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March 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

March 18Before waking, I had an intense dream. My daughters sometimes hold each other, elbow to elbow, shoulders pressed together, and walk. To say that they are close is an understatement. In my dream they were linked up, but kept walking away from me. I was distressed.

When I awoke, I had the distinct feeling that the dream was not me. That the dream was about another woman. The story sat perched in the front of my brain. I swung my legs out from beneath the warm covers. Cold air startled me, but I headed out of my bedroom, past the bathroom door and sat on the cold fake-leather of my desk chair. I had to quickly adjust my short shift against the cold, pulling it down and tucking it around my knees.

My computer couldn’t fire up fast enough so as it booted I scratched out a story with pen on the quarter-paper that listed all the writers from yesterday’s compilation. I like quarter-paper. It’s full-pages of discarded printing I no longer need. I recycle it, fold it into quarters and then carefully tear it into four smaller sheets, using the blank back side for notes.

You know you are a writer when words can’t wait. When somebody says something so brilliant, your mind files it away for future use. You see stories all around you. You dream them. And this dream story had me in its grip. At its core was a mother feeling abandoned, angry and fighting for her daughters’ attention. Her daughters were twins and they were beyond her reach.

Twins on my mind. Did I file that influence away because I’m so caught up in Mary’s story by Rough Writer, Geoff Le Pard? Or was I thinking about my own children? My daughters who are so close in affection that as children, they were often mistaken for twins although I could clearly see their differences. The mistake always stung. No one looked at my son, their younger brother, and asked where his twin was.

But twins it was. And on I scribbled. Suddenly I realized who “I” was in the dream. A character who has floated to me a few times in flash fiction. A veteran’s widow. Vietnam-era if I push the timing of her age. Characters do not come to writers as a whole package; not avatars purchased online with appearance and background fully disclosed. Characters sneak into our dreams, our waking moments and tease us.

We write to find out who they are.

I sit back and look at the story and am surprised. I knew my character was in trouble but I thought it was of the practical sort — the adjustments to widowhood, like how to start the truck or manage the finances or run what is left of the small ranch. Now I realize that she’s showing serious symptoms of dementia.

My husband and I often joke about him getting dementia. The Hub has no filters so we tease the grown children about how awful their father will be. Our solo twin, our son, Runner, says with mischievous glee that Dad’s off to the rest home to be the problem patient for nurses. The younger false twin, Rock Climber, laughs because she has no filters either, just like Dad. The elder false twin, is the wise one, Radio Geek. She points out he has no filters to lose. He’s as bad as he’ll get.

What would it be like for a writer to get dementia? A close friend had moved in with her aging parents. Her mother had dementia and toward the end of her life she confused her own memories with movie or book scenes that she knew. I think about that. I think about all the unwritten stories bumping around in the primordial soup of my imagination. I think about the characters who turn up in my dreams, of blending my own memories, stories I’ve read and what these characters have to say. Dementia for me might be greatly entertaining for others.

Yet, today I have rescued the story granted by a dream. It’s inked and now has life. When I typed the scratches into my barely awake computer, the word count was 157. I whittled. I thought about what was happening. I wondered at who the doctor was and I felt concern and compassion from him. I could smell  warm barn hay, acrid chicken shit, horses, apples and mountain meadows from my character and knew that she’s someone entwined with the land and ranching in northern Idaho.

I let the character lead me with the emotions she was feeling. I thought about her greater story, her age, her life’s greatest impacts and I cut words, sharpened others.

This is the first time I’ve ever written a prompt post after I’ve written a flash fiction. One other time I skewed a prompt because I had a story idea, but typically, I’m faced cold turkey with the same prompt I hand out to all who stop by to write at Carrot Ranch. And that was going to be today’s prompt. My gratitude for writers who write with me at the literary ranch.

On March 5, 2014 I launched an idea — a weekly flash fiction to practice craft. I wanted to find other writers who were literary. Because of my marketing background I knew many who were business writers, or freelancers, or web content writers. I was craving word art and wanted to play with other word artists. I broke out the finger paints and invited anyone who wanted to join me in creating weekly snapshots. Nothing big, just 99 words. Nothing too distracting from primary masterpieces — a place to mix paints and experiment and grow.

Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would show up and I had prepped myself to ride the range on my own, knowing that the weekly practice would useful for my literary craft. But writers showed up.

