Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Most Embarrassing Moments: Use them in your writing

We're all creative types here. Has this ever happened to you?

Something's just triggered an idea in your mind for a conversation between two sisters. Sister A is telling Sister B that the life Sister B has chosen as laundromat operator is meaningless and debasing to their family name, and she ought to suck it up and go back to college to get a real job. Sister B retaliates by saying that Sister A is a corporate bimbo who got where she is by stepping on everyone, and that she, Sister B, is happy at the laundromat where hours are flexible and she can actually make it to a 12:30 lunch on time and stay to wait for her manager sister who didn't show up until 1:45.

Well, by this time, Sister A is wearing one of those perfect, nobody-speaks-to-me-that-way-and-lives scowls. You want to be sure to get it just right: the way her eyebrows furrow, and that little crease above her nose, and the downturned lines of her mouth that even botox couldn't cure.

So that's what your face looks like when a timid voice behind you says, "Excuse me, could you hand me a package of pepperoni," and you remember that you're in a public place: the meat and cheese aisle at Fresh & Easy.

Do you smile, play it off like you weren't just making the ugliest face imaginable? Or do you hand her the meat and power-walk away? What would your characters do?

How about this? (men, you have my permission to skip this one)

You're in the gym doing Kegels on the treadmill, ya know, to kill two birds with one stone, and a man comes up behind you while you're totally focused on your nether-regions. "Hey, do you want me to leave the TV remote here?" You jump three feet in the air and almost fall off the tread.

Even though there's no way he knows what you were doing, you still turn red (or maybe that's just face-flush from the workout) and mutter something negatory so he'll walk away (okay, how is it possible that negatory is not a real word--did anybody else know this?).

Embarrassing moments. They happen to everyone. That little teen-sitcom-narrator voice in your head says, Awk-ward, and you try to move on and forget that it happened.

But I suggest holding on to them a little longer, before you suppress that memory forever. Use it.

To be human is to be awkward. That means that if you want to bring more humanity to your characters--even if they're green-skinned, multi-eye-balled aliens on Planet H--you can do it just by adding boogers. After all, we may all handle embarrassing situations differently, but boogers are universal.

What embarrassing situation did you inflict on your characters today?

p.s. Kristal has a very good post about chaos interfering with your writing life over on Operation Awesome, with a mention of the Mystery Agent contest which opens TOMORROW!! Is your one-line pitch ready?

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