Where Ideas Grow

A blog for students of creative writing at York St John University

Unspoken Fears – Beyond the Walls 2024

When considering the concept of “unspoken”, one may end up correlating it with “secrets”. Of course, “one” in this scenario refers to “me”, your favourite character. Secrets are the most unspoken thing of all – something we keep close to our chest, hidden within the deep dark chasm of our very souls. Some secrets are so hidden and unspoken that they are, in turn, a secret even to ourselves – such as the topic of discussion today, our deepest darkest fears.

Of course, not all fears are unspoken. Anyone who knows me well enough would likely attest to the fact that my fear of spiders is absolutely NOT unspoken. When I see one, I will scream loud enough to shake the heavens and run in the opposite direction, not unlike a cartoon character. However, there are the fears that will keep you up at night, fears that you deny with every waking breath because acknowledging them is perhaps scarier than even the fear itself. Fears that are so secret they become unspoken even to ourselves.

For me, that fear is time. Every time I see a clock I quake in my boots, scream in horror and- okay, okay, not like that. It isn’t the concept of time that is scary to me (or perhaps it is, but this remains unspoken even now?) but rather the passage of it. Primarily, the fact that with the passage of time flows the wind of change. Change, of course, can bring endless good – but in equal hand it can bring bad, and that is what scares me. Friendships that end, happy times that fade into memory, change like this truly keeps me up at night.

These fears can, in turn, be used to fuel fiction. Take my fear of change, for instance – it can be interpreted in a plethora of ways, taken in a wide variety of tones. Will you take it in grander strokes, and tie it into stories about the future? Dystopias, android uprisings, natural disasters – all these ideas breed change. Alternatively, will you take it in a more personal direction, focusing on change grounded in interpersonal dynamics like family, friendships, romances? Furthering this, we have the ending. Will the ending of such a story be one of hope and optimism, or a more foreboding one? Personally speaking, I lean towards more optimistic endings – such endings help emphasise the vast good that can come from change as well, even if it seems scary on the outset.

Should my ego allow it, we’ll also look at unspoken fears not my own. After all, fears in general are an excellent basis for storytelling – the compiled fears of people after a major disaster can be used to create iconic kaijus, the fear of the unknown is the basis of many a horror story, and the fear of death can translate into a celebration of life and what it has to offer. Perhaps you instead want to take it in a non-fictional direction – personal fears can serve as an excellent basis for biographies or stories based on true events. After all, what is conflict without the fear of aftermath – and what are stories without some form of conflict?

Fear, both the obvious and the unspoken, is an incredibly influential aspect of storytelling. Whilst not always implicit on the creator’s side numerous pieces of fiction can be traced back to fears, from the obvious in horror to the less obvious – such as linking rom coms to the fear of change, of heartbreak. These fears are often unspoken even in the stories themselves, but can still define a work’s impact, underlying message or tone. Perhaps it is through transforming these fears into literature that we come to terms with them ourselves – we see that hope can shine through the darkest chasms, the things that go bump in the night are only as strong as we let them be, and that shadows are merely pointers towards the light from which they are cast.

Ultimately, fears unspoken are a large part of the creative process, whether a conscious decision from the creator or an unconscious, unspoken aspect of their writing. Thanks to this it is not fears that define us, rather us that define them. However you choose to tackle unspoken fears in your writing is up to you, but perhaps by the end of it those fears will be unspoken no longer.

In the mood for more Unspoken content? Check out the Unspoken Stories podcast!

Owen Brett

Owen Brett (He/Him) is a Twenty-Year-Old Creative Writing student with a knack for writing superhero fantasy stories. Born and raised in York, he knew York St John would be the best place for him to pursue a degree in Creative Writing.

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