Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Flash Fiction Challenge » July 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

July 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

Before you begin reading, turn on some music: Mark Isham.

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionOur county had no high school of its own so students had to be bused out of the mountains of eastern California into a valley of northern Nevada. The bus ride was an hour each day, each way. Buses can be socially awkward spaces, especially for socially awkward teenagers, and I just wanted to sit alone. If I had to double up, L was a safe choice.

No one wanted to sit with L, saying she smelled. Despite the efforts of our grade-school teachers to explain certain cultural norms for the local indigenous Washo families, many wrinkled their noses. But she could flash the warmest smile that lit her brown eyes and she’d welcome another reader at her side.

It was L who introduced me to Farley Mowat’s books. Upon his death in May of 2014, The New York Times hailed him as “the champion of the far north.” Through Mowat’s stories, I was transformed to arctic places where wild wolves were less viscous than the people who sought to eradicate them and where I met the Inuit through his compassionate filter.

As a writer, The New York Times says this of him:

“He wrote with great range, from light, humorous fiction to historical accounts and dark tales of injustice, from children’s stories to tales of exploration, whale hunting and deep-sea salvaging.

But one theme remained constant: humanity’s relationship with nature, one in which he frequently cast people as a devastatingly destructive force.”

You might say that Mowat planted the seed for my interest in climate fiction–a genre that explores the impact of anthropogenic climate change. But it would be the music of Mark Isham that fed the seed. In 1983, Disney produced one of Mowat’s books for the big screen: “Never Cry Wolf.” And Isham supplied the haunting score that still can touch me deeply.

Filed away in the recesses of my mind was the note-to-self, “One day write about the Inuit in the Arctic.”  Then in 2007, I was at a conference and learned about Will Steger’s Global Warming 101 Expedition. Through serendipity my eldest had applied for a scholarship to go as an exchange student and was accepted. The following year I hosted Inuit students at my home for dinner. My desire to write about this place and culture reignited.WLMI Cover Concept

Now I had a garden on Arctic stories growing within me. And still Mark Isham spurred me on. I wrote a short story in a 24-hour story slam and the editors invited me to present it. I held onto the potential and let it flower last NaNoWriMo into a project I titled, “Warm Like Melting Ice.” My mock-cover borrows a photo from the exchange students of the Global Warming 101 Expedition. My music of choice while writing was Isham, of course.

Over the years I’ve owned the album you are listening to in various forms–record, cassette, CD and itunes. While it has musical scores from several movies, I equate them all with the arctic. I played it as I designed my concept cover; I’ll play it as I revise. Have you ever found music to connect with your writing?

Last week, Rough Writer, Sarah Brentyn, let her inner Darth Vader out to write flash fiction. Now I’ll hear the Imperial March every time I read something chilling from her. And that set me on this course about how music can move our writing. How it can reach into recesses long passed over to pull out a forgotten story idea that had grown to novel proportions.

Judging by the shared music over the past few weeks on blog posts, I don’t think I’m alone in this influence. So I’m curious to hear your stories this week and, if available, link the music that influenced your flash when you submit it. Youtube has just about everything. It’s up to you if you want to include a song with lyrics, but try to be influenced by the sound rather than the words.

July 16, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story influenced by a musical score.  Where do you drift, hearing the notes? How does it fire you up to grab the story and hurl it into existence? Or is it gentle, and leading you into lyrical pastures of green? Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, July 22 to be included in the compilation.

McCandless Rides by Charli Mills

Hooves pounded in the distance, hollow like ancient kettle drums. Sarah heard Cob riding his leggy blood red bay with main as black as his owner’s thick hair. Only Cob rode so recklessly down the mountain. No one was about the store this time of evening. She was only there to tally the books. Sarah set her ink quill aside, shuffled the accounting notes for her father’s business and smoothed her long hair that was artfully coiled at the back of her head. Hers was lighter than his; ‘chestnut’ he called it, when he had stroked her uncoiled locks.


Written to The Lone Wanderer by Antti Martikainen


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.


  1. TanGental says:

    The moment my eyes sucked up your challenge I knew the music! The big issue now is the words (are the words? I hate grammar). I hope you realise how enjoyable it is to read about the process you go through to come up with the prompt as it is to attempt the prompt itself. Thanks again.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, Geoff grammar and grampar can cause all kinds of problems (hee, hee). “Issue” is your subject; it’s singular thus your verb “is” must be singular, too, not to be confused by the object “words” which is plural. But some days, I’m vexed and other days I’m just oblivious! Can’t wait to hear what your music muse brings! You brightened my day–I’m so glad your read the post! Thank you!

