Power of Word Prompts

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

February 13, 2014

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionThe first word prompts I ever used were issued weekly by my 7th-grade teacher, Mr. Price. It was called a spelling list and the assignment was to use 10 of the 20 words in a story. That’s when I discovered my calling as a storyteller.

Word prompts continue to make for enjoyable practice. Practice makes for better craft, of course, but it also can be freeing. If it’s just “practice” then the writer can leave behind her critic or his editor, and just do the one thing we all want to do–write.

Take a break to have fun, and you just might return to your work renewed with playful creativity. I’m looking for some writers to play with once a week. The game is flash-fiction and each week will have it’s own prompt. Only 99 words, so not a big commitment. You can even develop a blog post around your submission and meet other writers–poets, bloggers, authors, j-students, teachers. If you write you are invited to play. Nothing serious; it’s just practice.

In the spirit of writing tight, I’m condensing the rules of play:

  1. Flash Fiction at Carrot Ranch begins Wednesday, March 5.
  2. New prompt issued each Wednesday thereafter for submission the following Wednesday.
  3. Entry is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  4. Entry is to include the prompt.
  5. Entry is to include the Week# in the title.
  6. Post your entry on your blog and link it to the host blog.
  7. If you don’t have a blog, you may post your entry in the comments as long as it is business-rated, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read. Your blog, your business.
  8. Create community among writers–read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.

Here’s an example based on a flash-story I wrote back in 2008. The prompt was: “Write a short scene in which one character reduces another to uncontrollable sobs without touching him or speaking.”

Week #8: Incident in a Raspberry Patch

Raspberries spilled from Grandfather’s hand. He lay on his back, a gunshot wound to his groin, another spreading blood across his chest. I longed to go to him, and place new moccasins on his feet.

From my hiding place, I watched the white invader kick Grandfather with his boot, then tie a rope under his arms. He rode off with Grandfather dragging behind his horse.

Later I found Grandfather’s body in a refuse pit outside their town. Hair hacked off, body decaying, nostrils blown away by firecrackers celebrating the 4th of July.

Tears spatter like raspberries left in the dust.

©Charli Mills 2008

Questions? Leave me a comment!

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  1. Norah

    Powerful. Sad. Unjust. Distressing. Hateful.

    • Charli Mills

      This flash fiction came out of my research on Little Crow, a Dakota chief who led his people in the Dakota War of 1812. He was actually a powerful orator and against the violence. Despite that, he was unable to convince his tribe to turn over a couple of youth who killed a farmer’s family after being denied food. It was a war that began over eggs and ended with spilled raspberries. The story is more complicated than 100 words, but that is the essence of its ending.

  2. Norah

    You did a great job, as shown by the feelings it raised. I sometimes feel so powerless when faced by such brutality and injustice.

  3. Charli Mills

    That’s what compelled me to write it. Thanks for reading!

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