Thursday, August 7, 2014

Embrace Embarrassment - A Tip for Writers

You’re shaking your head. You don’t believe me. Embrace embarrassment? Nobody wants to be embarrassed. After all, it’s awkward and uncomfortable and … embarrassing.

But unless you’re an alien from outer space, suffering from delusion, or are otherwise abnormal, you understand embarrassment. You know what it’s like to say or do something really dumb or silly and to experience the sudden desire to crawl into a dark hole and become invisible. Some people experience this more than others, especially Life-Long Card-Carrying Members of the Dork Club… like me.

Embarrassment is my old friend.

So, as a writer, I’ve learned to embrace it. In my stories, essays and just-published (yay!) book from Oak Tree Press, Confessions of a Do-Gooder Gone Bad, I’ve written about some of the most embarrassing experiences in my life - like the time I rushed to the vet, thinking my poor bunny had cancer, only to be told by the amused vet that those “tumors” were testicles. 

Or the time I was so spaced out from taking allergy medicine, I couldn’t think straight at work and inadvertently introduced myself as “Ann Fartin.”

Oh my gosh... seriously?

Embarrassment is a gift to me because these are the experiences that I will remember and laugh about forever. Whether I write a tongue-in-cheek piece about Hollywood actresses, or an essay about my son's early childhood obsession with flushing things down the toilet, I love to write about the inevitable surprise and hilarity in life. Embarrassment is often the key.

So embrace it. You don’t have to write a memoir. Use the funny and ridiculous experiences in your own life as inspiration to give your characters depth. Allow your characters to say or do something stupid. Make their faces turn beet red and let them squirm. Give your readers periodic permission to laugh at your characters, no matter how serious the story. They will relate, and they will appreciate it.

As a writer, I have fully embraced embarrassment, so if you read about the foibles of my life in Confessions of a Do-Gooder Gone Bad, I give you permission to laugh with me… and at me!

Ann K. Howley
Author of Confessions of a Do-Gooder Gone Bad
Oak Tree Press, August 2014


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Delightful! What a great idea--include our embarrassing moments in our books, and yes, we all have them.

Nancy LiPetri said...

Don't we all like to read about someone else's embarrassment because it reminds us others are as imperfect as we are.

Amy Bennett said...

You blew my cover! All those people I assured that all of those embarrassing moments that happened to my characters were "purely fictional" now know I'm a liar!

Janet Greger said...

I loved your blog. Actually when I was a young professor in a biology lab, one of my students rushed into my office crying her research animals had tumors. Like, you, she confused tumors and testes. I was embarrassed for her and had to think before I answered her.

Tekla said...

Great message. Sharing our embarrassing moments makes us human and reachable.