  2. paulamoyer says:



    By Paula Moyer

    1980 – Jean and Sarah plotted the meet-up before they left the US: Innsbruck, Austria, at 4 a.m., October 4. No cell phones, no Internet. Just a train table and hope. Jean coming from Florence, Sarah from elsewhere-in-Europe, sending a confirmatory telegram to Florence’s American Express.

    Jean got the telegram, boarded the train. Looking at the Alps through the window, she felt transported. She couldn’t sleep.

    Then the Innsbruck signs. 4 a.m. She donned her backpack; stepped off.

    The strains of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture filled her head before she saw her: Sarah, in slow motion, running. Reunion. Success.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Beautiful, Paula! I could feel the quickening of excitement and then the slow motion of the reunion. Great piece orchestrated to the “love theme” of the Romeo and Juliet Overture.

      Hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to share with everyone that you are going to MISA to workshop your memoir with Mary Carroll Moore. My heart longs to join you as I know what great things will come out of the experience and what a magnificent place Madeline Island is! I wish you great strides and success! Will be thinking of you with strains of Tchaikovsky playing in the background!

    • TanGental says:

      That is so beautiful Paula. Perfect musical accompaniment

    • Annecdotist says:

      This so fits the music, Paula. I rarely listen to this because I prefer Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet, so fab to have this reminder of the beautifully lyrical Tchaikovsky

  3. Annecdotist says:

    Lovely piece, Charli, and I can see/hear how the music fits your story. I’d think desert rather than ice, but I suppose it’s similar in terms of a barren landscape.
    I’m not one for listening to music as I’m writing, I prefer the quiet, but there must be something I can dream up to much music to a story before next week.

    • Charli Mills says:

      You’ve surprised me in two ways! First, I never thought of the music as being barren, thus befitting both ice and sand. Since I read Mowat’s books and first heard Isham when I saw Never Cry Wolf the Arctic was forever implanted. Appreciate the different listening!

      For some reason (probably because you post such great music links and sing) I thought you’d be one to listen to music as you write. So much for assumptions. 🙂 But I know what you mean because there are times i have to shut it all out. Those are the times I’m writing from my head, but when i want to write from the heart, I turn the music on.

      Thanks for your insights!

  4. paulamoyer says:

    Great piece, too, Charli. Starting to get a feel for Sarah.

  5. Sherri says:

    What a lovely friend you were to L Charli. I love the way you bring in your experiences to lead us to your prompt by sharing more of your background, personal as well as writing. Music is indeed a powerful writing tool. I take my iPod with me when I go out walking, daily if I can, and there is nothing like it to get me fired up for my writing. Did you finish your novel? Your story about the Inuit, the Artic, sounds fascinating. Our words, ideas, do grow like a garden, don’t they? Flourishing, taking root. Just waiting only to be written. Have a great weekend and will catch up with you in time for the deadline…*she says ever-otimistically* 😀
    PS Meant to say, loved your flash, that last line about Sarah’s hair…oh the delicious possibilities 😉

    • Charli Mills says:

      Writing is such and experience that it works to weave in other lifetime experiences, too. Isn’t the ipod a marvelous thing? I walk with mine, plug it into the car and listen to playlists on my computer. Do you have favorite music? Do you listen to Florence & the Machine? She has a song about “a drumming noise inside my head” and it references church bells and going to the river to drown out the din. Makes me think of your last flash (which I keep thinking about!) You have a great weekend too! (And love that–delicious possibilities.)

      • Sherri says:

        I do the same Charli with my iPod and playlists. I have all kinds on there and in fact was just thinking this morning about the song to use for your challenge this week…hmmmm!! I listen to the Foo Fighters a lot, love them!
        I do enjoy Florence & the Machine but I actually don’t have her on my iPod, must remedy that! I’ll have to listen to that song now…perhaps that will give even more incentive to the sunken church bells! And I’m so glad you keep thinking about that…me too for some reason. Perhaps I have a novel in me yet…!
        Thanks Charli…here’s to a good week ahead and I’ll be over to your ranch tomorrow while keeping an eye out for those rattlers 😉

      • Charli Mills says:

        I listen to Foo Fighters a lot–especially on the treadmill! The Flo song is called the “Drumming Song.” Had to check–I like that entire album and its another one that gets me fired up to take steps. I don’t know if this is a true statement or not–perhaps just my opinion that might change–it seems like memoir digs deep into reasoning and fiction digs deep into the subconscious. Yet both deal with our ideas and feelings, memories and longings. I like the way that fiction can give me new images, characters and stories even if they are reworked from the filters of my own experiences. In that sense, fiction feels like art and connects to art. But I’m paying attention to such thoughts as I also start tackling memories in bites and writing daily experiences on the pond. Have a great week; rope a rattler or two if you get the chance!

