Phobias

 

Looking for a little extra something to add to your character or plot? Phobias are a great character trait for increasing internal and external conflict. A common example is arachnophobia, an intense fear of spiders. But I’m not talking about fear as in ‘ew that’s a gross spider someone grab a shoe and squish it’ type of fear. By phobia I mean a debilitating terror, an inability to function or react as your palms sweat and you struggle to breathe when confronted with the tiniest arachnid.

Another common phobia is acrophobia, the fear of heights. Think of Hitchcock’s film “Vertigo” in which Scottie Ferguson, a former police detective, is so affected by acrophobia that he quits his job and struggles to react appropriately when confronted with heights. Would this character or film have been as interesting if he wasn’t affected by this phobia? No, it would just have been another mystery film.

Phobias are interesting in that they can stem from a specific incident, or have no real rhyme or reason behind them. In the start of “Vertigo”, Scottie nearly falls off a building while pursuing a suspect and watches a man fall to his death in an attempt to rescue Scottie. This sparks his extreme fear of heights. In contrast, Howard Hughes in “The Aviator” has no specific event that initiates his fear of dirt and germs. This fear stems from his obsessive compulsive personality disorder, yet it is just as incapacitating as Scotties.

In short, phobias are a great way to spark off conflict, create primary and subplots and add another dimension to a story that may otherwise lack complexity.

Below is a list of thirty phobias that I find stand out from the rest:

Name… Fear of…
Agyiophobia crossing busy streets
Aichmophobia sharp or pointed objects
Amaxophobia riding in a car
Arachibutyrophobia peanut butter sticking to roof of mouth
Ballistophobia missiles
Belonephobia pins and needles
Bibliophobia books
Cathisophobia sitting
Cenophobia empty spaces
Chrematophobia money
Climacophobia falling down stairs
Cyberphobia computers
Eosophobia dawn
Erythrophobia red lights
Geniophobia chins
Hierophobia sacred things
Iatrophobia going to the doctor
Iconophobia of images
Linonophobia string
Lygophobia darkness
Mysophobia contamination or dirt
Onomatophobia hearing a certain word
Ophthalmophobia being stared at
Optophobia opening your eyes
Paedophobia Children or dolls
Pteronophobia being tickled by feathers
Sciaphobia shadows
Spectrophobia looking in a mirror
Symmetrophobia symmetry
Toxicophobia poisoning

Imagine what it would like to fear such a simple thing as stairs. Ever noticed how many stairs there are in the world? What happens if your character hears their child scream in terror on the third floor of the house, but they can’t bring themselves to climb the stairs? Or what about Hierophobia? Would could cause such a fear and how would it affect your character?

With these sorts of phobias you can let your imagination run wild and lead you to create some amazing, bizarre and terrifying plots.