Prompts to Spark a Story: Scent of an Angel

by | Mar 18, 2019 | General | 2 comments

As part of my home organization project, I’ve been going through my heavily laden bookshelves. I’m donating books that don’t really fit my life right now. However, I’m also rediscovering some that definitely spark joy. Of course, I am keeping all the books in which my own work appears!

I came upon one such volume that was published a few years ago: Exposed: Hollywood Glamour Caught Off-Guard edited by Philip Krayna and Susan Kuchinskas. Susan approached authors who’d read at her Dirty Old Women series at the Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland about working on this interesting project. Writers would take black-and-white images by the 1960s glamour photographer Edward Braslaff as their inspiration for an original story. I actually wrote two for the anthology, but “Scent of an Angel,” inspired by the photograph above, is the more erotic of the two. (And the model is holding a perfume atomizer, not a cell phone, although it certainly looks that way!)

I don’t think of myself as someone who likes to write from other people’s prompts, although admittedly writing for themed anthologies puts you in the service of the editor’s vision. But I have avoided writing games and dictated assignments because I feel I have plenty of my own sources of inspiration to keep me busy. And yet, I surprised myself with how enjoyable it was to craft a story of less than 750 words exploring the world of one of these photographs. The restraints actually proved to be liberating for my imagination, and I was able to bring some of my historical research on San Francisco nightclubs into the mix.

So if inspiration is flagging, you might consider taking out a book of art or photographs. Find one that speaks to you and weave your own story around that image. The experience is likely to be heavenly!

SCENT OF AN ANGEL

From Exposed: Hollywood Glamour Caught Off-Guard

Eddie gave her the perfume the night before he shipped off to Korea.

“When you wear it, I’ll be with you,” he whispered.

It was a whirlwind romance, but Shirley had really liked Eddie. She liked his patience, the heat of his skin when he held her close, his deep sigh when he first slipped inside. And she liked his letters saying how he ached for those long mornings in bed together, laughing and loving her. He made her feel as if she really meant something to him.

He hadn’t written in some time.

Shirley studied the elegant bottle and wished that she remembered more French. A perfume smelled different on each woman, or so they said. Maybe she should give it a name of her own? Eau de Eddie?

No, she could do better than that.

The truth was, she didn’t mean to take Eddie along with her tonight. She just needed to smell nice for work. For the real work, after the show, when she had to make the fellow at the table feel that God had made her just for him, even if it was only for an hour. Men were better at putting reality out of their minds when the lights were low, but a girl could never forget the way the world worked. Put simply, if he won, she lost–unless she managed to get something out of it for herself. For Shirley, it was never money or perfume. She wanted a man to see her. A few did. Like Eddie.

A soloist in the youth church choir and the lead in the school plays, Shirley easily found a place in the chorus when she came to the city. But her agent warned her she’d have to work hard to get the starring roles. “You have the pipes, baby, but you don’t have the face. Now I’ve got just the gig for you at my buddy George’s place over on Kearny. You’ll have your own act, and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Trust me, it’s high-class. Just remember to show him some of that leg of yours.”

George had given her a cool once-over, but after one verse of “I Wanna Be Loved,” he signed her on the spot. He didn’t mind that she had her standards. Shirley was his star. Half the boys in the place had tears pouring down their cheeks when she sang “The White Cliffs of Dover.” You’d think they wouldn’t ask for the sad old songs given where they were going, but they did.

The men had their types. Some went for the cover-girl beauty, some for the girls fresh out of high school. Some were too drunk to care who was at the table as long as she wore a cocktail dress. Shirley had her type, too: the ones that said what Eddie said the night they met, “My God, you sing like an angel.”

But would Eddie really want to be there at the table with her when her new admirer of the evening leaned in and cooed, “I love your perfume, sweetheart, don’t you smell pretty?” She wondered if the fellow tonight would write, too, and then stop without a word of explanation? Shirley decided she didn’t want to know why. She put all her feelings in her songs and let them float off into heaven.

When she went on stage tonight, it would be like heaven. She’d have no past, no burdens, no doubts. The voice of the piano would entwine with hers, like the bodies of a woman and man when it’s so nice between them. With the lights in her eyes, she couldn’t see the audience, but she would feel them intimately like her own breath. She’d give them everything she had then. She always did.

Shirley squeezed the bulb of the atomizer gently. The cool mist settled on her neck and shoulders. To her surprise, the fragrance calmed her. She knew she was strong enough to take Eddie with her and still touch each man in the audience with her own gift, lifting every last one beyond the yearning, the fear, even the awful war taking them so far away from home, maybe forever.

She had a name for his perfume now. She’d call it “Scent of an Angel.”

About the Author Donna George Storey

Donna George Storey

I want to change the world one dirty story at a time.

When I posted this mission statement on my website, I hoped my cheeky ambition would make my readers smile. I smile every time I read it myself. And yet I’m totally serious. I truly believe that writers who are brave enough to speak their truth about the erotic experience in all its complexity—the yearning, the pleasure, the conflicts, and the sweet satisfaction—do change the world for the better.

So if you’re here at ERWA because you’re already writing erotica, a big thank you and keep on doing what you’re doing. If you’re more a reader than a writer, I encourage you to start dreaming and writing and expressing the truth and magic of this fundamental part of the human experience in your own unique voice. Can there be a more pleasurable way to change the world?

I'm the author of Amorous Woman, a semi-autobiographical erotic novel set in Japan, The Mammoth Book of Erotica Presents the Best of Donna George Storey  and nearly 200 short stories and essays in journals and anthologies. Check out my Facebook author page at: https://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor/

 

2 Comments

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    I love this, Donna. You’ve done a great job bringing this character to life in very few words. And I have to say, the image I get fits the photo perfectly.

    • Donna George Storey

      Thank you, Lisabet!It was interesting how the “assignment” ended up being such a satisfying experience.

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