      • Sherri says:

        Foo Fighter’s is great for walking/running to! I’m fascinated by your thoughts on memoir and fiction. Because I naturally write memoir and feel comfortable with it, I hadn’t really thought too much about fiction but since blogging, I’ve come to learn about flash fiction and now that I’m taking part in your flash prompts, I’m discovering a real love of it and beginning to understand a little better how our thought processes work when doing these different exercises. I can see how fiction can take us to deeper levels of our subconscious as we are allowed to let the ideas flow and create themselves when we get in the groove. With memoir we write what we already know. Yet, as I write my book, my memoir, I become immersed in it and the words pour out. I feel as if I’m creating a story yet everything about is 100% true. I find this fascinating, having met you and Lisa, through Irene, and how we share our thoughts back and forth about these writing processes. I still think of myself as such a newbie writer and I can hardly believe that here I am, discussing my love, writing, with you all, such amazing writers!
        See post below for the entry 🙂

  6. Pete says:

    Okay, not sure this is a score, but here’s what I had in mind:

    Oh My Darling

    We sat on the steps, giggling as bridesmaids arrived, clutching phones and bags. One stopped, smiling at Amelia. “Isn’t she cute?”

    Amelia scoffed, seized by the mob of blondes. I got back to work as guests arrived. A red-faced man played saloon music on the piano in the foyer.

    I strolled along the grounds of my dad’s farm house, peddling slimy appetizers when Amelia stepped out on the porch and smiled. The glasses were gone and her hair was up. I spilled my tray and the music jilted to a stop.

    In an hour she would be my stepsister.

    • Sarah Brentyn says:

      That is fantastic!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Such an unusual music choice but I love the combination of the old-time saloon piano coupled with the modern family situation. It creates a blazing scene and emphasizes the predicament. Great flash and fun music!

    • paulamoyer says:

      Just have a second to say that I love the flash and I love the photo — is this the “hole in the wall gang”? Or some other? I’ve seen the photo in my dad’s “Illustrated History of the Wild West.”

    • Annecdotist says:

      Aargh! Love what you’ve done with this wellknown song, it’s the first time I’ve really felt its poignancy. And then it segues into Frankie and Johnny — bliss!

  7. Sarah Brentyn says:

    Love your story! (And this prompt…) I can think of more than a dozen artists/songs. Ooh..this is going to be tough. It won’t be the Imperial March, though. 😉

    • Charli Mills says:

      What’s fun (if you like doing this) is to create a playlist for your novel. While I’ve listened to certain artists or albums, I’ve not gone so far as creating a playlist. Might try it this November! I love listening to music and being swept away by it. Ha, ha! We’ll reserve the Imperial March for the times Darth Vader is your muse!

  8. Sarah Brentyn says:

    I don’t know how to embed the music in a comment or how to get the awful commercial out of the video but I’m going to try… Bear with me. Hopefully it’ll work. Could you all wait for the heartburn commercial to end before reading? Because, really, that’s not my inspiration. And I’m hoping it won’t be the result of reading…

    • Charli Mills says:

      Not sure we can remove the commercials but looks like you figured out the embedding part! I’m going to let the heartburn commercial run before I read! That’s funny!

  9. Sarah Brentyn says:


    See Emily Play

    Emily’s hand touched sheer, silky curtains as warm breezes blew in from the forest. She giggled, running along the hallway, bare feet landing with soft thuds on the plush carpet. Her brown eyes lit up as she watched the squirrels scurry up trees.

    “She’s no better,” Emily’s mother studied her little girl. “I want her back. Please. Bring her back to me.”

    The doctor glanced at the tiles, “I’m not sure she wants to come back.”
    They looked over at the girl in the hospital gown.

    Emily’s hand twitched. She grimaced, staring with dead eyes at the playful squirrels.

    • Pete says:

      Wow Sarah, that gave me goosebumps. Well done! And, my heartburn is gone!

