkies!

  5. Tessa Dare
    · June 12th, 2007 at 8:26 am · Link

    Heh – I wonder what’s up with the phone thing. Is it just a coincidence? Or are we, as writers, painfully aware that we do not come off so well by phone as we might through written word? Or did we gravitate toward writing in an attempt to avoid speaking in the first place?


  6. terrio
    · June 12th, 2007 at 9:29 am · Link

    I guess I’m not a writer then because I can call anyone on the phone as long as it’s not in the guise of working as a telemarketer. In fact, I think I’d rather talk on the phone than in person. On the phone they can’t see me.

    I don’t think I have any phobias. But that water one sounds like me. My friend scuba dives and loves it but I can’t imagine it. Anything that limits my air supply I just am not doing. So maybe suffocating is my phobia.

    Tessa – since your WIP takes place on a boat, if the fear had something to do with the ocean it would be good. Sharks or jelly fish or maybe even the albatross.

    My hero has OCD. Everything has to be neat and in it’s place. He’s not controlling of people but he has to be in control of his environment in order to function.

  7. Sara Lindsey
    · June 12th, 2007 at 9:42 am · Link

    I, too, have major phone phobia. And I hate asking people to do things for me. Asking for letters of recommendation was awful!
    I can kill spiders, but crickets send me screaming and jumping onto the closest available chair/bed/what have you.
    I don’t like heights. I’ve gotten better about this, but it’s still a challenge.
    Snakes, lizards, and other reptiles… And fish… actually all sea creatures scare me. Especially lobsters.

    There was actually some sort of workshop at RWA last year on phobias – I didn’t attend, but there was a great handout in the book.
    Here are some of my faves:
    Coulrophobia – fear of clowns… yep, definitely have that!

    Medorthophobia – fear of erect penises… seems like lots of regency heroines suffer from this one!

    Gamophobia – fear of marriage… Here’s what our rakish heroes suffer from!

  8. CM
    · June 12th, 2007 at 9:55 am · Link

    Okay, we have four phone phobias out of five people posting. I’m sensing a pattern.

    I suspect if we got into nitty-gritty details, we’d find that we have individual differences. I have no problem talking on the phone, if people call me. I don’t have a problem calling people to see how they’re doing.

    But just the other day, I procrastinated calling these people–“these people” being the people who are renting me an apartment next year–for a week and a half. Even though I’d already sent them a huge check, and given them all sorts of personal information. Even though the apartment was a great deal and I didn’t want someone else to snap it up. Why? I just couldn’t make myself call and say, “Um, are you still renting to me? And can I, perhaps, see some paperwork?”

    Totally ridiculous.

  9. CM
    · June 12th, 2007 at 10:00 am · Link

    Oh, and let me add one last thing. I did, in fact, work as a telemarketer for about two weeks. I didn’t last long, mostly because the conversations went like this:

    Her: Yeah?
    Me: Hi, I’m, uh, selling newspaper subscriptions.
    Her: We don’t want it.
    Me: Okay. Bye then.

  10. Sara Dennis
    · June 12th, 2007 at 10:04 am · Link

    Chiming in as another person who hates the phone. I don’t have a phobia, but I don’t like it. I can, however, track that back to many years of tech support over the phone and the one hellish summer I spent as a telemarketer. Ugh.

    My big fear is the dentist. Yep, wussy, but needles in the mouth and I do not get along.

    I got caught by the undertow while wave jumping once as a teen, and that, combined with the shark attack book I’d just read, killed my love of the ocean.

    Oh. Oh, no. My big, evil, horrible fear is nuclear war. Not so wussy. You remember the movie The Day After? I watched that when it first came out in the 80s. I had nightmares about it, -every night for three years- afterward. No joke.

    That fear is such that if there’s a mushroom cloud in a movie or on tv, I can’t really watch it. I made myself watch Jericho because my friends were telling me how good it was, but I held my breath through most of the first episode (in little gasps, of course, I’m not that talented) and every time a ‘cloud shows up, my heart rate spikes.

