October 14: 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.

October 15, 2021

The west-facing wall of my Unicorn Room holds two important developmental tools of my craft. A three-foot by three-foot cork board displays a visual representation of the plot and character arc for my thesis novel and a similar-sized white board shows the bones of a story in progress. One is a Vision Board and the other a W-storyboard. Above the W, purple vinyl letters on shell-pink paint read, “No mud, no lotus.”

This quote, the title of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book on mindful living, reminds me to embrace the mud required to write books from within the depths of my mind, heart, and soul. Some might mistake my long process for perfectionism. That is not what I seek in my writing. I aim for truth which takes years of diving into the mud, trusting the lotus to bloom.

Not everyone writes the same way. Some barely process at all and yet, make wonders of surface material. I think of writers who naturally observe the details of people and write stories — drama, horror, comedy — with flair and ease. Others write with intellect, emotion, or both. Some dabble when the mood strikes. Many follow the story that begs for release.

No matter planner, pantser, or plantser, every writer encounters mud.

Planners do exactly what it sounds like they do — they plan. I hold an image of my eldest in mind. From an early age, she planned her life in lists. She journals and monitors data. When she was 12, she convinced me to track the number of infant and mother mortalities in the graveyards where I collected stories. She wanted to track and discern. Today she works for a science data organization, planning communications between scientists and media. She plans before she writes with the precision of a Dungeon Master.

Pantsers are the free-spirited writers chasing the lead of a story by the seat of their pants. Pantsers live in perpetual media res. They don’t know the beginning or the end, they write what comes to them and follow what unfolds. They don’t know the plot; that’s what they are writing to discover. They love their characters and fall in love with the dozens more that step out onto their pages. They don’t whip the WIP, they ride it into the sunset.

Plantsers combine the elements of planning with the discovery of free-writing. Some plantsers outline from the beginning and others track their plot as it unfolds. Every writer eventually comes to terms with the reality of needing both attributes. Planners have to draft their plans and pantsers have to frame their drafts. Both will come to a tentative, “The End,” and require a Revision Plan. It’s revision that confounds many writers. But we aren’t there yet.

We are talking mud because it’s time to embrace the suck, which is warrior slang for accepting the friction that comes from facing the unpleasant inevitable. Writers face the mud when planning or pantsing stalls. No matter your best laid plans or your pages of drafting, the story will get stuck. It’s part of the process. We anticipate mud this time of year because it is NaNoPlaNo. Time to plan (yes, Pantsers, this includes you) for National Novel Writing Month.

This year, Carrot Ranch will be a NaNoWriMo Mentor. Once a week, I’ll offer tips and encouragement to participants, which will be useful for all writers beyond the month-long event. I’ve started The Congress of Rough Writers group at NaNoWriMo and if you want to join, you need to send me your official member handle at the site. If you have never NaNoed before and want to go for it, I’ll help you get started. Email me at wordsforpeople@gmail.com. I’m a huge fan of the event and organization. NaNoWriMo is an incubator, global community, and the best writing tool for drafting (yes, Planners, this tool is for you, too).

The reason I have a Vision Board and W-Storyboard mounted on the wall opposite from where I meditate and commune with Unicorns is because I want/need kinesthetic tools for my craft. I interact with both boards, involving my body in the mind and heart process of writing. I also create music playlists and dance when I’m stuck mentally. I believe in mudding tools.

99-words is a tool, too. NaNoWriMo is sixteen 99-word stories a day. It takes five minutes to draft 99-words, so roughly it will take an hour and a half to write 1,667 words a day. That’s speed drafting, which happens on the good days. Count on three hours of writing on the slowest days. NaNoWriMo teaches you the value of stick-to-it-ness. In 30 days you will have gone from 99 words to 50,000.

The best way to deal with the mud is to plan for it (settle down, Planners; stop whining Pantsers).

I may as well say it. “Hi, I’m Charli Mills and I’m a recovering Pantser.” My deep processing and pantsing inclination seemed a match made in Muse Heaven but not so. They languished, lost in the wilderness of never-ending-stories. I’ve learned to use planning for my deep processing and to allow pantsing during dream time (pre-writing phase) and scheduled drafting stints. My profs were right — never again will I draft a novel without a Plan. My MFA program introduced me to tools and I will share some of them with you. I encourage you to explore each one, try them on, and keep what fits. I’ve created my own hybrid of planning starting with the simple and ending with the complexity of combined plot and character arc that I can map on my W.

NaNoPlaNo (Planning for Drafting)

A few other resources can help you in the planning phase, or be used as references throughout your drafting. One is TV Tropes. We’ve used this resource at Carrot Ranch to develop wickedly fun and unexpected prompts during the TUFF challenges. It details genres you didn’t even know existed. It’s a great way to jumpstart plotting or character development. The other is a Name Generator. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in the mud because you can’t come up with a quick name for the character who just walked onto the page.

I’d like to welcome any writers from Finlandia, especially those in Helsinki Slang, the university writing group. I’ll be planning weekly NaNoWriMo Write-ins with our fabulous campus library and providing a Zoom Room for any Carrot Ranchers who want to write-in, too. If you have NaNoWriMo questions, you can add them to the comments and stories below. If anyone in the community wants to answer, please join in! We all embrace the power of diverse perspectives and lived experiences at the Ranch.

And before we embrace the mud, please note the extended deadline. I will be on the North Shore of my beloved Lady Lake Superior for a week in Two Harbors, Minnesota with a dear Minneapolis friend who has a condo. I get to teach classes via Zoom and sit by the fireplace in between hikes, train rides, agate hunting, and working on client projects. I’m currently wrapping up a book I’ve been researching and editing since June and have two days to finish it. And I survived my first mid-term grading period.

Life is good, though muddy at times.

“Without suffering, there’s no happiness. So we shouldn’t discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.”

~ Thích Nh?t H?nh

October 14, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story embraces the mud. What is the mud, real or metaphor? How does it transform a character or place? What happens? Go where the prompt leads!

EXTENDED DEADLINE Respond by October 26, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Face Down in the Mud by Charli Mills

Max howled when her ankle buckled, sending her face first into the Keweenaw mud. Rain pounded. The trail morphed into a rivulet. She refused to drown in a mud puddle. She pushed up; her upper body still Marine-strong. That blasted leg. Useless foot. Unreliable ankle. Her second howl had nothing to do with unhealable soft tissue. Without her unit, without a purpose, life sucked. Embrace the suck. She managed to rise to one knee, the other leg mired. When her dad emerged from the woods, her relief was genuine. Even if he was wearing a wet pink gauze skirt.

????????????

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160 Comments

  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    A Dirty Story

    “Well, Pal, I cert’nly didn’t see this post comin’.”
    “Reckon thet’s ‘cause ya got mud in yer eye, Kid. Looks like ya mighta already embraced the muck.”
    “Yeah, was fetchin’ sticks fer Curly an’ her beaver friends. But I don’t wanna talk ‘bout that no more. NaNoWriMo? Is Shorty serious?”
    “Gonna do it Kid?”
    “Heck no.”
    “Yer jist a stick in the mud.”
    “Dammed if I am, Pal. I got chores ta tend to. Asides, I ain’t got any novel ideas.”
    “That ain’t nuthin’ new. Since ya got yer whine out Kid, a toast— here’s mud in yer eye!”

  2. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    There’s so much to learn from consistency in art. It’s a beautiful thing to know that we can create no matter how we feel, to experience the strength and joy of pushing through the mud and coming out with something new and messy. I love to say “done is better than perfect, and perfect is impossible”. It helps. A lot.

    I look forward to reading and learning more from the tips you’ll be sharing over the next month and a bit. Enjoy your time away!

      • Doug Jacquier

        Where can I get that dreamware? Both powerful and romantic. Loved it.

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thanks Doug, I’m really glad you enjoyed this one. I don’t often write romance, it’s a vulnerable spot for me, but the imagery and prompt inspired it, I just had to find a way to add the sci-fi elements.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Hi, Rebecca. I know that you see sci-fi as your natural metier and I would never suggest you ignore your instincts but it’s the underlying humanity that makes the best sci-fi IMHO. If you haven’t already done so, try dipping into Kurt Vonnegut, especially Slaughter House 5 and Cat’s Cradle. Cheers, Doug,

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thanks for the recommendations Doug, I’ll add them to my read-next list and get back to you when I do. I’ve heard both mentioned highly before so I’m keen to get into them now you’ve also suggested them. I agree about your point on humanity in all stories too, it’s the characters that make the sci-fi concepts compelling. I’m reading Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem at the moment, his characters are compelling and vivid so far. Discovering how the characters react to the coming changes in their world is what drives a reader forward. For my piece, it was less about trying to force the sci-in, and more about wondering how the two characters I was so compelled to write could be influenced by future technology. I thought the romance was stilted, but I’m glad it came through.