    • TanGental says:

      *sobs* (love the music mind you….)

    • Charli Mills says:

      Next time–give us a Kleenex disclaimer. Wow–you gave a story to that piece of music, a heart-wrenching one, but a powerful, sad, beautiful one. I take that back, Darth Vader is not your muse; you feel so deep and can pull out words from that well. No matter the color of emotion, you write deep.

      • Sarah Brentyn says:

        I don’t know what to say. Thank you. You are so sweet. 🙂

        This music is beautiful to me but it also tugs at me. And this is what I saw. Thank you so much for this challenge! I didn’t know if I could pull it off but, wow, it was an experience. This is one I might continue with. (And I’m going to use this song.)

        This is kind of a mash-up musical inspiration. When I started seeing this little girl, I was immediately reminded of Pink Floyd. Hence the title and name of the girl.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Poetry, art, music, even sunsets–can be so inspiring and influential to writing. When I started writing, “Warm Like Melting Ice,” I hung a map of Baffin Island and purchased a mythological print of three ravens in a kayak among icebergs. Perfect accompaniments for the Isham music. The artist is from Bayfield (where I bought the print). Bayfield is also where “Miracle of Ducks” is set. Now I’m collecting western art and music. It all feeds the well and bubbles to the surface amazing insights. Keep working in this “artistic vein” that you’ve discovered and you’ll be seeing more characters and connections! That’s the gold you get for going deep. 🙂

    • Great music, great flash but so sad….

    • Sarah Brentyn says:

      Pete – Thanks (and I’m glad your heartburn is gone–I do what I can).

      Geoff – Sorry for the sobbing! Isn’t that music gorgeous?

      Irene – I know. I’m the downer every week. Thank you, though, I’m glad you liked it.

  10. rllafg says:

    With sincere apologies to Johannes Brahms, my 99 words inspired by music are written to Brahms’ Lullaby.

    Lullaby Lecture by Larry LaForge

    Blink. I have to blink. I can’t be caught napping in class again.

    What was I thinking? Quality Assurance at 8 AM. Who cares about cause-effect analysis at this hour?

    C’mon prof. Can we get a little voice inflection please? I’m dying here.

    Thirty minutes left. Not gonna make it.

    I know the prof is watching me. The sudden jolt when I caught myself nodding off gave me away.

    LaLa Land here I come.

    Oh no. He’s looking my way again.

    “Significant cause and effect, Mr. Jones?”

    I didn’t answer. It was better to be asleep than openly disrespectful.

    The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Brilliant music to nod off by! Actually, that is such a horrible feeling that nodding sensation you try so hard to talk yourself out of feeling. Then to fake it in the end, ha, ha! You come up with such clever takes, Larry!

    • Annecdotist says:

      Yay, Larry, fab flash. Think I’ll go and have a lie down.

  11. […] this week July 16, 2014 prompt Charli asks us to in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story influenced by a musical score. Where do you […]

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks for the introduction to Death of a Wombat! Your flash follows the pacing of Greig’s score and reminds me of a modern Pompeii. We have volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest which I rarely think about. It’s a not like annual hurricanes or even more frequent earthquakes. A volcano could take a city by surprise.

  12. […] this was brought to mind by Charli Mills latest prompt. July 16, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story influenced by a […]

  13. TanGental says:


    Rupert, her half-brother, sounded desperate. ‘Please Mary. Come with me.’

    ‘Yes I know.’ Damn him, she thought; even after death her father controlled her.

    Later as Rupert fiddled with the hire car, she thought of her dad. Just the same. Efficient but a bit of a prat. Her eyes stung; she swallowed. She wouldn’t give either of them the satisfaction.

    They walked miles, in the shadow of the Cuillins. ‘Here.’ Rupert took out the urn. ‘You first.’

    She scattered ash and heard music. Rupert’s ipod. Wild Theme. Dad’s favourite. Tears coursed her cheeks. She no longer cared who saw.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Such an interesting story to come after the one last week. Mary was trying to “wash it all away” in that shower only to arrive at this scene to get coated in dust. But it’s a great revelation of showing how she is trying to be stoic, but breaking down, and despite her father’s folly, she misses him. It’s turning out to be a brilliant story, yet you are crafting each flash to stand on its own. Love the music! Great choice for the setting! Funny how sometimes we select the music to go with the story and sometimes the music inspires the story.

