In just about every book I've read, the main character experiences a frightening event. Sometimes it's an out of the blue moment, like a car wreck or getting attacked. Other times it's the sudden death of a loved one or the tragedy of war that scares them. Whatever it is the main character is changed by this event whether for better or for worse.
I think of the book The Count of Monte Cristo. Here was a guy who had everything - career, family, hot fiance, but then Wham! He's suddenly thrown into jail for a crime he didn't commit. For years this event effected him negatively, even after he escaped from jail. His lust for revenge was too great. But slowly, over time, he learns to forgive and finds love again (I liked the movie version ending better where he ends up with Mercedes).
Obviously this example is extreme. Most of us don't have life shattering events of this nature, but we do have our terrifying moments. I've had mine, and I like to think I've survived them. They've helped shape who I am for better or for worse, hopefully for better.
On a lighter note, this is making me think of a good friend of mine who went to a late night movie. There was only her and one other person in the whole theater. Towards the end of the movie, the stranger dude sitting three rows behind her starts sharpening a knife. She can hear the metal blade slicing against the sharpener in long strokes. Machete perhaps? This goes on for over thirty minutes, and she's too scared to move. As soon as the movie ends, she bolts. She doesn't even turn around to see who it was or what they were doing.
Why didn't she leave sooner? Fear perhaps, but regardless this was a terrifying event for her. Did it change her life? Not really, but it makes for a great story idea. :)
What are some frightening events that have happened in your life?