How Embarrassing

I was reading an article by veteran T.V. writer Sy Rosen in The Writer magazine about how he turned the embarrassments of his youth into story lines.

Sy talks most specifically about his episode for The Wonder Years, entitled “The Nose,” in which a high school girl finds confidence and social success despite her large nose.

This resonated with me, because I mined youthful humiliations for my most recent comedy screenplay. The lovely thing about re-living those laughable moments of the past, I think, is that you get to re-frame them. You can find meaning in the experiences and let your character grow and change because of them. In real life, growth is so painfully slow. Those character-building events can take so long to refine us. But we can allow the events to effect immediate change in our written heroes. My protagonist learns the lesson about accepting herself after a few months, while yours truly here took years, nay a lifetime, to learn those same lessons.

Sy Rosen suggests three preparatory steps to incorporating a past embarrassment into your writing. First, he says, find adult experiences in your life that you can relate to the past event. For example, rejections similar to one from your past. This allows you to conjure up the associated feelings. Next, he suggests you write details of memories related to the incident. Third, allow your character to experience a personalized version of the occurrence.

I love that writing gives us a way to celebrate all the humiliating moments we live through. (Especially since I’ve experienced perhaps more than my fair share.) I think as writers, it’s great that the atrocious things that happen to us can find a purpose in our writing. Our humiliations make our stories richer — and our characters more embarrassed.


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