    • Annecdotist says:

      Lovely, Geoff. The music has brought another dimension to the story. I love how it has developed from comic to poignant. And what a place to scatter his ashes, though can’t say I’ve ever seen any unicorns there!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Magical, musical weaving! Archaeology is such a romanticized profession (well, for me it is!) and then to pair it with music based on old Authorian legends is magical, indeed. The hint of guards and the fleeing of madness ancient, buried yet still around, creates an engaging tale.

      • Aaaawww, you’re so lovely, Charli 🙂 Youve just described most of the elements that make up my life … glad you left out arch-procrastinator and leave ’til the last minute-er, anti-socialite and disorganizer 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        I always focus on strengths! And these are lovely, adventurous ones!

  14. … and here it is again, only this time you can actually read it:

    At the first terrifying scream, Vanda ran. The image of the flaming phoenix was still bright in her eyes. She ran through tunnels that had not felt the touch of any foot for centuries. Behind her madness was unleashing more jealous screams, its rage obliterating all sense. She felt Them as they handed her along, the cool breeze of their faith rushing her to freedom. As she crashed into an unyielding door some power beyond her bade it give. Behind her it closed and once again stuck fast.
    “Thank you, sweet brethren,” she breathed, and sucked in the sunlight.

  15. … and here’s the music that goes with it – this is a different recording to that on the blog post! Just as well it’s late, and I’m tired, or I wouldn’t have posted this one at all, having efficiently executed the task. This one is live and there’s an introduction 🙂

  16. […] On that note, I leave you with my flash fiction response to the prompt set by Charli Mills of Carrot Ranch Communications: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story influenced by a musical score. […]

  17. Norah says:

    Good Golly Miss Molly, there’s a whole lot of writing going on! (I think I’ve mixed my lyrics!) I’ll have to make extra reading time some how! Here’s mine to add to the bunch:

  18. Sherri says:

    Hello again Charli, here is my entry. I wrote it to the Foo Fighters ‘These Days’. I listen to this whole album, Wasting Light, when out walking as you know, and I often think of stories (real or not!!) along these kind of lines.

    Here is my flash (which I wrote originally as a 500 word flash). Hope you like, and thanks again for the great prompt 🙂


    Last Train Home

    Settling in for the train journey, Jamie plugged in, metal guitar riffs screaming. An hour in, he turned and saw her.

    Dark eyes met his, frozen in disbelief. Turning to her new man, she giggled as they sat down in the seats in front of Jamie.

    “That’s Jamie sitting behind us!” They swapped tongues.

    Jamie exploded out of his seat, leaping off at the next stop. He caught a glimpse of her staring blankly out of the train window, chewing her nails, looking ugly. Jamie turned away and kept walking. He smiled then. Poor bastard, it’ll be him next.

    • Charli Mills says:

      This has the vibe of Foo Fighters! And what a challenge to cut down a piece from 500 to 99 words! It’s a great practice as it can help you see which elements to tighten, which ones to discard. Great flash!

  19. Sherri says:

    Hi again Charli, for some reason, the video clip didn’t show, so I’ve sent the link again. Hope this works, sorry about that! Also, where it says ‘she giggled and…’ that’s supposed to be ‘as’ instead of ‘and’. Not doing very well today am I?

  20. Thanks Charli! Here’s the link to my blog:

    Terra presses the wet cloth to her skin, the color of spoiled milk, and closes her eyes, thinking about what it would be like to leave, to sweep herself off the porch and up the hill toward the clouds. Her mother did it. Her grandmother didn’t and look where that got her. She carefully doubles the washcloth and drapes it over the edge of the tub. She couldn’t care less if he will miss her. She can picture only the weightlessness, the smooth waves of her limbs as she dances through the hemlocks on her way to the next.

    And here’s the link to the music:

    Enjoy your day!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Robin! Welcome to Carrot Ranch! So glad you chose this challenge to slim down your submission folder. Love the music you chose and can see it fitting the scene. The pacing is artfully crafted, too. Makes me wonder if she really leaves or only imagines what it would feel like. Great flash! Look for it in our final compilation that will be posted later today.

  21. Amber Prince says:

    So many great Flashes and music! I am not sure how to post the music in the comments section, I’ve just figured out how to post it in an actual post. 🙂

    Circus Act
    By Amber Prince

Comments are closed.

A 5-Star Readers’ Favorite!

Be a Patron of Literary Art

Donate Button with Credit Cards

S.M.A.G. Kindness Among Bloggers

S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

Proud Member

Stories Published Weekly

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills


Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,743 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: