Tuesday, June 18, 2013

And the Winner of the Embarrassment Contest is...

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

It was fun getting back to the contests this week, and you guys gave me some really cringe-worthy moments of embarrassment (um, that sounds bad, but knowing what this contest was about, that's a good thing!)

Everyone did a great job with this exercise. I hope these examples helped the original question-asked and gave her some insights on how to revise her own embarrassment scene.

Here are the finalists:

Amy Schaefer

By the time I had crossed the field, stumbling past colleagues and dodging the sack race, I was hyperventilating. Denial kept me in motion – as long as I was walking, I could pretend it hadn’t happened. I landed at Karen’s elbow, hands clenched to keep from plucking at her sleeve like a three-year-old.

Months later, she was still yakking. “Would you excuse us?” I hauled her away, throwing a painful smile at whomever she was talking to. It could have been a yeti for all I noticed.

Karen yanked her arm away. “Frank,” she hissed, “what is the matter with you?”

I’m dying, I thought. “We have to go.”

“But... your company picnic? Why?”

My breath huffed out in a whine. Why couldn’t Karen ever just go along? I leaned in. “IgrabbedMrSullivan’sbuttinthefoodline.” Panic gripped my chest as I remembered getting a handful of an unexpectedly large denim-covered posterior. And Sullivan’s face...


I was almost crying by now. Any minute, the rumor was going to sweep through the group, and my life was going to end. “I thought it was you behind me!” Staying it aloud, I started to melt into a puddle of shame in the grass. How had I managed to feel up a fifty-year old man instead of my girlfriend?

Before Karen could say anything, Steve Lang draped himself over our shoulders, grinning like an idiot. “You guys. Some doofus just goosed Bill Sullivan over at the meat table.”

Karen hitched up her purse. “I’ll drive.”
What I like about this one is the strong voice and good balance between internalization, action, and dialog. I feel like I'm right there with this guy as he's trying to survive this moment.

Julie O
Oh my God, I’ve got to get out of here.

Eyes were on her from all directions. She could hear sporadic snickering and shushing as heat rose from her neck filling her face like somebody pouring coffee in a cup.

Where the hell is the door in this place? She thought frantically as her eyes darted past people and tables, searching for an exit sign.

“Towel?” Interrupted a waitress behind her, as her knee jerked, hitting the table and causing the plates to create a dissonant yet thankfully short symphony.

More laughter from the other diners.

Seriously, will this nightmare not end? “Thank you. I… I, uh have to go.” She trailed off, uncertain how to finish.

“The party you were meeting?” The waitress asked, with a half smile half smirk, knowing very well she’d been stood up.

“He’s been in an accident.” She lied before she could stop herself.

Oh my God, why did I say that?

The waitress’s shoulders dropped, along with the smirk from her face. “Oh my gosh hun, I hope he’s ok.” The waitress said as she took Mary by the hand escorting her out.

Holy crap, she actually believes me.

The remains of her third cucumber martini, which was now soaked into her dress, mixed with the air conditioning, completely dousing the heat of embarrassment.

“Well, it doesn’t look good. I have to get to the hospital.” She said loud enough for her snickering audience to hear before trailing off again.
What I like here is how the narrator sees things at their absolute worst because that's how she feels. Is everyone there really laughing at her? Who knows, but she sure thinks so, and that adds to her embarrassment. The lie to cover is a great--and totally human--thing to do.

Garry Montgomery
She staggered clumsily as she rushed from the room. Her face glowed red with embarrassment and she felt as though her neck was shrinking into her collar. What did I just say? She tried to remember exactly what had happened. I wanted to let him down easily, but when his sister walked up behind me . . . 
She swung violently at the rose bush as she walked by and uttered a foul curse as a thorn tore into her flesh.

Why does this happen to me? Why do I always end up as the victim? She was sure that everybody in the street had overheard the one-sided conversation and were staring, waiting for an encore. She kicked at the rock on the sidewalk, misjudged, and fell onto her behind. “Dammit!”

The object of her ire, only a few paces behind, reached down and lifted her to her feet. “I’m afraid I didn’t understand a word of what you said inside. You were in such a rush none if it made sense. Sis had her earbuds blaring and was of no help.”

How stupid of me, she thought, embracing him. “I’m sorry. I was confused and rambled on. Can I try again?”

His look of deep concern put her at ease. “Of course.”

She realized that her actions had been hasty and senseless, “I was hurt and upset because you forgot to make reservations for the weekend. Are we still on?” and she breathed a sigh of relief.
What I like about this one is how the embarrassment is more external than internal, with her kicking the bushes and acting out. She's in her head, but it's not a heavy internal monologue.

And the winner is...

Amy Schaefer

What pushed this over the top for me was how seamlessly everything flowed. I really related to Frank and his horrible blunder, and how he tried not to say what actually happened. I felt his mortification without being told he was mortified. His actions and thoughts made that clear. The final line just sealed it for me. Karen's complete understanding and sympathy of the situation in just two words.

Amy Schaefer, just contact me at janice (@) janicehardy (dot) com for your critique.

Grats and fantastic job to everyone!


  1. Congrats to Amy! totally meant to enter this and got busy, oh well

  2. I missed the contest, but Amy's entry was GOLD.

  3. Angelica, there's always this week's contest :) I took a short break, but I try to run them every Monday.

  4. Thank you, everyone! This was a fun one to write.