  11. India Carolina
    · June 12th, 2007 at 10:10 am · Link

    So what I’m wondering is who is gonna call to make the dinner reservations in Dallas? Sounds like we are gonna be cornered in the room by crickets and starve to death!

  12. Lindsey
    · June 12th, 2007 at 10:43 am · Link

    I hate to talk on the phone too – to anyone. My friends make fun of me because I primarily use my phone as a text messaging device. But we all live locally, so if I have more to say than I can fit in a text message, why not just get together in person?

    I used to be seriously afraid of reaching into the garbage disposal, but I’ve pretty much gotten over it. I also have a random, irrational fear of experiencing sleep paralysis / hypnogogic hallucination. The whole idea of believing there’s something scary in your room and not being able to move just weirds me out. My overactive imagination is always working against me.

  13. Lindsey
    · June 12th, 2007 at 10:46 am · Link

    Oh, and I really like heroes with phobias. Gina helping Cam with his fear of the dark in Duchess in Love was really sweet, and I’ve read some other good ones as well.

  14. Jacqueline Barbour
    · June 12th, 2007 at 11:00 am · Link

    Piping in to say I, too, dislike the phone. I infinitely prefer email. I don’t mind talking to you on the phone if I KNOW you, but on the whole, I’m much rather chat and chatter through email or other written means.

    Tessa, I also have a fear of drowning. I was a competitive swimmer in high school and have gotten caught beneath pool covers on more than one occasion, which I found truly terrifying. I think maybe if you swim, you have a greater fear of drowning than if you’re a non-swimmer. Weird, but it probably seems more likely if you swim than if you don’t, yanno?

    I USED to be afraid of suffocating. As an asthmatic, this is also a logical fear. Oddly enough, however, I am much less terrified of suffocation now than I was BEFORE I actually darn near managed to do it. (Back in July of 2003, I had a very severe asthma attack that shut down my airways pretty much completely, to the point where I went into cardiac arrest. Obviously, I made it, but it was near thing.)

    Anyway, the weird thing about that experience was that after a certain point, I felt an odd sort of peace about the fact that I was dying. I’m glad I didn’t, but it totally got me over any residual fear of death I had before it happened. And going by suffocation just doesn’t seem as bad to me as it once did.

    Okay, that was definitely TMI! But you DID ask for it.

  15. Lady Leigh
    · June 12th, 2007 at 11:02 am · Link

    I am really afraid of sharks. When I swim in the ocean I don’t really like to go too deep because I get scared. I think Jaws did me in as a little girl.

    I went Snubaing in Hawaii last Spring. It was super fun- like scubaing but your hose is attatched to a float about 20 feet above you- no airtank on your body. For the first 5 minutes I had to work really hard to calm myself down, but then the rest of the hour was great.

    Another big phobia of mine is Avalanches. Even before I moved to CO I was afraid of them- being buried under all that snow. I don’t do a ton of backcountry skiing because of it. People die all the time here when skiing out of bounds. No thanks!!

  16. CM
    · June 12th, 2007 at 12:03 pm · Link

    Dinner reservations? That’s what OpenTable is for! Yay, internet!

  17. Maggie Robinson
    · June 12th, 2007 at 12:05 pm · Link

    Where to begin.

    Heights. Cannot even stand inside close to the window to look out, because you know the window’s gonna shatter and you’ll get pulled out by an invisible hand. I once rode down the Grand Canyon on a mule, and my eyes were closed much of the time. I was so scared I had to throw the clothes I wore away, because they smelled of mule and really skanky B.O. No downhill skiing.

    Bugs of any kind.

    Submarines. No freakin’ way I’m going to get enclosed and submerged.

    Large crowds. Went to a Rolling Stones concert a couple of years ago and besides the fact that I couldn’t get near the porta-potties for nine hours I wondered if I’d be trampled by the mulitply-impaired the entire time I sat on my blanket.

    Bridges. Cannot look anywhere but straight ahead, or I’ll plunge off.

    Holding infants. I know I had 4 kids, but now they’re having babies and I’m afraid I’ll drop someone, or hit their precious little heads on a wall.

