April 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

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.

April 16, 2014

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionLife. It’s our stories.

Even when we write fiction, it’s our own stories that bubble up–how we process the world; how we describe the way a red lunar moon appears to us at midnight; how we felt when our cousins visited back in 1977.

When I see Rocky Mountain tree swallows tumble and dive, hawking for the first batch of spring insects, I remember the crush I once had on a boy in school who made paper airplanes. When I think of that crush, I can transport it to a character, scene or plot. Or I can try to recall more details of fifth grade and their implications on my life today.

One path leads to fiction and another to memoir. Yet, both are forms of creative writing. And both draw upon our vast resources of stories.

This week, I met up with @FlashMemoirs on Twitter. Part of building a literary community around weekly practice of flash fiction is to connect with others who enjoy the flash craft. Christine Houser, Founder of Flash Memoirs, has had “a lifelong passion for petite, pithy, personal stories.”

Her blog reminded me that flash can also communicate memory. The key element is that of storytelling. If you are interested in memoir (and flash), read her article, Your Memoir Vs. Your Memory. I especially like the quote she uses from Bill Roorbach in Writing Life Stories:

“To me the first goal, the first excellence, is artistic. The needs of other excellences, such as accuracy, must follow the needs of [storytelling] in a kind of hierarchy that helps me make decisions as I write.”

For this week’s prompt, we are going to write biographies. Since this is flash fiction, you might want to use this prompt as an exercise to explore a character your are writing or thinking of developing. If you have developed an alter-ego, maybe you want to explore how he or she is different from you. And, if you want to practice a flash memoir, go ahead and overlook “fiction” for the week and see what kind of bio you can create. Christine Houser has a lyrical bio on her About page in the “I Remember” style of memoirist, Joe Brainard.

All writers, word dabblers, story wranglers and curiosity seekers are welcome to join the challenge! Together we can make literature a part of everyday life online. If you just want to read, that’s participation, too. Last week’s compilations are posted at White Flowers. Comments are welcome!

April 16, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a biography for a character, alter-ego or you. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, April 22 to be included in the compilation. My contribution follows and is the flash bio for my protagonist–hopefully, the first of many novel protagonists.

Dr. Danni Gordon by Charli Mills

Nevada ranches, home sweet childhood home, no more. Bayfield resident with view of sailboats, Madeline Island, tourists and town along Lake Superior. Northern Wisconsin. Archeologist of records and dirt. Into historic bottles—purple and brown glass—evidence of old fisheries. Also likes bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir. Dog-owner, reluctantly. Dog-defender, by chance. Wife of Iraqi contract soldier. Friend, reluctantly, to the one who calls her Bone Digger. Battling knavish vets and annoying stoic deputies. Stuck to bird cage. Stuck on Ike. Stuck with dogs. Stuck teaching kids. Learns of love through hounds. And her forever pup. Miracle of Ducks.


Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.

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  1. Paula Moyer

    Christmas Present

    By Paula Moyer

    Few births have been celebrated as much as my father’s. You won’t understand anything about him if you just know that he was the second of three boys, born on Christmas Day.

    He was the second, all right – but 10 years passed between his brother’s birth and his own. Ten years of pregnancy losses and at least one stillbirth, until, at long last, my paternal grandmother carried this fat baby boy to term.

    He was the first baby born in Oklahoma City after midnight on Christmas Day, 1922 – the newspaper’s official Christmas Baby. Born alive, longed for, and loved.

    • Charli Mills

      Great take on the prompt, Paula!

    • Susan Budig

      Definitely gave us a picture of your pa.

  2. Caroline L.

    He is made of Thursdays and women.

    He is born on a Thursday night, unnoticed by any but the woman who pushes him from her womb to less-welcoming flannel sheets.

    He is married on a Thursday afternoon, unnoticed by any but the woman who stands by his side in a second-hand dress as the judge mispronounces her name.

    He is killed on a Thursday morning, unnoticed by any but the woman who hits the brakes too early and too hard for such a slick street.

    Those women — ah, those women! — they are the stories. He is but their Thursdays.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome, Caroline! What an awesome story…read it twice because it was so good. “He is but their Thursdays.” We get such a terrific infusion of creativity here and I’m so glad to welcome another writer.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        I like this. Nicely done. Love the title.

