Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Characterization Moment: Embarrassment

Okay, so I've been thinking a lot about characterization these last few weeks. See, I'm currently writing a novel from two POV's, and I want each one to be different, unique, and true. I have writing exercises I do to find the narrative and speaking voice of my characters, but I added something this time around.

I wrote a scene in which each of my characters is embarrassed. Because everyone acts differently when put in this situation. I have a best friend who turns bright red. My daughter giggles nervously when embarrassed. (I laugh when I'm nervous too.) Another friend of mine gets teary-eyed, even though she's not upset or sad. She's just embarrassed.

This was a great exercise for me to add another layer of characterization to my narrators. You might try it, and use some of the following questions to guide you into shaping them into more complete people.


  • Do they clear their throat?
  • Do they shuffle their feet?
  • Do they make eye contact?
  • Do they turn red?
  • Do they cop an attitude to try to cover up their embarrassment?
  • Do they fidget? If so, with what? Their clothes? Twist their hands?
  • Do they make a fast escape or face the music?
  • Do they talk a lot or not at all?
  • Do they laugh to hide their nerves?
  • Do they stutter?


Anyway, the list could go on and on. Do you do an exercise like this? How does your MC act when they're embarrassed?

27 comments:

Melissa Dymock said...

I tried to write a very embarrassing scene for my character and kept tiptoeing around it. I COULDN'T do it. I'm the kind of person who always fast forwards embarrassing scenes in movies because then I get embarrassed. I'm the "fast escape" type.

However, I have no trouble writing a scene where my character gets the crap beat out of them but don't ask me to embarrass them.

Miranda Hardy said...

Characterization is so important. I don't want to read about characters acting the same way. Good luck with your new project.

Kris Asselin said...

Really great question! My characters mostly turn red when they're embarrassed. Or stutter. Hmm, I might need to work on that.

I usually just close my eyes and visualize the character's actions. I haven't found any writing exercises that help as well as that--but I'm still looking!

Anna Banks said...

OMGosh, Melissa, I just realized I'm the same way! I hate watching embarrassing moments (Meet the Parents completely put me on edge!). BUT, I looooove putting my character through them for some reason. At least I'm not doing it to real people, right? :)

Excellent post, Elana. I've copied and pasted these questions for my writing/editing checklist.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great questions. I think they help you try not to do the stereotypical responses. I need to do more writing exercises to develop my characters.

nicolekrell said...

This was a great suggestion! I have so many embarrassing moments, and I own every single one of them. "If you can't laugh at yourself, life's going to be a whole lot longer than you like."

Jemi Fraser said...

Good questions! It's so much fun to have the characters react in different ways - loving having them unique :)

Kelly said...

Great ideas to ponder.
Most people do react differently. My face gets red REALLY easily. I also sometimes smile or giggle when I'm nervous or even when I'm given bad news! I need to learn to compose myself for crying out loud! :)

Liza said...

This is a great post...so many things to think of when developing characters. Like many above, I'm big into embarrassment avoidance ...in real life my face turns purple. I'm going to borrow your exercise and see if I can give my heretofore flat characters more depth.

Jessica Nelson said...

It's been a long time since I wrote a new character. A fellow blogger has an emotional dictionary and is always listing the coolest things to show characterization. Good stuff, Elana!

John Sankovich said...

Interesting idea, I am the sort of quiet turning beat red type, but my character right now fidgets with her hair and stumbles through the situation.

Carolyn V said...

I do, just to keep my characters consistent.

Alicia Gregoire said...

This is a great exercise. I usually end up having all my characters behave the same when embarrassed. Fail.

Stacy Henrie said...

Good question - I'll have to go back and see what they do. :) For me, I get red and don't say much.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great list, Elana. I frequently use The Bookshelf Muse at http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/when I'm looking for something to trigger the old imagination.

Alice said...

Characterization is one thing I'm working hard on getting better at. I've been doing a lot of exercises and it really helps. One character sheet I love is from Verla Kay's website. Thanks for this tip. I'm going to try it.

I also read your query ebook and revised my query. It was such a huge help and I feel it's much better. My before and after are posted on writing snippets.com. with your interview on query letters. Thanks!

Susan R. Mills said...

This is a great exercise. I don't think any of my characters have been embarrassed in my current project, but it would help to know them better if I define how they would act if they were embarrassed. It's kind of fun to think about.

Mary Gray said...

Oh, I love this. I love when characters get embarrassed--especially when it's someone who doesn't easily get embarrassed and then it's all the more delightful. Can't wait to see what your characters do, Elana!

Angela Brown said...

Great exercise. What would Luca (my male MC) do if he were embarassed? He'd definitely blush but then cop a subtle attitude to cover it. My female MC, Aimee, can't exactly blush so she'd have a physical movement as her tell if she got embarassed, something like averting her eyes and twirling a lock of her hair.

TirzahLaughs said...

I'm nearly certain that Plum cannot feel embarrassment. I'm also not sure she has a filter between her mouth and her head.

:)

But that's what's fun about her and what makes her, her.

Tirzah

Bethany Elizabeth said...

That is a great exercise! My main character is definitely a blusher, but she doesn't embarrass all that easily. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Awesome idea! My MC looks at the ground and kicks the toe of shoe. :-)

Donea Lee said...

I have the most GAWD-awful nervous giggle thing when I'm embarrassed... not pretty. But, my MC tends to blush and turn coy when embarrassed. (She's probably got the better handle on it...)

Krispy said...

OMG, I'm like notorious for the nervous laugh. I'm trying to control it, but you know how when you're self-aware of it, it makes it worse? :P

I think embarrassment is a good emotion for a character exercise. I think it could reveal a lot of different aspects.

Christine Fonseca said...

DUDE!!!! You are doing writing exercises??? WOW! Color me impressed.

Rebecca said...

My MC doesn't have any embarrassing moments in her story right now, but if she did I think she would turn red faced, but try to act as if it were no big deal.

When I get embarrassed, I either crack up or turn red and get real quiet, depending on the circumstances.

I have done character sketches, but often I really get to know my characters as I'm writing their story.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Great post - what good way to get inside your character!

My character for NOT A DROP TO DRINK would punch someone in the face. Very effective way to get over embarrassment.

Me? I start humming. No clue why. Not sure how it fits into the Fight or Flight either.

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