Friday, September 16, 2011

Facial Expressions--Embarrassment

I've been thinking about this one a lot lately. As I've been switching one of my WIPs from 1st person POV to 3rd person POV, I've had to think about how to show things in a different way. Embarrassment being one of them.
For instance, I have two characters who have been denying their attraction to each other for almost 200 pages. Something happens to bring their mortality to mind and they find themselves lip locked. It's a surprise to both of them and they are a embarrassed and a bit annoyed with themselves for losing control. When I was in 1st person I used internal dialogue to show Talia's frustration, but that doesn't work now that I'm in 3rd person.

So, here are some visual and verbal clues to help us show embarrassment in our writing. The following is a combination of information I found at these sites:
The Bookshelf Muse

Let's break it down.
Part of Speech: verb
Definition:     cause mental discomfort
Synonyms:     abash, agitate, annoy, bewilder, bother, bug, catch one short, chagrin, confuse, discombobulate, discomfit, discompose, disconcert, discountenance, distract, distress, disturb, dumbfound, faze, fluster, give a bad time, give a hard time, hang up, irk, let down*, make a monkey of, mortify, nonplus, perplex, perturb, plague, put in a hole, put in a spot, put on the spot, put out of countenance, puzzle, rattle, shame, show up, stun, tease, throw, throw into a tizzy, upset
Antonyms:     comfort, gladden, help, please

  • An emotional state of intense discomfort with oneself, experienced upon having a socially unacceptable act or condition witnessed by or revealed to others. 
  • Usually some amount of loss of honor or dignity is involved.
  • To become self-conscious.
  • To place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties

I also believe we experience embarrassment when we indulge in activity, comments, whatever that we personally feel is unacceptable--whether society accepts it or not. In my above example, kissing is quite acceptable between two people, but these particular characters have higher personal priorities that stand to be disrupted by becoming emotionally or physically attached to someone else. Thus their embarrassment at giving in and then enjoying it more than they think they should have. :)

Emotional Responses:
  • cheeks/forehead getting warm, flushing, burning, reddening
  • desire to run away (fight or flight)
  • lightheadedness, tingling in chest/stomach
  • wish to hide
  • anger at oneself, or another (misplacing blame to feel better about self)

Visual Signs: (See Bookshelf Muse for the full list)
  • feet shuffling
  • covering oneself: crossing arms, closing jacket, etc.
  • pulling at collar
  • wincing, ducking head
  • fidgeting, squirming
  • stuttering, stammering
  • looking down/inability to meet someone's eyes
  • shoving hands in pockets
  • rapid walking with head down to get away
  • hiding behind long hair
  • laughing 
Isn't it interesting how the visual signs make sense with what the person feels? Someone who feels like running away will have a hard time standing still. Those who just want to disappear will find ways to hide--covering part of face, letting hair drop down to hide them, shoving hands in pocket, etc.

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