    Rodents, including rabbits.

    Driving too fast on the highway. Riding with other people driving too fast on the highway.

    Small planes.

    The dentist.

    Losing my writing. I have it saved to a jump drive, disks, 2 places on the computer and have e-mailed it to myself. But still…

    And may I say caller ID changed my life. I simply don’t answer the phone most of the time.

    Thanks, Tessa. I never quite realized how nuts I am. Another TMI success story!

  18. Tessa Dare
    · June 12th, 2007 at 12:12 pm · Link

    Ooh, this is a great conversation!

    Jacqueline, I totally know what you mean about that ‘at peace with suffocating’ thing. When I was about 10 years old, I choked on a section of orange (still can’t eat oranges peeled and sectioned), and I remember having that sort of serene thought – “well, I guess this is it. so long, world…” Then my dad jumped over the couch, slapped me on my back, the thing flew across the room, and I didn’t die after all.

    Leigh, you’re afraid of avalanches? When I lived in the Midwest, I would have nightmares about tornadoes every spring. I don’t know why I’m not afraid of earthquakes now that I live in CA. Go figure.

    Sara D – I remember spending my Reagan-years childhood absolutely terrified of nuclear war. I totally get you.

    Sara L, I will remember not to order lobster in Dallas. But I’m not calling to make the reservations.

    Lindsey – I’m pretty sure reaching into a garbage disposal is not a good idea. You may be right to fear that! Get some tongs, girl!

    Terrio – I actually have a fear in mind for Gray, and it’s not a fear of the ocean. But it is interesting to me, from reading sailors’ and voyagers’ accounts of the era, how few of these men even knew how to swim. If they fell overboard, they were usually goners. And yes – I forgot Brian (that’s his name?) has OCD! I think it makes for a really intriguing hero, because even little touches and kisses take on a huge significance.

  19. Tessa Dare
    · June 12th, 2007 at 12:14 pm · Link

    Wow, Maggie – that’s quite a list!

    But did you leave off thongs? *wink*

  20. Alice Audrey
    · June 12th, 2007 at 12:45 pm · Link

    It seems to me that the reason a phobia is sexy is because it’s unexpected in a strong man. Seriously, is anyone turned on by phobias in a weak man?


  21. terrio
    · June 12th, 2007 at 1:03 pm · Link

    Alright, alright, I’ll do it. I’m not going to Dallas but if you send me a message I’ll make your reservations. *g*

    Maggie, seriously, babies?

    And I forgot I might have found a new one over the weekend. I took my daughter to Busch Gardens and she convinced me to ride the swings. The ones that go around and around and make you feel like you’re going to be sling shot across the park? I had to talk myself all the way through it. I’m sure I was pale when I finally got off and I will NEVER do that again. Sheesh.

  22. lacey kaye
    · June 12th, 2007 at 1:20 pm · Link

    Falling down the stairs. I always see it happen in my mind right before I take that first step down…so creepy.

  23. seton
    · June 12th, 2007 at 2:23 pm · Link

    I hate the phone. I never, ever answer it. Especially since I hate telemarketers. But I wouldn’t call it a phobia.

    Terrio, I’ve been on that ride in Busch Gardens and it does make you naseous.

    I do have one strange pathological fear and it’s not sexy. I’m afraid of the Statue of Liberty.

    One year, I went to the Statue 11 times. Eleven freakin’ times! It was a combination of going to a day camp whose program turned over every 2 weeks and their program included visiting the Statue and too many relatives visiting that year.

    Don’t know if it’s changed (doubt it) but in order to get to the Liberty’s crown, you had to climb this long narrow spiral staircase that goes through the cavity of Liberty’s body. The last time I was there, there was a long line that went all the way up and down that staircase. So for what seemed like hours, I was stuck on that narrow staircase, looking down a great ways, feeling faint on a hot day, seeing my body fall over the short rail to my death.

    I haven’t been inside the Statue in over 20 years since. I break into a cold sweat just thinking about it.