      • Doug Jacquier

        A line like ‘That night I dreamed of tangible thoughts, tendrils reaching, seeking connection. He welcomed them, and I saw myself through his eyes, but without anger, just- Love.’ is far from stilted.
        I’d happily steal that and I just might. 🙂

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thanks Doug. And I’d love to see how you use those words.

      • Norah

        Nice. I like it, Rebecca.

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Rebecca, the dreamware sounds fabulous! 😀

      • Jules

        Oddly enough it works when you use it in the post, just not as a copy and paste.

    • Norah

      I like that saying, Rebecca. I’ll keep it in mind.

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thanks D.! I try to make it a weekly thing. Extended deadlines help me prep early too, it works great.

    • Charli Mills

      So true, about consistency, but we can also embrace evolution. I think we consistently show up and be open to how our art evolves. Good point Doug makes about genre — we relate to the humanity of characters no matter the setting, technology, or new frontiers. You demonstrate both the power of character-driven stories in sci-fi as well as pushing into craft. And a second story emerged!

  3. joanne the geek

    I tend to be a pantser. I’m too chaotic to do that much planning, though I do sometimes work to an outline. Most of the time I’m feeling my way forward intuitively. My intuition has led me through two novels, and innumerable stories and poems.

      • joanne the geek

        Yes, but a fairly basic one.

      • joanne the geek

        Also I said I tend to be a pantser, as in I lean that way, but it doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally plan a story out…

    • Charli Mills

      An important part of the writing process is to know what works for us, Joanne. You understand what works for you.

  4. Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

    I love that notion of the mud and lotus – another analogy would be the manure that helps grow our food!

    A 99-word story in five minutes? No, that’s not me. Which might be why I missed last week’s deadline – could have done with the delayed deadline then. But never mind, I’ll make something out of the mud.

    I’ve become much more of a planner with each subsequent novel and I agree that planning starts with the premise. (I’ll check out your resources later.) I don’t plan everything in advance – I couldn’t – but my last two drafts were planned right down to word count.

    I’ve never done NaNoWrMo and might have been tempted to join you this year (albeit knowing I wouldn’t make the daily word count) except that I have those two drafts to revise already. Which is my next project, now that I’ve slowed down on the new book promo. I really don’t want any new novel ideas.

    Enjoy your time at the lake. I’m sure it will be beautiful.

    • Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

      Was there love beneath the dirt, or indifference?

      The memory was muddied, all detail obscured by layers of grime. A brother, a sister, an indistinct gift. He’d tried to restore it, but the water was fouled with boarding-school bullying. The cloths frayed by military constraints. Later, with a cupboard full of fancy cleaning products, Henry hesitated to use them. Afraid of what he’d find underneath.

      Continues:
      https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal/the-memory-by-judith-barrow-a-review-and-a-videoed-conversation

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Poor ol’ Henry. In many ways as befuddled and muddled as his sister.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Good analogy, Anne. From good sh** grows good food. Yes, after my MFA, I recognized the place of planning. In the book industry, most authors on contract have to submit a detailed synopsis for subsequent books before writing them. Debut authors may take ten to twenty years to learn to write that first novel, but afterward, they may have only a year or two to crank out the next. That’s why there are planning tools and coaching. But we writers are all so different so a variety of planning tools offer us choices for a better fit. Wishing you all the best with your revisions! And yes, the lake was beautiful.

  5. Donna Matthews

    Have a wonderful trip ????????????

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Donna! I think it was the last of the “good” weather until next spring. I did get some nice fall hiking.

    • Charli Mills

      This narrator is not a fan of mud! Ah, but the sunset might compel different thoughts about a muddy planet.

  6. Reena Saxena

    Reblogged this on Reena Saxena and commented:
    Nano Wrimo guidelines …. by Charli Mills

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Reena!

  7. Michael B. Fishman

    I love Thich Nhat Hanh and I think his books – or just paragraphs from his books – should be required reading in every classroom. I think every news broadcast should begin and end with a quote from one of his books. He just turned 95 this past week. ?

    NaNoWriMo is intimidating for me. I guess I’m a pantser so I have no idea where I’m going. It’s 7:59 AM right now and I still don’t know what I want to eat for breakfast. Now I’m going to plan out a month of writing that, on day 30, will actually make sense, and be recognizable as an ending for what happened on day one? Me? Unlikely. And it’s intimidating on a different level because I think a writer has to believe they have something to say.

    Thank you for the links. I’m going to read them and see if I can prove myself wrong.

    Enjoy your time in Minnesota!

    • Norah

      Sounds like I should read some books by Thich Nhat Hanh.

      • Michael B. Fishman

        I hate to say anyone ‘should’ anything, but they’re very good.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Michael. I’ve added them to my list. Is there one you would recommend I try first?

      • Charli Mills

        Norah, I think you’d value “Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet.”

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. I’ll look for it. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      What a great idea to use Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom to open and close what influences our thinking.

      Michael, it’s okay to land on Day 30 with a bucket full of mud. There are tools for sorting scenes. If you are a pantser, you can just go for it and write and use the planning tools after you end up with material. Let that “something to say” bubble up in your writing. It can be hard to nail down.

      You can start with Story Spine. Keep it simple.

      Minnesota was lovely! The Northshore had a beautiful full moonrise.

    • Charli Mills

      I believe we can use elements of both planning and pantsing, Reena. Oh, you wrote about Sita! Have you ever seen the animation, “Sita Sings the Blues”?

      • Reena Saxena

        Not yet. Will check it out.

  8. Sarah Brentyn

    Ah, yes, it’s NaNo time. All the planners, pantsers, and plantsers will be trying their best to get those words out. I’ve never done NaNo, preferring to cheer from the sidelines. (Great prompt: Mud!)

    • Charli Mills

      Cheering helps participants, no matter, pants or not.

  9. denmaniacs4

    I suppose I went all Abbott and Costello with this one and then got bogged down

    Mud Lark

    ‘I’m in a fix.’
    ‘ ’Bout what?’
    “My mind’s all muddled.’
    ‘I got that. What’s troubling you?’
    ‘My mudder.’
    “Your mother?’
    ‘No. My mudder.’
    ‘Good thing it’s not your mother. I thought she passed.’
    ‘She did. Years ago. No, like I said, it’s my mudder.’
    ‘I’m still confused. What’s your mudder?’
    ‘Oh, sorry. Didn’t I tell you?’
    ‘Tell me what?’
    ‘I bought a mudder.’
    ‘That is…clear as mud. What did you buy?’
    ‘A mudder. A racehorse. That runs in mud.’
    ‘You bought a horse? To race in the mud?’
    ‘Supposed to be a great deal. Might even clean up.’

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Doug Jacquier

      Inspired take, Bill, as always. Abbott and Costello live! 🙂

    • Norah

      Funny!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Can’t say that’s dry humor…
      Hay- does the mudder eat fodder?

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha!

    • Charli Mills

      That would be a fun one to record, Bill! A witty classic born of mud.

  10. robertawrites235681907

    Hi Charli, this is a great post. I don’t know how people write without some sort of outline. I always have my ending when I start writing and I write towards that ending. I have some planning of direction, but I do fill a lot of the detail in as I go along.

    • pedometergeek

      That’s what my husband says, “He knows the ending when he starts, but sometimes his characters demand detours and he will follow them until they return to the correct path. ~nan

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Robbie, I admit that I was worried that planning would stifle the flow of story, characters and details, but pleasantly surprised to find out that planning expanded the flow. It’s good to have a framework to contain the bookends of beginning and ending.

      • robertawrites235681907

        Hi Charli, that is how it is for me too. I find adding the meat easier with a defined skeleton.

  11. floridaborne

    I believe this is my 5th year of NaNoWriMo. It was a lot of fun the first year. I wrote one book in 20 days. There’s nothing like inspiration.

    This is my 99 word prompt about a muddy situation.

    “We’ve found the planet! Captain Aliston shouted,” overjoyed at the discovery.
    .
    His second in command said, “Perhaps we should observe their rituals prior to disembarking.”
    .
    “June,” he chuckled. “You Earthers are a suspicious lot.”
    .
    “I’ll watch the ship so that you and your brother can embrace the eternal mud pit.”
    .
    “That’s acceptable,” Aliston said.
    .
    The reptilian twins entered their small shuttle with full armament. The insectoids greeted them, happy to show off their eternal mud pit. Peace…sleep. Minutes later, the insectoids tore apart the brother’s comatose bodies.
    .
    June grinned. “They should have done their research before giving me command.”

    • Liz H

      Perfidy, they name is June!
      (Mwahahahahaha!)

      • floridaborne

        You took it in the spirit with which it was written. ????????

    • Doug Jacquier

      Love it. Mud fever destroys alien invaders. 🙂

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. ????

      • floridaborne

        Guys rarely do — no matter which planet you visit. ????

    • Charli Mills

      I do enjoy the jolt of inspiration from NaNo. I have too many other projects, my own and clients, to manage but I’m looking forward to shifting toward a support position this year. Your flash is well balanced between suspense, mystery, and skeptical survival.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks.

  12. Norah

    I love that last sentence of your flash, Charli. It made me laugh out loud. Dads do come in handy sometimes, regardless of their quirks.
    What a busy time you have ahead. I’m sure many will benefit from your expertise during the month of November’s writing flurry. Congratulations on surviving the marking. I hope you enjoyed it. Enjoy your time by the shore. That sounds delightful too. I look forward to learning from the tips you post here at the Ranch. I wish you a successful NaNoWriMo.

    • Norah

      Here’s my story: https://norahcolvin.com/2021/10/20/mud-cake-recipe-flashfiction/

      Mud Cake Recipe
      How to Make Mud Cake
      Ingredients
      A patch of loose soil
      A generous supply of water from the sky, hose or bucket
      Rays of sunlight
      A sprinkle of imagination
      A torrent of laughter

      Utensils
      Gumboots

      Method
      Add enough water to soak the soil. It must be wet, not moist.
      Stomp until well-mixed with no visible remnants of dry soil.
      Squish the mush by hand until the hands are completely encased.
      Spread by hand the gooey mixture over face, hair and clothing until well covered.
      Terrorise the neighbourhood.
      Leave in place until dry in the sun and the mud cakes.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Excellent. And here was I thinking you were going to shape them into pies and convince the less mature kids that they were chocolate pies, just like we did when were evil little buggers growing up. 🙂

      • Norah

        I thought about – next time. 🙂 Sounds like you were good at terrorising the neighbourhood with mud pies too. 🙂

      • Jules

        I did that one summer when the adults wanted to ‘talk’ inside.
        They didn’t appreciate the Mud Pies though… they were stick in the muds!

      • Norah

        ???????? That’s so funny, Jules. I wish I’d thought to end my story that way. 🙂

      • pedometergeek

        Norah, One summer we made pots of dirt,. It worked because our soil has a high content of clay. They dried and stayed together. Voila, dishes!

      • Norah

        Awesome! I wonder is that how they were originally invented. ????

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        That just got better and better, a lovely thing to do! Yeah, I didn’t expect but was delighted with cake as a verb there at the end.

      • Norah

        Thanks, D. I’m pleased it worked. 🙂

      • Norah

        Here’s a conclusion to the story: https://norahcolvin.com/2021/10/27/a-muddy-conclusion-flashfiction/

        A Muddy Conclusion
        “It’s just mud. It’ll wash off.”
        “But it’s everywhere. Those children are unruly. My children would never —”
        “And where are your children now?”
        “Hmpff!” said the neighbour, stomping home, muttering about impudence, inconsideration and downright rudeness. “You haven’t heard the last of this.”
        “Come on,” said the mother. “Let’s get you and the fence cleaned up.”
        With buckets, brushes and rags, the children washed the fence. When it was done, they turned on each other. “Bullseye! Got you!” They tussled and tumbled. Laughter filled the air.
        The neighbour glowered at the mud-covered children. “Well, I never,” she said.

    • Charli Mills

      We learn to appreciate the bumps and barnacles and excessive glitter of our parents, don’t we? Now your flash is a recipe for fun! This year, I will take on a mentorship NaNo role. I’m looking forward to it!

      • Norah

        Enjoy your mentorship role, Charli. I know many others will benefit from it.