Susan Zutautas and Ruchira Khanna are both writers I know through Facebook. Both have authored books, are savvy social media bloggers and were kind enough to give me a morale boost on launch day. Jason Kennedy was from their circle of influence and he wrote with us in the beginning. My “sister-mom” Paula Moyer (her son is married to Radio Geek) surprised me with her cheerful show of support despite not having a blog (although she has an MFA and a memoir WIP). And out of the clear blue, from down-under, a delightful teacher entered the ranch, Norah Colvin.

Of the five first responders, four remain. Dozens more have joined in and the Rough Writers was born as a literary community of flash fictioneers from all around the world and from different genres, including many who are memoirists. We write, read and discuss which are pillars of literature, the form of writing that is our art on and off the ranch. I’ll be sharing our 2014 flash fiction with a publisher in LA March 29 and find out what publishers are looking for these days in regards to anthologies. Read more from the update on the Collaborations page.

This week we welcome three new Rough Writers to the Congress: Luccia Gray, Ula Humienik and Sacha Black. I’ll be adding their pages. I’m blown away by the talent that rides in this wild west show each week!

And you all inspire me. From reviews to posts, poetry to prose, fiction to memoirs, I feel like I live in an art studio, watching colorful words rise like hungry trout in a spring stream. I think my dream-story this morning has lots of influences. We each take in what we see, experience and dream and we put it out on the paper in our own way. This leads me to symptoms…

March 18, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story to reveal a characters symptoms. It can be something the character is oblivious to, or terrified about. It can be a character concerned for a pet or a motorcycle. The symptoms can be what ails society. Go where the prompt leads. Or sleep on it, and see what a dream brings to you!

Respond by March 24, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


At the Doctor’s Office by Charli Mills

“She’s had five fender-benders, Doc.”

Dr. Gladwell walked back to Ramona. She glared across his shoulder, the strips on her brow cut puckering.

“I heard that.”

The doctor turned around. They were alone. “What did you hear?”

“Just that I’m angry with the girls. They left their cell phones in my fridge, and I have to drive around looking for them. Always sneaking off with friends when they promised to stay with me.” A tear slipped down her wrinkled cheek.

“The girls?”

“My twins.”

Later, Dr. Gladwell confirmed his new patient gave birth to twins. 1962. Daughters. Both stillborn.



  1. TanGental says:

    Mixed emotions here. Part guilt in case my story played a part in your disturbed slumbers; part admiration for your persistence, tenacity and clear sightedness in leading your rough crew to such green pastures. I hope the well doesn’t run dry because we all greedily sup from your fountain without thought to the strain it puts you under. Thank you for such a great year (and a bit). I’ll be back with something later. In the meantime I enjoyed the (I think) typo – what ‘ales’ society. Perhaps more ale and society would be better?!!! :-))

    • Charli Mills says:

      Argh! The Hub was pressuring me to hurry up because we had town errands and after several stops our final one was to the brewery. So ironically, as I sipped Citra Ale, I read my unedited post. Several typos, but that one takes the cake. I corrected, hoping no one noticed! What ales society, indeed! Perhaps it’s the problem, maybe it’s cure. Thanks for riding along. You have fine tricks! The well is wide and deep.

  2. Sacha Black says:

    I know exactly what you mean about ‘words won’t wait’ – Never a truer word spoke if you ask me. When it happens (which is a lot for me) it’s with such a ferocious tenacity that I literally scramble for the nearest thing I can find to write my precious words before they disappear from my mind!

    Your story was so touching this week. I read it late last night, and when I got to the end I was so upset for Ramona I actually said “Oh no” out loud! What a talent you have though to make me feel so much for a character in so few words.

    As usual I will post a link to where I put this on my blog later in the week when I have written all my weekly challenge responses.

    Really liked this prompt, oddly it felt naturally connected to my last piece – like they are meant to be part of a whole apocalyptic story… I’m going to sit on that, and see where my mind takes it.

    The End By Sacha Black

    “Symptoms? These aren’t symptoms, Tyler, this is cause and bloody effect.”

    I stooped to the ground picked up the scorched sand and let it fall through my gloved fingers. I scanned the horizon, now a permanently singed rainbow.

    “I think it’s simply beautiful.”

    “Beautiful? Are you insane? We are all going to die, Tyler. We were warned, no one listen, and now the oxygen is running out and there’s only sand left where crops should grow.”

    “Yes, but have you ever seen the Earth look so stunning? If this is it for humankind, then what a spectacular final image.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      As if those words have invisible ink! 🙂 Your flash reminds me of people who took photos with nuclear testing mushrooms in the background, all smiles…It’s a strange thought to see beauty in the end, yet strange to think it wouldn’t be beautiful. It creates a great tension and I’m interested to see where this idea leads you!

      • Sacha Black says:

        Invisible ink?

        OOOH I can see why you say about the nuclear testing – I wasn’t far off that myself I had some kind of view point in mind too!

        It is a strange thought actually. I guess almost like an acceptance of fate, he must have been an optimist and taking whatever he could from his end.

        Yeah this one has teeth, it may well get made into a short… Hmm. And all thanks to your prompts 😄

      • Sacha Black says:

        Hi Charli, post will go live tomorrow morning (middle of the night tonight for you!)

      • Charli Mills says:

        That’s a clever way to post your responses! Thanks for joining us at the ranch! 🙂

    • Norah says:

      Glass half full/half empty? I’m not so sure how I’d see it as the world comes to an end from our own doing. At this stage I’m still hoping for a reprieve, that those with the “power” to do something will; but whether they will remains to be be seen. Great, provocative flash.

      • Sacha Black says:

        Thanks Norah 😄 im not sure how I would cope with the end of the world either it’s an interesting thought. I strongly suspect I would cling to hope that we could save ourselves somehow I love hope. Have you ever watched the film melancholia? I was somewhat disturbed by it – it’s all about the end of the world and how people cope with it – not well. It’s such a depressing watch but very thought provoking – I was traumatised because I spent the whole film thinking they would be saved. They weren’t…. 😱. Thanks for the compliment 😄

      • Norah says:

        I haven’t seen Melancholia – don’t think I will now. I know I wouldn’t cope!

  3. Sherri says:

    Reading about your dream has got me thinking all over the place. I have had similar experiences but always assume it’s just because I’m re-living some of my anxieties.
    It never occurred to me that maybe I could look at these dreams in a different way and use what is unfolding before me, the people in them, as the beginnings of characters and plot for a story. Flash Fiction has taken me out of the ‘safety’ of memoir as you know, and what an amazing path it’s taken me on, but now I can see that I can go even further with fiction!
    I’ve read before about writers dreaming of their characters, their stories, but I’ve never felt so connected to this idea until I read your post today Charli. You’ve grabbed me as you always do! I am honoured to be a part of the Rough Writers, coming in later in the year as I did (can’t remember now when I did, but I know it was thanks to Irene…thank you Irene!!) and deciding to ‘have a go’ after reading her FF posts back in the day. So I’ll say it again, thanks so much for welcoming me and I in turn say welcome to Luccia, Ula and Sacha.
    Your flash is so moving: at once amusing and then weaves into a terrible sadness. I see Ramona and the bewildered look on her face as if I’m standing right in front of her and I want to hold her thin, cold hand and wipe away her tears…
    I look forward to exploring this prompt. Got withdrawal from missing this weeks. See you soon 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Some people interpret their dreams and some get excited at the plot! 🙂 I’m so thrilled that you are exploring beyond your comfort zone, although I’m sure memoir has plenty of discomforts! And, yes, thank you Irene for roping Sherri! I’ve learned much from the Rough Writing memoirists, too! I think it has helped the group feel comfortable in exploring BOTS in flash fiction, too. Ha, ha…so now dreams! Stay on the sunny side of the trail! 😉

  4. Annecdotist says:

    Congratulations on passing the Flash fiction first year anniversary, Charli. It’s wonderful what you’ve achieved and how supportively you’ve corralled us all in. And a hearty welcome to the new Riders.
    I found your whole post really moving and the Flash is beautiful – of course you’d want to build a prompt about that idea. I also like the thought about writers, as we grow older, confusing our own histories with the stories we’ve lived only in our minds or on the page. In fact, I do that already, with fiction I’ve written based on personal experience, and blogged about it a couple of years ago:
    There’s also a lovely piece I quoted in my post on literary dementia where the character confuses her own life with the film Casablanca:
    Now wouldn’t that be fun?
    I’ll be back in a few days time with my contribution. I have a couple of lovely reads I might link it to.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yes, if dementia is in my cards, I look forward to it as the final story-telling phase of my life! It would be fun to confuse my life with Casablanca or Indiana Jones. Thank you for being such a rock of support, with your reviews, published stories and interesting ties to your posts and discussions. The Rough Writers each bring such interesting perspectives and experiences. Like grown ups in a sandbox we all enjoy, sharing imagination and toys. The only thing missing this anniversary, is cake! 🙂 Thanks for the links!

  5. Pat Cummings says:

    What a great prompt, Charli! I loved the frisson at the end of your flash…

    Mine is Bad Weed at – another semi-true flash fiction from my stored past…

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m glad that came through. Thanks! We learned a phrase from Irene Waters who is a memoirist — BOTS — based on a true story. BOTS can be fun, in my opinion, because you have the details from experience but you can embellish any way you want! Your title already has me intrigued…

  6. AJ says:

    My heart broke for poor Ramona but at the same time, her dementia brought her babies back to life.
    The new nicknames for your kiddos are great, the “solo twin” had me cracking up!

  7. Annecdotist says:

    Got mine in early this week along with a review that links it to bullying.
    Look forward to reading the rest.

    • susanzutautas says:

      I really enjoyed your flash and I must find that book.

    • Ula says:

      Oh, Anne, what a sad flash. I like it a lot and now I have another book to add to my ever growing list of must reads.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Another fantastic book. Of course, I like your reviews even when the books aren’t stellar! Thanks for tying in your flash with the compassion blogathon, too!

  8. susanzutautas says:

    That was some dream and I love the flash you got from it. Too often I dozilly (is that a word? LOL) think I have to remember that when I wake up again but then when I do the memory of the dream is gone.

    Here is my flash for this week. Is it okay if I do two if I have time?

    • susanzutautas says:

      I forgot to say; Has it really been a year already? Wow time sure does fly!

    • Pete says:

      Poor dave, but great flash, Susan. Well written on a tough topic.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Dozily, yes, it’s a word! 😀 And that’s why I went straight for a pen! You are welcome to write more than one!

      • susanzutautas says:

        I added the second flash fiction to the first one. Didn’t title it though.

      • Charli Mills says:

        The second flash gives the first a bit of irony. It could be said that an addict who overdoses doesn’t qualify for “the good die young.” Yet that captures our harsh judgement — how do we know the addict was good or bad? Ultimately the loss is great either way. Great writing!

      • Annecdotist says:

        Your point about the addict reminds me of an advertising campaign run by the UK children’s charity Barnardo’s showing a picture of a baby as if injecting – do we have a right to we blame the adult if we’re not doing enough to protect the children?

    • Norah says:

      Great flash, Susan – both tragic.

  9. Pete says:


    Darren sits slumped at his desk during review. His book is open, but he’s gone.

    What was it this time, Darren? Go to bed without dinner again? Did your uncle stop by? Mom have a new boyfriend?

    With group activity underway I reach into my desk. Then I roam. I stash a snack inside his desk. He knows where to look.

    I have favorites, okay? Fire me. Fire me for refusing to give them homework. Fire me for spilling tears in his IEP file. Fire me for rolling my eyes at Admin.

    But don’t fire me for being human.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, this story choked me up! Even when teachers are compassionate, most times they show their professional side. This flash captures the raw emotion of a teacher who cares and is going to buck the system to reach one child. Powerful!

    • susanzutautas says:

      Pete my son had a teacher just like this. I did too come to think of it.

    • Norah says:

      The picture you have created is very vivid, Pete. Poor Darren: his “symptoms” are obvious. The snack stashed inside his desk may relieve some of the symptoms, but not the heart of the matter. The concern and compassion of the teacher may start to give him the strength to survive his harsh environment. We need more teachers like “me”. Well done!

  10. Ula says:

    It’s such an honor to join such a wonderful community of writers. I must admit that I spend my week looking forward to your challenge, Charli. Thanks for such a wonderful post. I love your flash, although it is quite sad. But on the upside, maybe Ramona is happy to have her twins with her.

    Dreams are quite important to me, and I have always had vivid, elaborate dreams. The MC for my WIP came to me in a dream and has been haunting me for over 5 years now.

    I’ll sleep on this challenge and post something within a few days.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m delighted to have you among the Rough Writers! It’s great writing fun that writers show up for the prompts. Thank you! How interesting that your WIP came to you in a dream! I know what you mean about being haunted by a story.

