Monday, 6 April 2015

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions - E is for Embarrassment (writing discussion & fiction)

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions









This year for the A to Z Challenge, I'm investigating emotions and reactions and their use to in writing. So, I'll be talking about my first thoughts as a writer when I think about the words we use to describe emotions and my experience of their use in literature and film/TV.

embarrassment
embarrassment: a feeling of self-consciousness, shame, or awkwardness..

Apart from being a word I nearly always misspell (it's the double 'r', I always forget it), embarrassment is an emotion I see as distinct from chagrin, which I discussed under 'C'. Where I always associated chagrin with annoyance as well as shame, embarrassment is a much wider emotion. That's why my emoticon is half-smiling, because embarrassment can be amusing as well as the darker side of abashment.

Embarrassment is something used frequently in situation comedy and, in my opinion, it is used like a sledgehammer. I have what I refer to as an 'embarrassment squick' - I can't watch people being utterly mortified in front of others, at least, not in the way it is done in the likes of Friends, or Will and Grace (that's not to say I didn't watch those shows and love them, I just had to walk out of the room, or hide behind a cushion when those moments occurred - yes, I'm weird ;P).

I also therefore find embarrassing situations hard to write. They are sometimes necessary in a story (not as necessary as sitcoms think, though), and I have to work carefully on them to make sure I'm not avoiding the embarrassment, or making it too easy for my characters. Embarrassment can be a learning experience - I know I remember when I've got something wrong and embarrassed myself - I rarely do the same thing twice if I encounter those circumstances again - the same is the true for characters - and if they do do the same thing twice, embarrassment or not, that can also reveal something about them.

Abashment is also something that can develop a relationship - if people can laugh together over something stupid they've done, it can form bonds that might not have been there before. It can also break one apart if one character is perceived as delighting in another's embarrassment.

These are just a few ways embarrassment can be used - there are many, many more :)

QUESTION: Do you enjoy reading/watching embarrassing situations, or do you read really quickly, or hide too?

~

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35 comments:

  1. You aren't alone in misspelling embarrassment. It doesn't matter how many times I type it, I always question myself!!!

    It has helped, recently, to acknowledge that the reason I misspell it is because of the word "harass." Harass has only one R; embarrass has two. Now when I start to question myself, I think that and it seems to always boost my confidence about it. Maybe that will help others!

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    1. I can't blame my misspelling on anything but a complete mental block, but that is a good mental reminder, thanks, I shall try and remember that!

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  2. I'm one of those people who squirm when reading a scene where a character is embarrassed (had to remember how to spell it) If the character's not getting embarrassed, I'll get it for them. lol

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee's Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

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  3. I do find it cringeworthy, probably because I've done so many embarrassing things myself! It's interesting because even if it's something that other people might not find a big deal, you have to convey how mortifying it is for that character.

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    1. That's a good point, yes, embarrassment is very personal :)

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  4. For me watching/reading about embarrassment doesn't always bother me. Depends on the situation and how it is written.

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    1. I have managed to read/watch some stuff which is embarrassing and it hasn't made me embarrassed, but those are few are far between! :)

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  5. I enjoy reading and writing about embarrassing moments. It give us more insight into the characters I think.

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  6. Funny, my boyfriend reacts pretty much the same as you do to embarrassing situations. Me, I cringe inwardly while watching on with a (probably pained) grin. You bring up good points about writing embarrassing situations. While I've written awkward and mildly embarrassing moments, I don't think I've ever done anything, you know, *mortifying* to my characters. I'll have to keep it in mind. ;)

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    1. It's a really tough thing to try to write, but I have seen it done well :)

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  7. Hi Sophie .. I was constantly being embarrassed as a child, and into adulthood - it can still happen .. I need to think before I open my mouth! I like the idea of abashment .. and do use that quite often now - when I laugh at stupid things I've done or with others if they've made a mistake ... let's laugh - it eases so much ...

    I'm not sure I'd be any good at writing these into a story ... but great ideas here for us to mull over .. cheers Hilary

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    1. I know what you mean, laughing about it does actually help, it makes the embarrassment feel smaller :)

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  8. That is interesting to read that you have difficulty writing an embarrassing scene/situation. I hadn't thought that one thing or another might be more challenging for a writer. I can read about or see embarrassing situations in books or on TV or movies, but definitely not in real life, then it can get a little uncomfortable.
    betty

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    1. We all have out Achilles heel and embarrassment is mine :) Real life is definitely worse than fiction, but I have problems in both :)

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  9. I think embarrassment is easier to show in a first person piece than in other POVs.

    Precious Monsters

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    1. It is an intimate reaction, so, yes, I get your point.

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  10. Sophie, what an interesting post. I don't hide from embarrassing scenes, though some do make me cringe as well. "Carrie" the Stephen King book, was the ultimate in my memory of books with embarrassment playing an important role.

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    1. Oh, yes, that is all about the mortification of one poor girl. It is used very cruelly and powerfully.

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  11. Embarrassment is an easy one to misspell. Just forgot one "r" or one "s" and you're done for. :P I hate being embarrassed but I like to embarrass my characters when I can. ;)

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  12. Embarrassment is an easy one to misspell. Just forgot one "r" or one "s" and you're done for. :P I hate being embarrassed but I like to embarrass my characters when I can. ;)

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  13. I Always misspell "embarrassment" too. I also can't watch people being embarrassed especially in TV shows but also in real life.

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    1. Real life is definitely worse, but TV shows still catch me out :)

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  14. Embarrassment is one of more fun emotions to put my characters through. I like watching them squirm with it.

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    1. Ah, so you enjoy a bit of abashment :)

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  15. Embarrassment is something that happens to us all at one point or another. :-) Lessons are learned and we move on. It's a good tool to use in stories where it's warranted. Like you say, the character should learn something from it.

    Oh, I'm one that has to walk out of the room when people on TV are acting stupid and then all the embarrassing reactions come into play. My husband has a quirky sense of humor and loves corny--I hate corny--and he watches things I can't. I'm sorry, I could not sit through Dumb and Dumber (and movies like that). I cringe and walk away while listening to my husband laugh his head off. lol!

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

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    1. I have not seen Dumb and Dumber for pretty much that reason! :)

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  16. I hate watching/reading about embarrassing situations; it just makes me feel uncomfortable. It is an important emotion, though; everyone's felt it!

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    1. Yes, we all have, and it is important - when it is necessary, we are meant to feel uncomfortable and i think that is supposed to be our reaction.

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  17. Embarrassing situations are easier to read, write, and watch if the character is someone we already dislike. But if it's done well, to either a sympathetic character or antagonist, it can be quite funny.

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    1. Yes, you're right, it we're no empathising with someone, it can be easier to watch, although I have seen it done well to antagonists and it's ended up with me feeling sorry for them - pretty powerful tool if we can just get it right! :)

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  18. When watching embarrassing situations, in my mind I'm thinking Oh no! no! no! nooooo!
    Ah no! don't do it!

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