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Charli I like these characters in your flash and am glad that’s Keweenaw mud she’s stuck in. Just hope she gets unmired before snow flies.
    Here’s a recurring vet character of mine.
    ###

    “No!”
    “It’s alright, Robert.” Thomas rose, speaking softly. “Me and Zach are just playing in the mud.”
    Where the brook cut the pasture, the cows’ crossings and watering made a muddy trench.
    “What’s wrong with your brother?”
    “Sometimes he remembers something he’d like to forget.”
    Zach picked up a stick and brandished it like a musket. “Let’s go Thomas, there’s Rebs behind that stonewall.”
    “No, Zach. Robert says we should never play at war.”
    Zach marched off alone with the stick cradled neatly on his shoulder.
    Robert shook his head, looked around.
    “Look, Robert, see the barn? You’re home.”

    • Norah

      That’s a sad story in the mud. I remember Robert from when he returned from the war.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yep, my Civil War vet Vermont farmer. Thomas, all of six, looks after him when he has a bad time.

      • Norah

        ????

    • Charli Mills

      Brothers looking out for each other. Good way to explain it, D.: “Sometimes he remembers something he’d like to forget.”

  14. Hugh W. Roberts

    99 words in five minutes? I guess for a first draft, but most of my 99-word stories take days to finalise themselves, even though I class myself as a pantser. That first draft is like the bones of the story. It’s putting the meat on the bones that take time. I don’t think I’ve ever liked the first draft of any of my stories.

    Good luck with helping out at NaNoWriMo, Charli. And enjoy your time away.

    • suespitulnik

      I’m with you, Hugh. I spent two weeks trying to figure out a way to describe the scene that was in my head. At least I made the deadline. Hehe.

      • Hugh W. Roberts

        I don’t know how some writers can write and publish a response within hours of a prompt being published, Sue. They must have superhuman powers. Even if I do come up with something, I always find I can improve the first draft several times when I go back to it. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard many writers and authors say, ‘The first draft of any story is s**t. ????

    • Charli Mills

      First draft only, Hugh. It’s meant to be a spark. Revision is where we can make the words sing. I like the bones analogy. It can be unnerving to share raw bones, but it also leads to insight and inspiration. You are wise to give revision longer time! Thanks! I’m looking forward to mentoring and enjoyed getting to see the North Share.

  15. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    ApPrehensive

    “Well, Kid, mebbe this mud yer callin’ coffee will motivate yer writin’.”
    “I ain’t so worried ‘bout slingin’ mud, Pal. Reckon I kin come up with 99 words in two weeks.”
    “Still worryin’ ‘bout NaNoWriMo, Kid?”
    “That’s more’n 99-words times 505!”
    “So? Thet’s less’n seventeen 99-word flashes a day. Ain’t gotta be perfect neither.”
    “All strung t’gether inta one big story! I ain’t gotta prayer.”
    “Could be yer premier novel Kid.”
    “Thinkin’ thet’s premature thinkin’ Pal.”
    “Don’t prescind from this opportun’ty. You kin do this.”
    “Much ’preciated Pal, but I cain’t promise prose if I ain’t got a premise.”

    • Liz H

      Hey Kid, sometimes you get to the premise by letting fly on the keyboard. Those words count toward the 50000, too!

      • Charli Mills

        Give your writer nudge, Pal. Let her know she’s catchin’ stories.

    • Norah

      Is your writer up for it, Kid? What say you, Pal?

  16. Liz H

    Slogging through some mud to get to the clarity part. This is what arrived in between numerous appointments:

    Late Night Mudslide

    The dirt road that stretched into the darkness was flooded. Their car, tire flattened, windshield cracked and leaking, had slid into the ditch.
    “You’re sure this is it?”
    Thunder rumbled an ominous warning growl…
    https://valleyofthetrolls.blog/2021/10/17/late-night-mudslide/

    • Charli Mills

      Your writing went on the road with you, Liz! Slogging and mud-wiping are acts of writers caring for their wee story lotuses.

    • Liz H

      It’s a slippery slope that blows no good…
      These were very funny!

    • Norah

      Love this gang!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s all you got to do, D. — let Marge, Ernest and Friends talk!

  17. paulamoyer

    Great prompt, Charli! And great story with a great last line! I’ve figured out how to comment again!

    Love that you’ll be on the North Shore (tell her hi) and that you’ll be a NaNoWriMo mentor. The weekly Zoom write-ins really helped me last year; you’re a natural for that role.

  18. Doug Jacquier

    Without wishing to seem indelicate, Charli, perhaps your new-found interest in skirts is symbolic of your increasing disdain for pantsing. 😉

    My contribution this week of course bears no relevance to modern times.

