October 24: Story Challenge in 99-words

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 23, 2023

Last week, Kid (from the imagination and pen of Ranch Yarnist, D. Avery), mentioned the Ranch didn’t need to be overrun with cryptozoologists. Kid actually has a fun idea.

Cryptids are fantastical.

It was an early Carrot Ranch collection of 99-word stories that featured The Fantastical in June 2014. For several months, I marveled every time writers showed up to play with the 99-word art form with me. I began noticing the Collections held magic.

“Magic is seeing wonder in nature’s every little thing, seeing how wonderful the fireflies are and how magical are the dragonflies.”

Ama H.Vanniarachchy

Art, in all its forms, expresses that wonder. With each individual perspective, idea, and image, the Collections became literary magic. To this day, it remains my favorite attribute of art-ing together weekly. When I arrange the individual stories, I see the wonder of creativity expanding collectively. Each story has merit; but as a collection, a living image rises up out of the whole, engaging readers more deeply than a a solo story. Writers and readers collaborate and inspire more wonder.

Expected the unexpected as you evolve as a writer.

Once I noticed the magic in the 99-word stories, I also noticed that we were collectively writing into a dark abyss. Reflecting back, I think we were perhaps finding a measure of trust among a group of online people from across the world. We were brave enough to walk into the dark of creativity together. To lighten the tone and share the magic I was feeling, I dared the first unicorns of the Ranch. Darker still, we wrote and yet we created one of the most profound collections.

Cryptids, though thought to be eerie, can be funny and cute, too. They make for an interesting prompt. But Kid’s question put me into a state of wonder — what are cryptozoologists like? Who are the people who study the unstudiable? How does mythology connect? How does the science of the unseen function? Why do some people want to bamboozle others? What would the Ranch look like if it were crawling with cryptozoologists? (Sorry, Kid, but you did compel the image.)

Whether you light a bonfire or don a costume to celebrate any variation of Halloween, a Peaceful Samhain Full Moon Day of the Dead & Sugar Skulls to all.

October 24, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a cryptozoologist. Who is this character? What cryptids do they research and why? Are they serious about their work, skeptical, or scheming to fool others? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 31, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      LOL! That is hysterical! I missed that post somehow. Thanks for sharing again, D.

    • Charli Mills

      Who could forget it?

    • Norah Colvin

      Always a good laugh!

  1. denmaniacs4

    I couldn’t find the link to the somewhat okay The Abominable Snowman circa 1957 so this will have to suffice…

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, crypto noir, Bill?

  2. Mr. Ohh's Sideways View

    I loved this prompt. I saw the story in a second

    “Dragons do exist,” Dr. Stein repeated. The students sniggered. He’d expected this and allowed them a moment. “Read the materiel, and you’ll see the evidence is overwhelming.”
    The class was so diverted no one noticed the shadow move across the high window.
    “What’s more,” he continued, “They are highly intelligent, and actively keeping their existence secret by any means possible.”
    Chaos erupted. So much so, they barely noticed the red-and-orange ball of flame coming through the window.
    The charred remains of seven Post-Grads and Dr. Stein were found in the destroyed lab. No cause of the fire was found.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, a flash image from Mr. Ohh! 😉 What a great story as a mystery for those left behind.

    • Norah Colvin


  3. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Ohhh, this is a brilliant prompt! ????

    • Charli Mills

      As the veil thins who knows what will come through?!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Right? It should be spectacular this year for Halloween. They used the “s” word with us in mid-Michigan.

  4. Jules

    I’ll get this in the link up a bit later –
    I ended up looking up a critter in my area. There is a ton of info at the post about the critter in this 99 word fiction haibun with a ‘ku and a Septolet; The ‘Richness’ of Dreams

    lone marten
    huddled under the
    raise garden

    The garden, skirted with a tarp was supposed to discourage animals from making homes under it. Reese thought a small fox had made a den there and called for some help. Roger Stapleton worked for the county and fancied himself a closet cryptozoologist. He was up with the sun peeking through the tree in his backyard. Would today be the day he found a pine marten? Unlikely, but he was hopeful. The little rodent could make a comeback…

    To prepare
    For a deepening
    Autumn chill

    Pine marten
    Attempts to
    Dig a
    Winter den

    © JP/dh

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Hit an a Myth
    “Dang it, Pal. This prompt ain’t fair ta our shy critters that come ta the Ranch fer refuge. Cain’t believe Shorty’s invitin a bunch a pseudoscientists ta come pokin roun the ranch.”
    “Aw, lighten up, Kid. Anyways, it was jist a matter a time afore creeptoe-zollogists foun their way ta Carrot Ranch. It’s hardly been a secret thet we got uni-corns, bigfoots… fairies, rainbow cats… it’s a magical place, Kid.”
    “What if all the investigatin undoes the magic? Wisht I never said nuthin. Drop one little comment an dang Shorty runs with it.”
    “Kid. That’s part a the magic.”

    • Norah Colvin

      How wonderful to be the inspiration for Shorty’s post and all the stories that follow the prompt wherever she goes.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        It is wonder full. The magic can’t be undone!

  6. Norah Colvin

    This is an interesting one, Charli. Unfortunately, I think I’m running out of time to join in with a story of my own but will try to read the others when the compilation is posted.

  7. Nicole Horlings

    I really enjoyed this prompt. I’ve always found Bigfoot really interesting and think their existence is far more plausible than most people seem to think.

    I wrote a story that takes place in a fantasy world (not mentioned in the story, but an extra detail – my characters are gnomes) and dragons are the cryptid.


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