  11. rllafg says:

    Empire Building by Larry LaForge

    “Isn’t this a sign of a bigger problem?”

    Edna laughed while shielding her closet. “Don’t be silly, Ed. Everyone needs shoes.”

    “True. One per foot.”

    “And what pray tell might be the bigger problem?” Edna asked, still laughing.

    “World domination,” Ed deadpanned. “Empire building,” he teased. “They’re lined up like loyal subjects awaiting the queen.”

    Ed knew what was coming when his wife crossed the hall to his closet. There were only two pairs of shoes, but an army of objects aligned the spartan space.

    “Hmm,” Edna thought out loud. “Why would a guy need dozens of baseball caps?”

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

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! Symptoms of empire building! My own Ed is rather scary — he collects Mauser rifles and reloading brass. But I’m no Edna, shoes are not my loyal subjects. I line up books and rocks…

    • susanzutautas says:

      I have a bookshelf with lines and lines of elephants 🙂
      Your flash made me smile 🙂

    • Norah says:

      Shoes or baseball caps? Hmm. I know which I’d pick! Great flash! Symptomatic of many I know!

  12. rogershipp says:


    “Did Dad see the end of the game before he was called away?” I asked the question, but in my heart I knew the answer. I had carefully scanned the bleachers every time the coach sat me out for a minute or two; I had not seen Dad the entire night.

    “He wasn’t able to get away from work tonight.” Mom said.

    I loved Mom. No sugar-coating of things. Mom never lied to me. I could depend on her.

    “Coach is naming me MVP for the team,” I whispered. “Will Dad make the ceremony?”

    I already knew the answer.

  13. guidaman says:

    The Shadow by Phil Guida
    Like a shadow that keeps reappearing
    You can’t hide from your age.
    You can’t deny it
    You can’t postpone it
    You can’t run from it Kim Kardashian!
    You will see that your fame won’t even save you.
    There’s no saving 21, 35 or even 50
    Your age is what it is.
    So take your fame and paint your face with each day
    a little older and another wrinkle to hide
    age will catch you too eventually
    like all other mortals passing before you
    eclipsing the beauty you’ve known
    into wrinkles of an elderly woman
    whose fame died long ago.

    • Norah says:

      Ooh! Harsh, but true. It reminds me a bit of a Van Morrison song, Precious Time – One of my favourites. [youtube

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s such a fallacy that magazine covers tell us we can’t age; that it’s a bad thing. It’s as if we are suppose to freeze-frame ourselves at some imaginary ideal that never really happens. I hear the frustration of reacting to the magazine covers with their model of the week. And yes, sometimes I want to cry out, too because I want to age with dignity. “Like a shadow that keeps reappearing…” what a clever way to describe the encroachment of age. Now let’s step out of the shadow and embrace the fullness of what age brings! 😉

  14. Ula says:

    My contribution this week:

    • Norah says:

      This is so tragic, Ula. The symptoms, both physical and emotional, are very obvious. Sadly the little girl is probably learning similar behaviours. If the wrists are anything to go on, she may not be learning them from her mother for long.
      BTW I couldn’t seem to leave a comment on your blog. The comment link appeared to be inactive.

      • Annecdotist says:

        I managed to comment, Norah. It’s tucked away in a little speech bubble at the bottom of the post.

      • Norah says:

        Thanks for letting me know, Anne. I have been over and had a look now and see what you mean. It wasn’t obvious to me when I tried. I notice that my attempt was made quite a few hours before the first comment on Ula’s page. I wonder does that make a difference. When I tried there was a small “Leave a comment” in blue, I think beneath the small text above the share buttons, which I couldn’t get to activate. It’s not there now. In the words of Sting, “It’s probably me”! So much to learn. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, the things little ears can overhear and perpetuate family symptoms throughout the generations. I’m so sad for the character who is missing out on the treasure at her feet in that kitchen. Well written!

  15. […] This flash fiction was written for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge. […]

  16. […] post was prompted by the Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch (and possibly by the NAMI presentation I heard last week). The prompt […]

  17. Sarah says:

    Welcome to Luccia, Ula and Sascha! It is great that the circle of Rough Writers is growing.

    Your Ramona sounds a lot like my Cecilia: widow of a Vietnam era veteran, mourning children they lost long ago. Here is my contribution:

  18. ruchira says:

    Loved reading about your dream, Charli. I agree there are times when we think of ourselves in those boots, and after introspection we realize who it actually was…phew!
    Our sub conscious mind sure has tantalizing ways to make small things surface..

    Thank you for the mention, and once again I wish you all the best for March 29th 🙂
    May the force be with you my friend..xoxo

    Loved your take, and feel sad for the lady that she could not forget her twins. Hope she finds peace.

    My take below:)

    • Charli Mills says:

      Some dreams can feel so real and at other times, I can realize during the dream that it’s a dream and I become a curious observer. Yes, I agree that our sub conscious mind makes way for bringing things to our attention!

      Your flash displays the fear we often take on following a misfortune. That your character could voice it and his parent respond, helps move back into the flow of life. A lot to pack into 99 words!

      Thank you! I will take all the force I can get! 😀

  19. […] Thinking about the character from her dream led her to consider symptoms, and the way that symptoms reveal more of who they are.  She challenged the Rough Writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story to reveal a character’s symptoms.  […]

  20. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I’m surprised to see I haven’t already commented on this post. Apologies. I read it on Thursday and was very moved by all you had to share. However I must have read it on my iPad and decided to leave commenting until I was back at my computer, and then forgot that I hadn’t. 🙁
    As always I really enjoyed your post. You share so much wisdom and so many wonderful thoughts. When you said that we write about characters to find out who they are, I was nodding in agreement. That’s just what I have been doing with Marnie and her story. I have added a new character today, Mrs Tomkins, the school secretary. Here is the link:
    I also knew just what you meant about waking from a dream and having to get up and write about it before it slipped away, though maybe I haven’t experienced it that way for a while. Some of my “compositions” come when I am showering or preparing for the day and I work on them in my head for a while, turning the thoughts around, trying the words in different combinations and order. Other times I scramble to write them down lest they get away. Sometimes they do get away and I have that dreadful gnawing feeling that I had chosen the perfect word or phrase but now am unable to retrieve it. I lost my chance!
    Your flash is very poignant. I very much feel for Ramona who must have so much sadness in her life, regretting the loss of her daughters and pining for them. I love the name of your doctor – Gladwell. How fitting. I do like it when the names match the professions, like Mrs Chalk the teacher (though that is now a bit outdated) and Mr Cleaver the butcher. You seem to have no trouble coming with up the “perfect” word or phrase, like “She glared across his shoulder, the strips on her brow cut puckering.”
    Thank you for these ongoing opportunities for we Rough Writers. I see a few more have joined the muster. I must check out their pages. I’ll be back to read and comment on other comments and submissions later – after I get some more writing done! 🙂

    • Norah says:

      I’ve had a read of everything posted so far. What a collection again. I’m overwhelmed by the tragic and sad stories posted in relation to your prompt. I think there’s a theme running through these. Must have been something in the prompt! 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      I have done the same on my phone and have been having internet connectivity issues which only ads to my “did-I-didn’t-I” comment situation! 🙂 Hopefully I’ll have that sorted out soon! Thank you for your support, comments and discussions. I should have offered you, Ruchira and Susan a piece of cake, but I greedily ate like Luccia’s bully last week!

      Driving, back when I commuted, was a big idea generator for me. I used to carry a note pad and pen in the car. I suppose that’s as bad as texting, but you don’t hear too often about writers causing accidents because they had to get a scene down on paper! Or maybe no one fesses up!

      Funny, I hadn’t thought about Gladwell! I’ll confess to you my little cheat with names (because I draw a blank on that account) — I look to my nearest books and I jot down names from the credits of movies. Gladwell is an author’s last name! Wonder how he’d feel sharing his name with a short-story doctor? 🙂

      Your story about Marnie is really fleshing out. You include a new perspective and give thought to what we do when we see the same symptoms over and over. And yes, we need more Jasmines!

      • Norah says:

        I thought you were just thinking of my health by not offering me a piece of cake! I appreciated your thoughtfulness. (If I say “Not!” will you forgive me? 🙂 )
        One of my friends has a little audio recorder thingy – I’m not sure what it’s called. But it’s about the size of a small perfume atomizer. She has it beside her in the car for “jotting down” (recording) thoughts that she gets while listening to podcasts etc. Maybe that would be good for you too. I don’t like the sound of your taking your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. Maybe I should get one for me too!
        Thanks for your comments re Marnie. Pretty soon I’m going to have to start doing some research about these situations. Don’t make it too soon – please! 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        You have plenty of time to explore Marnie (at your own pace)! And that’s a good idea about a recorder, though I rarely drive these days!

  21. lucciagray says:

    Wonderful Flash Charli. Stillborn children are so powerful. They seem to exist for mothers and siblings. I know because my imaginary friend for many years was my stillborn sister. My flash is related to another topic you also mention: Demential, where the lines between reality and fiction are trully blurred… Here’s my take on the prompt.


    Someone had locked the door and hidden the key, so he crawled out through the window.
    His clothes and shoes were no longer where he had left them, so he walked through the streets in his slippers and pyjamas.
    When he tried to return, the house was no longer on the same road. They had built a lake in its place.
    He flew across and landed in a spaceship where some Martians were experimenting on a new species.
    He smiled at the alien and asked, ‘The man in that mirror looks familiar. Is he your chief? what’s his name?’

    The symptoms of Alzeimer’s are devastating. I watched my father and several aunts suffer and die as a result of this alienating and cruel illness. The process in gradual, but eventually everything is misplaced and misunderstood. They seem to inhabit a new planet full of aliens, including themselves.

    Sorry I haven’t had a chance to comment on the others yet. I’ll be doing so tomorrow.

    • Charli Mills says:

      What a powerful analogy — that Alzeimer’s is like inhabiting a new planet. From the observer’s side, it’s just as alienating. What a clever way to put that thought into a flash fiction. The poignancy comes through with a bit of humor. It’s a gentle story about a hard illness.

      Amazing that you had your sister as an imaginary friend. Having a stillborn in the family is a bit like trying to explain an alien sighting. Unless others “see” it it doesn’t seem real.

  22. […] Charli Mills has set us down a strange path this week. […]

  23. TanGental says:

    You’ve a wide range of replies this week Charli and again congrats on your year. Here’s my little piece.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yes, indeed! Interesting responses to symptoms. It’s part of the wonderful madness of where prompts lead. Unicorns was the most shocking! 🙂 And that is when Mary’s story began. Interesting turn this week. Do I detect some healing and understanding?

  24. […] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]

  25. Love your flash this week, Charli. Absolutely brilliant. This was a tough prompt for me and I look forward to reading what others made of it. So here’s my contribution — Breakfast in Bed:

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Sarah! t seemed easy — wake up and write! 🙂 Funny that it was about a flash fiction character. Even in dreams we plot and pants…

      It was an odd prompt, I think. But I like that you took it to breakfast in bed…off to read!

  26. […] “Character Symptoms” was this week’s prompt for the Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  27. Good afternoon from Australia!

    Been overwhelmed this past week with many different aspects of life. 35 weeks along! 😀 Super excited, tired, sore, and cannot wait to hold another tiny bundle in my arms. Also been focused primarily on my WIP, trying to power through that, I can’t wait until I finish it and can start fixing up everything I’m refusing to reread.

    You certainly provided a challenge for this prompt! And I almost opted out but I pushed myself to think of SOMETHING.

    Now I did link to this post in my Flash Fiction piece but the link doesn’t seem to be appearing, so I’ll leave it here:

    I hope you enjoy it, and I can’t wait to read the diverse collection of others.

    Great work Charli 🙂 As always. Providing inspiration for many of us.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Somewhere I saw a picture of a pregnant woman and it read, “My super power is creation.” 🙂 It’s an exciting and exhausting time. Working on a WIP is almost like double-creation!

      The link appears when I get to the comments page and I’ve been having internet problems the past couple of weeks. It shows up now, but I’m glad you linked here, too. That way I’m sure to see it as are others!

      Thank you for pushing through a challenging prompt!

  28. I’m sad because the world lost a brilliant writer last week. And I lost my hero. Thankfully, Sir Terry Pratchett left a lot of absolutely fantastic stories behind! The point? As always your prompts perfectly reflect the point I’m standing at, Charli. Sir Terry died because of dementia, he had early onset Alzheimers which took away the parts of his brain he needed to write with. I can’t imagine anything worse than that. I haven’t done him justice, don’t think I ever could. Hell, I don’t think I’ve even stuck properly to the instructions of the prompt! But it’s my goodbye to him …

    Soaring high above the disc on wings of exquisitely fine-chiselled thought-forms … following the orb as its light flows, slow as honey, to illuminate plains and mountains … listening to chittering nastinesses, poised to become the creatures of the dungeon dimensions … so many friends, Unseen, underneath, treading cobbles, tending dragons, Oblong to Post Office, lost now, no anchor to hold them fast to the disc.

    Oh, agile mind, where are you? The Creator’s lifeblood slowly, inexorably cut away, piece by piece dismantled, will raise no more steam on disc or globe. But the legacy will never die. The End.

    Here’s the link to the post on my b(l)og … there’s some lovely Discworld book cover artwork there too …

    Brightest Blessings to ALL,
    Tally 🙁

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, wow! What a tribute, and what a literary loss to us all! The idea of all those stories and creative thoughts being dismantled with “no anchor to hold them fast to the disc” is like watching paint come undone from the canvas. I’m honored that you’d share your tribute to Sir Terry here. Blessings in return!

  29. […] response to Charli’s 99 word prompt where Charli invites you to join the rough writers with a short piece or read those that are […]

  30. […] I am now a part of *squeal* :). Her fantastic challenges never fail to inspire, this week it was: March 18, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story to reveal a characters symptoms. It can be something […]

  31. paulamoyer says:

    Back in action here! Here’s one about General Anxiety Disorder

    Anxiety in Control

    By Paula Moyer

    Everyone around Gloria knew. All her life people had alluded to it, just said “Gloria’s a worrier.” And in the 1920s and 1930s, being a “worrier” was all she had to work with.

    The family motto: “Don’t worry Mother.” Her daughter Frances’s bike wreck caused a black bruise from her chest to her knee. Gloria knew nothing. Frances hid her bruise.

    Her third baby, Anne, was breech; the doctor told her husband, but not her: “Don’t worry Gloria.”

    When Anne needed shots for asthma, Gloria’s hand shook so she could barely give them.

    Frances, 11 years old, learned how.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Welcome back to the saddle, Paula! And with a clearly powerful flash, too! The mingling of medical advances and historic minimizing of anxiety (especially in women) makes for a fascinating piece.

  32. paulamoyer says:

    I’m starting to love Ramona, Charli.

  33. […] couple of weeks ago, I didn’t plan to add to it.  But then Charli gave us this week’s Flash Fiction prompt to write a story revealing a character’s symptoms and I couldn’t resist having […]

  34. Sherri says:

    Here’s my flash Charli, hope not too late, realised you are still only 7 hours behind as our clocks don’t go forward until this weekend! Decided to have some fun with Water Rat and write part two. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  35. paulamoyer says:

    Also — thanks for your kind words about the “sister-mom” link!

  36. […] Check out some of the other stories. […]

  37. Charli I am getting way behind. I have visited and been working my way down the comments and visiting those who have put in entries but I’m only up to Anne and not yet commented on your own wonderful post and flash. Congratulations on the 99 word flash reaching a year old. It seems to have developed from babyhood into a mature entity in that time and that is thanks to you reining us in, feeding us good fodder and keeping that stable warm and inviting.
    I love the way you work through the processes that get you to the prompt each week and this is no exception. “Solo twin” is such an evocative expression as is the fear of dementia. Something that we too think about and worry it is upon us when we do stupid things.
    Your flash was poignant . The poor woman with her stillborn twins – reunited as she lost her identity. Certainly the symptoms fitted the diagnosis.

  38. […] prompt for this week’s Flash Fiction challenge of ‘Juxtaposition‘ (see full explanation below) had me thinking, because it […]

  39. Sherri says:

    Argh Charli, would you believe it, I got my flash out last night with a couple of hours to spare – wonders never cease, ha! – but had to sign off and go out for the evening, totally forgetting to send the link over here! Hope you caught it in time. Anyway, here it is, a day late, but hope you enjoy part three of ‘Water Rat’, to conclude, and looking forward to your theme for the start of a new month, beginning today! Happy April First, no fool us 😉

    • Charli Mills says:

      I was up late getting every story and I was worried abut missing any because I hadn’t been able to save each one to Facebook while I was away. So I finally posted, was linking up on social media and happened to see you FB post. I thought I missed it! So very quickly, I added it and thought, Sherri will never know! Ha, ha! 😀

      • Sherri says:

        Oh you are a star Charli, thanks so much!! No you didn’t miss it, entirely my fault. Thank goodness for FB!! 😀

  40. […] In response to the Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Symptoms […]

  41. […] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]

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