  24. Kelly
    · June 12th, 2007 at 4:47 pm · Link

    Oh my goodness, do I have issues. Like most people here, I hate to talk on the phone, and go to great lengths to not have to make phone calls. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s to someone I know or not. I have to work up the nerve to call my grandparents. I think I’m genetically predisposed to it – my father’s the same way.

    By far my biggest phobia is touching eyeballs. I know it sounds absurd, but I can’t watch anyone else touch their eyes, much less do it myself. My college roommate used to call my name just as she was popping out her contacts, because she thought it was hilarious how it made me shriek and squirm. Years ago, I had to see a neurologist, and one of the tests he ran involved brushing a Q-tip against my cornea. He practically had to tape my eye open to be able to do what he needed to do. To this day, I refuse to consider wearing contacts instead of reading glasses, and I pray constantly not to need eyedrops for anything, because I seriously freak out just at the thought of making contact.

    I think part of why we love an alpha hero with a phobia is because it’s the chink in the armor, that little absurdity that makes an otherwise indomitable man vulnerable and human. I have to agree with Alice that it’s not nearly as endearing in a weak man, because he’s already vulnerable, so the phobia doesn’t serve a purpose.

  25. Sara Lindsey
    · June 13th, 2007 at 12:38 am · Link

    You can order lobster. My only request is no fish with their heads still on… I think I just threw up a little in my mouth even thinking about it…

    I have an irrational fear of rollercoasters… specifically of getting stuck upside-down on one. That’s why Disneyland and I get along so well – no loops!

  26. Tempest Knight
    · June 13th, 2007 at 5:31 am · Link

    Roaches! Enuff said!

  27. Tessa Dare
    · June 13th, 2007 at 9:32 am · Link

    Ooh, more great fears. It’s so interesting what triggers these. Seton’s summer of Liberty, for example.

    Kelly – I also avoid calling even friends and relatives. I was trying to think about this yesterday, why i fear the phone. I think it’s because it makes me feel fragmented, somehow. Like my body is in one place, but my consciousness is somewhere out there in the ether. Whenever I’m on the phone, I immediately start doing some manual task – sweeping, washing dishes, etc. It’s as though I want to make sure I stay ‘grounded’ in my reality. Weird.

    As for why we love heroes with phobias – actually, I believe it’s because overcoming the phobia shows the depth of his love. I mean, if a hero rants and raves all book about how much he HATES snakes – snakes killed my brother, snakes stole my family fortune, snakes infested my cradle when I was a baby, I’ve had it up to here with mother-f*ckin’ snakes on this mother-f*ckin’ carriage, etc….

    THEN – when that guy says, Okay, baby – for *you*, I’ll walk through a pit of snakes. Now that’s love.

  28. Lenora Bell
    · June 13th, 2007 at 11:17 am · Link

    Very interesting reading. I share Lady Leigh’s irrational fear of sharks.

    My other big phobia? The fear of dry skin. I need gallons of lotion, tubs of massage oil, multiple tubes of lip balm.

    Talking on the phone with strangers? I’m a pro. But flying from China to America with only 2 oz of lotion? I thought I might die.

  29. terrio
    · June 13th, 2007 at 1:08 pm · Link

    Tessa, that reminds me of one of the Effington books from Victoria Alexander. I think it was The Marriage Bargain. The heroine has an intense fear of thunderstorms but she goes out in one to save the hero. He didn’t believe she really loved him until he heard she did that. For him. It was so sweet.

  30. Alice Audrey
    · June 15th, 2007 at 12:52 pm · Link

    I have to remind myself it isn’t possible for anything to come up out of the toilet and bite me while I’m sitting there.


  31. Ericka Scott
    · June 15th, 2007 at 1:59 pm · Link

    Alice, you are such a card.

    My biggie. . . spiders, mice, and things that fly into your hair when you go outside on the back patio to call in the dog and forget and turn the light on! Shudder.

  32. Tessa Dare
    · June 15th, 2007 at 4:49 pm · Link

    Um, Alice – I hate to break this to you, but I’ve seen a snake come up through a toilet before. 🙂