Monday, April 25, 2011

What Can Friskies Brand Catfood Teach You About Writing

While staring aimlessly at our bag of cat food the other day (don't ask), I read the paragraph on the back of the bag.

Here is said paragraph, copied directly:

"Step outside the ordinary. It's tall peaks and high places. Campfire smoke riding mountain breezes. A world reserved only for the adventurous... and cats. It's the peak of mealtime excitement, with enticing aromas, appealing shapes and wide open flavors, including chicken, beef and turkey. Plus accents of garden veggies and grill flavor. Best of all, it's just one of four delicious destinations Friskies offers. So open a bag. Unlock an adventure. And Feed the Senses."

For reference (as if you couldn't get it from the description) this is Friskies Grillers Blend.

So what can the copy on Friskies teach me about writing?

Surely there are depths to explore, but here's what I'm taking from my brief analysis of the Friskies bag.

1. There can be a level of earnestness that borders on ridiculous. When I re-read the first things I wrote (and even some later things) they come off as painfully intense and overwrought. There's a level of skill at work when we can make the reader feel those intense emotions without smashing them over the head with them. I am not saying this is something I've mastered, believe me. It's something I work on all the time.

2. Don't take yourself too seriously."A world reserved only for the adventurous... and cats." Seriously? Right now my cat is not planning a Himalayan mountain trek with his hiking club. His single goal this week is to shag the neighbor's cat (which we're not letting him do). It is key to be vulnerable with your writing at times. During the query fest last week, I have to be honest: the first couple of queries really stung. Really stung. But then I was able to shake it off and use all of that great advice.

3. Be precise with language. I'm not going to do a sentence by sentence assessment of the Friskies copy, because I think that borders on mean. I do think we can all strive to use words in a better way. I hope we are always growing in our use of language and learning more delectable, stunning, breathtaking and delightful words. When you love words, it's your responsibility to use them well.

So there you have it. Unlock an adventure, on me.

What wisdom did you find in the ordinary lately?


  1. This is such a great post. I can't believe you got all that writing wisdom from cat food, but you're right! Thoughts to keep in mind while writing....

    I love that pet food always tries so hard to appeal to human emotions and sensibilities when cats and dogs can't read and couldn't care less about campfire smoke riding mountain breezes- they just want dinner :)

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  3. HA! I LOVE this post!! So hilarious! And also tragically true. My earlier drafts of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY are cringeworthy--they are SOOOOO dramatic. The MC was constantly feeling ridiculously over-the-top emotions...

    And yeah, you've got to have some distance from you MS. If you can't accept criticism or find the flaws, you can never hope to be a published writer!!

    Great post, Katharine! :D

    (Also, I love that your cat's main goal is to shag the neighbor's cat. That made me LOL--for real.)

  4. So the goal ISN'T to write purple? Great post!

  5. Advertising is funny. And this post is great! My early writing came off as fairly intense and packed with emotion too ... and not in a good way. :) Time really is a great teacher.

  6. I will never look at Friskies the same :)

  7. I'm pretty sure cats want meat and grass. And then a belly rub. Advertising is ridiculous.

  8. That's like a JCrew catalog description!

    On my soapbox: why aren't your cat and the neighbor's cat fixed?

    Sorry, but I work in animal rescue, and it is the single most effective way to keep other cats from being destroyed later. Most counties have programs for low-cost spays/neuters if you ask.

    Okay, off the soapbox.

    I have noticed that pet foods are marketed to people's perceptions, like having different shapes and colors in the kibble.

    Most cats and dogs see yellow and blue but not red--go look at your pet's food, and if it has dyes it's most likely red. And I don't recall my dog ever going for the bone-shaped kibbles over the steak-shaped ones. Although she was very smart, inhaling your food does not lend itself to a discerning palette!

  9. I'm not going to lie. I thought this was kind of amazing: It's tall peaks and high places. Campfire smoke riding mountain breezes. A world reserved only for the adventurous... and cats.

    I mean, yes, it's absurd and completely non-sensical, but the part where they're so excited and you think you're going on the adventure of a lifetime, oh the places you'll see and things you'll do!! And then...the elipses...and cats. It feels like such a let down after that (not to trash cats. I LOVE cats). I think they did something well, though I have no idea what.

    But I totally see where you're coming from and thought your lessons were spot-on. :) I'm just a sucker for advertising. I'm the one who watches commercials and is convinced I need EVERYTHING.

  10. Yikes! Over-writing at its worst! I'm impressed that you gained such wisdom from your cat food bag... I think I would have just started purchasing another brand. :)

  11. Heehee. I love this! I want to live in this adventurous friskies world! My cats have been looking a little bored lately, it must be because I've been feeding them whiskas.

  12. Susanna- so true!

    Susan- thanks. He stands by doors and windows, bellowing and wailing. We are so ready for his appointment to get snipped.

    You got it Alicia.

    Meredith- you're right. Time has everything to do with it.

    Right, Caitlin. Now I will only see untapped adventure.

    So true Maryanne!

    Angelica-- you are SO right. Our kitten has been strictly an inside cat, and came with some major issues with fleas and allergies. But there really is no excuse. He is scheduled for the big snip soon.
    And you are ALSO spot on about the textures, colors, and shapes of food. It's all about attracting the human.

    Okay Megan-- you totally made me LOL. Someone put a lot of energy into that writing.

    Ha! Katy- I'm afraid to see what the other brands say. This could be just the tip of the iceberg.

    Funny Carrie- yes, please share the adventure with your cats. They NEED it!


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