Writing: Motivated By Fear, Or Just Plane Thrilling

December 22, 2023



My wife and I were vacationing in Hawaii when one morning she woke and said, “I want to go skydiving.” Being the seasoned husband that I am, I replied, “Yes, dear.” Now what you should know about my wife is that she’s afraid to fly. So, you can imagine the confusion on my face as I drove her a few miles down the road to an airfield near the North Shore.

When we arrived at the skydiving office, she was handed a stack of paperwork to sign. As she began reading, I interrupted with a few words of wisdom, “Basically, if the parachute doesn’t open, it’s not their fault.” And once I realised the fee was non-refundable, she was definitely jumping.

Sitting on a bench holding her purse, I watched as she did a quick crash course in tandem diving. Then she boarded a plane and took off into the clear blue sky. As the minutes ticked I wondered how she was feeling, until a spec of a brightly coloured parachute appeared, followed by laughter echoing off the clouds. Rapidly approaching the ground, the instructor and my wife tumbled across the grass. I feared the worst, until she popped to her feet and shouted, “I want to go again.”

Often, writing is very much like skydiving. And for me, the fear of failing to write a thriller rooted in suspense, intrigue, espionage, shocking surprises, and page-turning moments lingers until I pull the rip cord. Fear has always been a good motivator and has taught me lessons I’ve used along the way. I refer to them often while chasing a story so that when I write the last word I’m left saying, “I want to go again.”

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

1. Develop characters who are complex, yet relatable.
2. Create moments to breathe so there is a break in the action.
3. Locations are characters that immerse readers deeper into your world.
4. Be a reader of your genre, but set your reading aside during your first draft.
5. Push yourself to write the first draft, then step away for 30 days before editing.
6. Nurture characters who live in a readers imagination beyond the last page.
7. Antagonists must be worthy opponents, and push your protagonists to the limit.
8. Every character has a story arc of their own, whether it be big or small.
9. Spend time researching for knowledge, but never fact dump on your readers.
10. If you’re not surprised, curious, eager, shocked, excited, sad, or intrigued as you write, then neither will your readers. Each sentence must build the suspense.

As I finished writing my latest novel, The Auctioneer, I’ve been reminded of my wife’s first skydiving adventure. And did I mention, she jumped again the very next day? She leapt out of that plane to conquer her fear, and that moment has lived on. As writers, we face those moments of fear and uncertainty, wondering if we will make it to the end of our story. Whenever I face those moments, I think of the days near the North Shore and feel inspired to press on. Whether you’re a seasoned writer, or just getting started, I want to encourage you to step beyond what you believe is possible and write with passion knowing those thrilling, suspenseful, and shocking characters and moments in your stories will live on too.


The Auctioneer by DJ Williams is now available.