Downtown Boise outside a brew-pub, the Hub and I run into one of his co-workers. It’s 10:30 on a summer night and the small city is vibrant with the hum of people on street-side patios. The neon lights of signs advertising Mongolian Barbeque, Mai Thai and Taj Mahal all promise tastes I haven’t had since leaving Minneapolis two-years ago.
The guys talk loud and gesture broadly, discussing work issues the way men do out west. I’m listening, looking, absorbing, when the co-worker’s wife asks, “If you had 5 million dollars, where would you live?” While I think she’s curious as to the 870-mile commute the Hub makes every 10 days, wondering which place we’d rather live–Boise or Elmira–she’s stumped me.
It’s hot and dry in Boise, Idaho. The distant mountains look like crackers in need of a spread. North of here 435 miles, Elmira Pond is cloaked in green grass, morning mist and mountains hairy with pines, tamaracks and birch. A few craggy peaks above the treeline reveal white granite. Alpine lakes sit in granitic bowls beneath those crags and boulder-strewn rivers tumble to the valley floors. It’s gorgeous up north.
Yet, Boise has life in a different way. Theaters, art galleries, fantastic food and the great outdoors just beyond the freeways. Here, we can take in a Hawks baseball game or drive five miles to the Birds of Prey sanctuary. More than one museum calls Boise home. Writers have a thriving community with a state college that offers an MFA program and supports community outreach. Story-tellers have their own venue. It’s definitely the opposite of the isolation found up north.
It’s not that I can’t decide. It’s not that it’s an issue of money. The question–where would you live if–is forward thinking. It’s a strength I don’t have–that ability to look to the future. Swirls of color pour out from my imagination in patterns of possibility as I look to the past, but as soon as I look to the future, the colors fade like an ink cartridge gone dry.
Last week we dug into the past for a prompt. For me it was a fun and easy because I have a strength called “context,” which means I’m able to understand the present by researching its history. It seems that the writers who responded last week found many connections to the past. When you read the compilation of stories, From Dirt to Words, you’ll see that the writers found treasure.
This makes me curious to find out how writers would respond to looking to the future. Norah Colvin, one of the Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers, made an observation about writers who responded to an earlier prompt:
“…and interesting as you say that all deal with internal rather than physical strength…I wonder, seeing we are all writers, if that is because we are more focused on internal rather than physical strength?”
Indeed, as writers, we probably do have shared strengths, which are a combination of skill, knowledge and talent. Donald Clifton, who is called the Father of Strengths-Based Psychology and Creator of the Clifton StrengthsFinder, is familiar to me from career days in marketing. I built brands, teams and stories based on the strengths of co-op organizers, consumers and employees.
Thus I’m fascinated with strengths and how we use them. As writers, our best works will be linked to our top strengths. Think of it like this, a writer’s voice is what makes him or her stand out in a sea of bobbing writers. We use our strengths to rise to the top.
So now for a bit of an experiment. I’m going to base this week’s prompt on a strength I know I don’t have. It’s called “futuristic.” People who are especially talented in the futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.
In order to be inspired by the future, I need to link it to the past, to put it into context. The same for reading futuristic fiction. The stories of the future that I like best are the ones that offer futuristic people’s history. When I was going into high school, that summer I read the Han Solo Trilogy because it was like reading the history of the Star Wars character. Not to mention, he reminded me of a space-age cowboy.
With the Han Solo Trilogy in mind, I’m thinking that I can make a futuristic prompt work for me. There’s a rumor that George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, came up with a way to create futuristic names for his characters. Using a formula linked to that rumor, I came up with future names for my McCandless trio of historic characters:
- Cobb McCandless = Macco Alsta
- Sarah Shull = Shusa Washu
- Bill Hickok = Hicbi Butro
This formula isn’t necessary for the prompt, but it was fun and got me motivated to write something forward-imagining.
July 2, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a futuristic story that looks ahead. What possibilities inspire your writing? Do you need to connect your future characters to the past or is it freeing to write something previously unimagined? Is the future bright or bleak? Write a future near or far. Tell that story in a flash. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, July 8 to be included in the compilation.
Flying for the Bug Express by Charli Mills
Black cliffs rose above crashing waves. Hicbi Butro peered out the window of his Express Bug as he flew over rocky barrens where he’d deliver Bug messages to miners.
Express Bugs were said to resemble ancient insects–red, black spots, domed backs. A story passed down from Before. Once glaciers melted, reforming elsewhere, submerging other Before places, the digital culture was lost. Only Eddic-Keepers had stories of Before.
He wouldn’t care except that the woman he loved, Shusa Washu, was an Eddic-Keeper. She was also mistress to Macco Alsta, owner of this place she said was once Baffin Island.
Rules of Play:
- New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
- Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
- Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
- Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
- You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
- 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.