    “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.”

    Claudius watched the daily parade of insanity pass by until incredulity died within him and he could but sit, glazed-eyed, and pray for early deliverance. What could possibly save the human race from a world where logic was considered madness, everything was a commodity and compassion had been sent to the museum for children to laugh at, along with the other moral antiquities? His only comfort was that such a society would soon implode under the weight of its iniquity and sink into the mud of history and he would do all that he could to hasten that moment.

    • Liz H

      Oh dear! Your video appears to be blocked, due to country or copyright…

      • Doug Jacquier

        Damn! That’s yet another violation of our sovereign rights. 😉

        It’s a quote attributed to the Emperor Claudius in the Robert Graves novels and in the TV series.

        Claudius, a life long advocate for the return of the Republic, at the end of his life decides he has made the Roman imperial system palatable, and to ensure the return of the Republic he must make the empire so loathsome as to make it a stink in the nostrils of Rome.

      • Liz H

        Well done! I went straight to Derek Jacobi in the role. And of course, Caligula did his best to “help.”

    • Norah

      That’s serious stuff, Doug. I don’t know enough about this history.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Huh. Despite your disclaimer, I did find this relevant…

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Touche, or tutu funny, Doug. Bummer, we can’t see your video in America. But I can get an impression of what it entails. I’m working on a historical project for a client and reading newspapers from 1935 and 1952 reminds me of today’s stories.

  19. Colleen M. Chesebro

    I visited the poetry oracle for some poetic inspiration:

    “From Mud”

    Breathe in the daffodil-yellow moonshine glow
    as dawn’s sacred songs wander like a sweet water stream
    through the dark-colored rocks to the rapids below,
    where magic smolders in the beauty of the moment.

    Wander deep inside this thick verdant forest garden
    where the moss-rock green spirit world
    meets the darkness with pure light,
    where sun sweetened songs play in harmony
    as peaceful night moon lichen blooms
    in a fertile Eden sanctuary,
    born from spring rains and winter’s mud.

    Therein lies the enigma of nature’s rebirth…
    each periodic cycle originates from soil and moisture
    and terminates with air and fire.

    © Colleen M. Chesebro

    • Jules

      Natural magic! ????

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        It was the word play I enjoyed. <3

      • Jules

        Word play can be like that… unmuddied (unmuddled) natural magic across the page 🙂

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        So true. It feels good to just let my mind wander through the words, nature, and even the mud! <3

      • Jules

        Swishy wishy!! ????

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Throughout there is the interplay of color, of gold green light and mud wet dark. Cool poem.

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Thanks, D. It was fun to let my imagination run into the forest for a visit. ????

    • Charli Mills

      Beautiful, Colleen! When the veil thins as we approach the dark of the year at Samhain, do you think the poetry oracle becomes more inspiring?

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        I think at this we open our minds to the possibilities. There’s a natural rhythm to the year’s end we all sense. The Oracle responds because we’ve open to receive the creativity. ????????????

  20. pedometergeek

    Embracing the Mud

    Every so often, Aloysius would wander down to the farm where the pigs lived. He considered those pigs his friends.

    The pigs, which Aloysius saved, loved wallowing in the mud especially if it was hot. That’s what they were doing when Aloysius arrived. The pigs invited the white cat into joining them, but Aloysius declined.

    The mud looked messy and sticky. Aloysius was a fastidious feline, and he didn’t want to clean the mud off his fur afterwards.

    When a piglet fell into the puddle and began to flail around, however, Aloysius willingly jumped in, pulling the piglet out.

    Nancy Brady, 2021

    Gee, now that I realize that the deadline has been extended, I might just have to revise this some more. Or not…I’m a pantser and procrastinator, too.

    • Doug Jacquier

      What a lovely illustrative story. Problem is I don’t believe cats like Aloysius exist. 🙂

      • pedometergeek

        Doug,
        Of course normal cats don’t act this way (they are too self-centered for that), but this is magical realism/fantasy. Aloysius is a cat who received magical powers in a fountain in the labyrinth/maze. These tales all started after one of Charli Mills’ prompts. I have just continued writing about Aloysius when I can work a story into the prompts. I can’t always, but I keep trying. Eventually, I will stop writing about Aloysius when it is no longer fun.

