Embarrass Your Way Into Better Writing

You know when you do something wicked stupid and you wish there was a way to wave a wand and obliviate the memory from everyone who saw it? For some people it might just be one dumb thing, you know? For instance, after sucking back one too many wine coolers, one of my high school friends decided a strip-tease rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” was what a party needed.

Okay, that didn’t happen. But you’re tracking on what I mean, right?

While everybody has a natural tendency to push these sorts of memories into the never-see-daylight parts of their brains, there are the silly fools like me who capitalize on those moments of crippling shame (as evidenced here). See, I’m of the mind that experience with shame and embarrassment are just as vital to creating genuine characters as experience with love and happiness. When I write about a character getting smashed by a bully, I draw from my own feelings with the same thing–being the smashee, not the smasher–and throw them onto the page like I just went through it. That’s the only way I can roll, otherwise I end up with a manuscript full phonies.

How do you feel about this? Do you dump your feelings onto the page or are you the type to hold back?

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2 thoughts on “Embarrass Your Way Into Better Writing

  1. I went to a workshop where a woman called it “method writing.” She gave an example of needing to describe a character’s shame and using her personal experience of being asked out and then stood up by her high school’s BMOC (she found out later someone dared him to do it.) I think it’s cathartic for writers to use their own memories — good or bad — as inspiration. And if that bit of writing gets published, well, that’s icing on the cake. 🙂

    • This is dead-on. Unloading my fears or resentments onto my characters sometimes gives me this feeling that there is someone who relates to how I’m feeling, you know? Of course, that “someone” is a fictional character who only exists in my mind, so i don’t know if relating to her is such a good thing.

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