Fast Fiction: It Doesn’t Make Me Want to Buy Fabric Softener

1986-bounce-fabric-softener-commercial_1681600Hello everyone,

It’s time for another pre-scheduled addition to my fast fiction series. For more information about this, I encourage you to give this post a read.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how this works:

Rule #1: These pieces of fast fiction were generated from a prompt chosen at random during one of my monthly writers’ group meetings. I will label that prompt at the top and where I use it in the prose.

Rule #2: WordPress allows me a ‘click here to read the rest of the story’ break, and that will be used before the fast fiction begins in earnest so people browsing through this blog are not overwhelmed.

Rule #3: The prose of the fast fiction shall be transcribed from my handwriting accurately: Line breaks, grammar, punctuation, spelling, what-have-you. The point of showing a 10- or 15-minute first draft is saying what you tried to do in that time, so what does editing really get me? The very rare changes I really do deem necessary shall be noted with an asterisk and an apologetic explanation at the end.

Rule #4: After the fast fiction I will include a few sentences about my first thoughts of the prompt. These entries are less about the actual prose and more about the exercise as a whole. Post-gaming that exercise will be a big part of the end result.

Rule #5: I have all these posts set up to go out through Twitter. If I’m going to queue up twenty or so of them into the distant future, I will schedule them to go out at 3 am. I reserve the right to reschedule these posts based on other things that should take priority on this blog.

And that’s it. Here we go.

Prompt:

She was suddenly full of feelings about herself in the city, graceful urgent feelings of sunlight and release.


She was suddenly full of feelings about herself in the city, graceful urgent feelings of sunlight and release.

“And… Action!”

She took a deep cleansing breath and tossed the bedsheet out in front of her, watching it catch every updraft of the man-made zephyr blowing off the industrial-sized fan positioned just out of frame. The keylight bathed the frizziness of her hair to create a halo of innocence, elegance, unconscious grace. As the sheet began to settle, she turned her head to the right, tipped her chin up, and said, “When I want to start with an extra bounce in my day, I sleep on sheets that smell like Bounce fabric softener!”

The fan whirred; the light burned; the sheet settled, and her perfect smile froze.

The most perfect spokesperson the fabric softener industry had ever seen have been given a slogan that not even she could sell.

“And… Cut.”

The fan died; the light dimmed; the sheet slumped, her smile faded.

“What take are we on now?”

“Fifty-seven,” she sighed.

The character who was suddenly full of feelings about herself in the city, graceful urgent feelings of sunlight and release felt those feelings leave her body like a spirit fleeing an exorcism. In that moment she was again Cindy, the chain smoking, frustrated, depressed, failed actress whose next pay cheque hinged on selling a terrible fabric softener with a terrible, monstrous, uncatchy slogan.

“Is there ANYTHING we can do about that line, Frank?”

“It was approved by Corporate.”

“Well who blew who in Corporate to get that stinker approved?”

“Whoever it was, they have a great future ahead of them.”

“Better than us if we can’t sell this turd to yuppies.”

“Let’s go again?”

“Sure.”

“Okay, let’s go again. Places people!”

The fan came on; the keylight gleamed; a new sheet was put in her hands. She breathed deep, returned her head to the front and tried to convince herself that she was suddenly full of feelings about herself in the city, graceful urgent feelings of sunlight and release, but inside she was dying.

This commercial was her next rent cheque. Her cat needed cat food. The greatest method actress in the fabric softener business was broke, hungry, and wanted a cigarette.

Note: Can we start off with what an awful prompt this was?

She was suddenly full of feelings about herself in the city, graceful urgent feelings of sunlight and release.

What the hell is that? One member of our writers’ group likes to read Literature with a capital L, and this is probably something written in the 1920s by a man whose understanding of what women feel is underpinned by the fact that he never saw a woman naked without paying for it first. This sentence has its head so far up its own butt the whiskers on its chin can check for polyps while it’s up there. There’s a great untold joke in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers whose overheard final punchline is, “Pretentious, moi?” This sentence begs me to add, “Pretentious, oui!”

Okay, so enough complaining about the terrible, no-good, awful prompt. I am actually rather proud of what came from it. When someone jams ‘feelings’ ‘herself’ ‘city’ ‘graceful’ ‘urgent’ ‘feelings’ again ‘sunlight’ and ‘release’ into one sentence and tells me to do something with it, my mind either goes to a sex scene or an actress getting into character. I don’t like to try to write a sex scene in ten minutes. I don’t have the knack to do it quickly, and it’s not something you want to show a half-finished attempt at to your peers in a writers’ group. No, actress it is, then. But what kind of actress? Well, if this is where her headspace needs to be, an actress with a bad gig.

What makes it bad? Well, it seems insincere and self-important. Maybe the part is nonsense and the dialogue is nonsense, but she needs the job. What if she’s actually recognized as really good at what she does, and not even she can stick the landing on how bad this gig is? Yeah, that’s starting to sound like something.

Then I remembered I only had ten minutes to do it, and I didn’t have time to come up with a bad part and write the actress trying to act the piece out well. That would become two things, and I only had time to do one of them. That’s when I figured a commercial was the easiest way to go: Everyone knows what commercials look like, so writing a good actress in a bad commercial was as easy as one terrible slogan.

To make the thing zip along a little, I repeated the bit with the lights and the sheets and the smile deliberately to show coming in and out of character. I also repeated the awful prompt a couple of times to shame my writers’ group colleague for choosing such a ridiculous thing and to show that I wasn’t afraid to use that nonsense repeatedly.

Beyond that, what else is there to say? I finished on time (just). This is a complete thought. I don’t know where the name Cindy came from, but it sounds like the sort of person with frizzy hair who goes into acting. Having reviewed most of these writing exercises, it’s occurring to me I use Frank a lot as a go-to random male name. I’m not sure why…

Anyway, that’s this one. Beginning with the worst prompt I’ve seen in two years, I am pleased with how it turned out.

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