Writing: Fearless vs. Brave

This idea came to me because my son is taking swimming lessons at the local YMCA. The age range is 6-36 months, and he is probably one of the older kids in the lesson. The younger kids are fearless. I’m having to teach mine to be brave.

It’s a fine difference and yet another example of the beauty of the English language. Fearless – without fear. The younger kids do not imagine danger in the water and thus they show no fear. My child has moments of fearlessness, and then moments where I can see his little mind working through the fears. He must learn to be brave.

Watching this human dynamic really was so fascinating. At this age, they can’t mask their feelings, so I got a great view of the variations. It’s a spectrum, not an “on” or “off” setting on a person. I think about some of the protagonists (and villains) I’ve written and consider whether they were fearless or brave.

When a person must overcome their fear, courage or bravery is developed. When a person doesn’t have fear to begin with – are they growing at all just by going through a challenging scenario? I think a good villain (by good I mean “interesting”) needs to be brave. Thinking of big movies, Darth Vadar comes across as brave. He makes mistakes (multiple) and although he is confident, he isn’t actually fearless. Palpatine comes across as fearless.

Why do people love Die Hard and the Fast and Furious franchise? Because the heroes are brave. They have fear. They overcome fear.

Iron man… Spiderman…. Batman. All are human with fear they overcome. Superman doesn’t have that kind of fear and the love for him is more polarized (Batman is getting there but that might be because there has been so much Batman over the past 30 years).

I want to explore this idea of a “brave” more.