Desire and fear… now there’s an example of two essential elements of a good mystery story. They’re two separate emotions, each distinct in its own way, each capable of generating a mystery. I suppose one emotion could also hold the other in check as well. Desire could produce fear, and then fear could inhibit desire, and this would in turn cause conflict. Thus, conflict, the lynchpin of all good fiction, could then provide the impetus for the story to move forward.
While fear is generally regarded as a negative, or undesirable emotion, that might not always be the case. Certainly, we often equate it with being the opposite of courage, however, I’ve known many brave individuals in my life, and few of them claimed to be totally without fear. The difference between a hero and coward may be that the hero is able to overcome his fear at a critical moment, but it is my guess that the hero never is totally without the emotion.
Certainly, being afraid is an unpleasant feeling, but sometimes it occurs for a very necessary reason. It keeps us from taking unnecessary risks or foolhardy chances. In that respect, fear and desire can be considered coeval. Man has long coveted the ability to fly, for instance, but this desire is tempered by the fear of falling long distances, like Icarus.
Desire is a bit different. It can lie dormant until awakened by a sudden breeze, but can still be problematic. For instance, let’s say our hero is sitting in a bar, nursing a glass of something, trying to drown his troubles. The lighting is dim, the air laden with booze... Let’s increase the atmosphere a bit more by adding a haze of cigarette smoke, even though it makes it hard to breathe. Despite the pervasive tobacco smell, a faint hint of familiar perfume manages to waft its way over to the hero’s nose, causing the minute stirrings of a former lover. He turns and looks toward the next booth and suddenly there she is: a vision of loveliness. The rekindled feeling of desire sweeps over him and he stands, ready to get reacquainted. As he begins to walk across the room, a huge shadow appears and our hero notices a guy with her. He’s only a little bit smaller than the Woolworth Building, and has a face that could stop a clock with one glance. The feeling of desire slips away, simultaneously replaced by something else: fear.
Our hero tosses down the rest of drink and heads for the door. He turns for one more look at the girl of his dreams, and notices the big oaf has roughly placed his meaty paw on her upper arm, which she obviously is finding distasteful. He pauses, wondering if he should turn around and come to her assistance… Will desire eventually become strong enough for him to overcome fear?
I guess the answer is best left for someone else to answer.
Desire and fear. Sometimes they run hand-in-hand, especially when there’s a story involved.