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I was talking with some friends at work yesterday about embarrassment.  Not just feeling mildly foolish, but the kind of embarrassment that makes you want to run and hide. The kind that makes you avoid certain people when you see them on the street.  The kind that comes back to you, years later, in the middle of the night, and you wonder what you could have done differently.

There’s a lot of energy in embarrassment.  It’s a universal experience; all of us have been absolutely mortified at one moment or another.  Thus, it’s an emotion that readers can readily identify with.

If you write fiction, it’s helpful, when writing about strong emotion, to anchor your characters’ experiences in your own; while writing about your own embarrassing moments might not be comfortable, your discomfort can help to make your characters’ discomfort more realistic, more palpable.  In addition, embarrassment and humiliation can be  strong motivating factors for characters; most people would go far out of their way to avoid being embarrassed, and most would go out of their way to redeem themselves after a humiliating situation. 

What are your most embarrassing moments?  Are they experiences that other people would find embarrassing?  What is your reaction to embarrassment?  What kinds of things in your surroundings do you tend to notice?  What physical sensations do you feel?  How long do these sensations last? What is the most embarrassing experience that you can imagine?

For fiction writers, what kinds of things would your character find embarrassing?  How are they different from or similar to what embarrasses you?  How does your character react to embarrassment?

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