    • Norah

      I love the happy ending to your story, Nan. It’s ends just the way I like things to. 🙂

      • pedometergeek

        Thanks Norah. Appreciate it. I like happy endings, too.

      • Norah

        ????

    • Charli Mills

      This cat has good character, Nan.

    • Charli Mills

      This story will stick with me, Jane!

      • Jane Aguiar

        Thank you so much ??

  21. Sam "Goldie" Kirk

    This extended deadline came at a perfect time! Entered. I will read the entire post tomorrow.

    • Charli Mills

      Hey, good to see your golden writing!

  22. Jules

    Charli and all who do the November Write thing – Good Luck!
    It’s not my thing…

    Yes, Charli… your flash reveals that our parents can embarrass us. And yet we need to gift them some credit, or we wouldn’t be here at all! 🙂

    I went with a poem, a slight smooshing with another prompt. I usually don’t do rhyme either…However here’s;

    Dire Straits?
    (a poem in 99 words)

    How can good mud dare
    Claim with instructions to rinse and repeat
    Promise to make ones face fair
    Seems to me to be a cheat

    Can a pretty face compare
    To a day belonging to a summer’s retreat?
    I’ve worked so hard to place every hair
    Yet, all strands flare, is this defeat?

    I flutter and preen
    To impress the beau
    My true self remains unseen
    Hidden, so deep, below

    I cry when tossed for the beauty queen
    I’d love a pond of mud to swallow…
    Her true personality is quite mean!
    Should I take back the rebounding fellow?

    © JP/dh

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      No. Don’t take him back.
      Fun poem Jules!

      • Jules

        🙂

    • Liz H

      No way! Tip that shallow man into a deep pool of mud!

      • Jules

        Seems to be the consensus. 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Got it, Jules — you are a NaNoNoNo! 😉 Thanks for the luck and the fine poetry.

  23. Sam "Goldie" Kirk

    Aren’t you busy enough? You had to go and add more things to your plate? I won’t be participating in NaNo this year, but I’m sure you will be a much-appreciated resource for those that do.

    Thank you for sharing some of the resources that helped you.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, and, well, yes. However, it fits into the rebranding strategy. I want to solidify that Carrot Ranch is about mentorship. Part of my “busy” is finishing up client projects, learning to prof, and preparing to launch an annual coaching cohort as a business. NaNoWriMo fits into the strategy. And I’m not actually participating in the noveling event! Wrapping up those MFA revisions instead. Thanks for checking on me!

  24. suespitulnik

    Hi Charli,
    Your week on the North Shore has already come and gone. I’ll look forward to hearing about it. I’m trusting you rested but still accomplished much.
    I’m realizing I’m not a dedicated writer but a dabbler so NaNoWriMo isn’t on my radar until someone else mentions it. That’s fine for my current situation. The weekly prompts keep me embedded in the process. Thank you.
    The vision for this prompt was immediate, but coming up with a way to get it on paper took days. I was happy about the deadline extension. On to the prompt…

    Mud and Laughter

    Any mud puddle was a golden find when I was a boy. Pictures prove it.
    I ended my best high school football game, covered in mud, gleefully holding the winning ball.
    I ran miles in Army basic training. Good memories flowed while cleaning mud off my boots.
    My Army duties took away time for mud and then my legs.
    I rebelled against the prosthetics, preferring a wheelchair.
    Waterproof metal legs got my attention. I had to admit they would increase my mobility.
    When Jester and I purposely run through sloppy mud puddles, my inner child comes alive with laughter.

    Note: Michael is the author and Jester is his dog.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Glad Michael is reconnecting with his inner child. Mud memories! Yeah.

    • Liz H

      Really lovely story, full of strength, choice, and delight. Your many days were quite well spent. ?

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sue, yes, the trip has come and gone. Enterprise didn’t have the economical car I rented, so for the same rate, they gave me a Mini Cooper. Oh, that made the driving extra sweet! The trip confirmed that I can teach at a distance but I missed face-to-face with my students.

      You are more than a dabbler. We have different approaches to the writing process and seasons as a writer. I like the new car smell of NaNoWrimo but it can also be overwhelming. For many, it’s a savory time to write, write, write. You write weekly already.

      Your flash is touching. I hadn’t thought about a waterproof prothesis. Good to see Michael’s inner child alive and playful.

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks for the romp in the mud, Francis!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Donna. Heavy feels in this flash.

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