You walk home after a long, hard day. It's dark outside. College sure isn't a piece of cake. You're looking forward to relaxing on the couch, possibly watching a TV show or two, before collapsing on your bed and doing it all again tomorrow. One more block and you'll be home. Just one more block....
The stairs leading up to your apartment are endless. When you've finally conquered them, you open the door. Your backpack gets caught halfway down your arm, about to be dropped, when you stop short.
They're caught. On the couch, just where you were heading, your roommate and her boyfriend jump away from each other. You saw enough--you know they weren't just cuddling. They both send you half-smiles and attempt to laugh.
That's when you decide you weren't in the mood to watch Bones anyway. You drag your backpack (and your body) to your room, shut the door, and crawl into bed.
In real life, this is just awkward. In your novel, this can be gold!
Awkward moments are relatable. We laugh at them because, hey, we've been there! And depending on how you use them, you can further the plot, develop character, create sympathy for your characters, or even just lighten the mood.
Side note: next time you watch a comedy, on the stage or on the big screen, just count how many awkward moments there are. I promise you you'll need to take off your shoes and use your toes (which itself could be an awkward moment....)
But as I said, awkward moments don't always have to be for comedic purposes. Use them in your story where they'll be the most powerful.
Take the example above. This could happen on any given day at any given time, but let's look at some different scenarios. Say the character just broke up with her own boyfriend--would that not make you feel for her? What if she didn't know her roommate had a boyfriend (gasp!)? Or what if (worse still) the roommate's new boyfriend is her ex?
There are all sorts of possibilities for development in your stories with awkward moments. It's just a matter of choosing when to write them in and not throwing them away.
And good news--if you're writing YA, there are PLENTY of opportunities for you! :p
What are some of your favorite awkward moments in literature?