  3. Susan Budig

    Becky Erdmann could count the number of times she’d been kissed on one hand with fingers and thumb balled into a fist. Aunt Tressie’s fishy smooches didn’t count. Uncle Odie’s unrequited attempts only added to her pining. Why couldn’t Sören chase her like that? But Becky, number four of seven with another pending, couldn’t fault her sweet Swede. After all, he did ask her to the church picnic. And he did spend recess with her reading Whitman even when Norb and Harold teased him about being a sissy. Now, if she could just convince him to hold her hand…

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome, Susan! I remember when you welcomed me online so many years ago and I learned that literary communities could exist among the social media. I learned of poetry forms and not that I mastered any; but I learned that practice of shorts could help me write tighter, be “mindful” of words. I’m so glad you joined us this week. The details of Becky Erdmann’s life are deepening. I can see her clearly among her family and at school.

      • Susan Budig

        Thank you! I just thought I’d give this a try. My children’s novel is NOT moving, but maybe I need to take your offered-prompt/hand and see if I can do something.

  4. Chris

    Charli, thanks so much for your kind words and sharing my memory post with your readers. Happy flash writing one & all! 🙂
    -Chris at FlashMemoirs.com

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for stopping by, Chris! I appreciate the good information you have out there on flash. Happy flashing in return!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        “Happy flashing”? Charli! 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Oh…my…”happy flash writing.” LOL.

  5. Sarah Brentyn

    Falling Up

    By Sarah Brentyn

    Josephine hates her name. She loves her twin sister, scotch, and Janis Joplin. Her favorite thing to do is squeeze the fun out of each day and drink it down like lemonade. Also, daydream about pushing her abusive mother into a pit of stampeding elephants. She is courageous to the point of stupidity, finds the positive in every situation, and has a talent for guessing which color bruises will turn. Josephine has never been married, has no children and likes it that way. She skips between jobs. Dances between boyfriends. Laughs too much. Stumbles sometimes but always falls up.

    Character Biography

    • Charli Mills

      You can feel the rhythms of this character’s life in the pacing of the 99 words like a wild drumming on the edge of falling apart yet so beautifully vibrant and defiant.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        This prompt is awesome. It was so difficult to write. Major challenge. And you know how I love myself a challenge.

        Jo is one of my favorite characters. I love her. And I love so much that you describe her as beautifully vibrant and defiant while on the edge of falling apart. She is. My Jo… 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Then you portrayed her well in your flash! I was reading another writer’s blog recently, and she said that writing let’s us live many lives. I think that’s why we fall in love with characters; we actually experience them so deeply as to become connected, if not melded at some point during writing. You are always up to a challenge, Sarah!

    • georgiabellbooks

      Wow. Amazing, Sarah. I think I’d like to meet Josephine.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Hey, thanks! I love my Jo. (Or am I hers?)

        I’m excited to see if you get to bio any of your Unbound characters.

  6. Norah

    Hi Charli,Thanks for such an interesting prompt. I’m avoiding reading the contributions of others, waiting to add my own tomorrow and then read the compilation. I love yours though. You have put so much into 99 words; your 99 words seem to be more than my 99 words. I’ll have to try to squeeze more in, but not this time. Will post tomorrow.

    • Charli Mills

      I look forward to you 99 words!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome, Anne! What a delight to have you join us this week! I’m intrigued by Bernie’s character. The way you slip in that loss of a sense of purpose feels so casual, yet it is so momentous. Thank you for talking about the flash fiction challenge on your blog, too!

  7. Pete

    If mine reads like a query that’s good, because that’s what I’m working on!

    Frankie Criswell isn’t a star basketball player. He’s a writer, a humanitarian, a big brother, reporter, and even a star-gazing romantic. But entering the seventh grade, all of this is news to him.

    After getting cut from the basketball team, he’s approached by Maggie Chalmers, the quick-witted school newspaper journalist who convinces him to take a job as a sports writer. Intrigued by her quirky humour, Frankie writes an essay that gains nationwide recognition. One he has to read, out loud, which means stepping out of his the safety of his shell and facing all of his biggest fears.

    • Charli Mills

      Great strategy, to use the prompt to work on a query! Good luck with it and keep us posted! It sounds like a terrific story. It really hooked my interest when I realized he was entering seventh grade–so that’s a great intro!

  8. Norah

    Hi Charli, It’s great to see the group of contributors growing. I really enjoy reading all the pieces and can learn so much from seeing how well they use the 99 words. Here is my response to this prompt: http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-eH

    • Charli Mills

      I’m really enjoying this budding literary community and just thrilled with the quality of creativity. You wrote some powerful prose this week!

      • Norah

        Thanks Charli. It’s lovely to be welcomed so warmly into this little group that is growing around you. I am learning a lot, and enjoying it.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s what I was thinking–you included, Georgia! These are great characters I want to meet.

  9. Charli Mills

    Thank you!


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