We’re using the book The 4am Breakthrough by Brian Kitely in my MFA Advanced Creative Writing Workshop class. The book is a compilation of writing exercises.
This week I selected one called Self-Loathing.
Basically, the directions say to write an incomplete piece of narrative (500 words) in third person about a character who deeply despises herself but without letting on to the other character(s) in the scene that this is the case.
I chose the exercise because I thought it would be interesting to imagine a character’s internal conflict and pain born from a secret so awful that it carries over into her everyday life.
If this was complete, I’d love to include more backstory about Destiny’s past and how she came to be who she is. But even without all of that I like how this turned out. To me, it feels like a snapshot taken in what should have been a happy moment if not for such a sad life.
“So… what do you think?” Nina asked Destiny.
It was the final gown fitting. As the oldest of four girls, Destiny had been through two of these already, once for each of her other sisters’ weddings. There were no sisters left, thank God, so technically this was the final final fitting.
In just a few days, Nina, the baby of the family at 28, would walk down the aisle and marry her stockbroker boyfriend, Antonio, and once that happened then only Destiny would be left. She managed a smile, but wondered if she’d qualify automatically for some sort of society of spinsters, or if she’d have to officially apply.
“You look beautiful!” Destiny gushed.
“You really think so?” Nina said and twirled a full 360 degrees around in the mirror.
“Like a princess,” Destiny chimed, trying not to let on the pain she felt inside.
Nina was beaming from ear to ear and Destiny could tell by the expression on her face and the excitement in her voice that her sister thought she’d finally found the one.
But Destiny wasn’t so sure…
Nina and Antonio had only dated—a term Destiny had always used loosely—for three months when he popped the question. There’d been plenty of other contenders before Antonio. Destiny wished her little sister had chosen one of those instead. But Nina chose Antonio.
Destiny wanted to be happy for her sister but happiness never came easy for Destiny. In fact, she couldn’t quite remember if she’d ever been truly happy.
“We’re going to have a cake and sing Happy Birthday to you at the reception,” Nina said. “You know… as a thank you for all you’ve done for us.”
“Oh. That’s so… sweet,” Destiny said.
Destiny tried not to think about all she’d done. Instead she pictured a blaze of 39 candles. Guests would need to be evacuated and the whole thing would be her fault for getting so old. On the upside at least Destiny wouldn’t have to jump out of the cake and blow a train of groomsmen.
Destiny first started stripping with the clichéd intention of putting herself through med school but then she flunked out of school because she was stripping when she should have been studying. It was great money and such a rush. She never regretted her choices until the day she went and fucked her baby sister’s fiancé for five hundred bucks.
As the bridal consultant assisted Nina with her virgin white veil, Destiny looked past the blushing bride-to-be and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She touched her face and cringed—another wrinkle. She should have stayed in school, she thought.
“You’re next!” Nina teased, hoping to cure that familiar frown.
But Destiny didn’t want to be next.
“Fingers crossed,” she said anyway and forced a gracious smile through a hopeful sigh.
I’ll keep my mouth shut today, Destiny thought. Then she peeked down at her watch sensing it was time for another Zoloft.