December 12: 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.

December 11, 2023

No one ever told me to dance as a child. I learned to groove from as young as I can remember. I wasn’t good at making any memorable moves as wiggled from head to toe in my parents’ small living room with the homemade coffee table—my dance partner. I trotted, turned around, and around that table, while Johnny Horton took me places.

Urged on by the music, I entered a cave where different worlds existed beyond. There were horses, of course. I spent the majority of my young childhood on a ranch. Covered wagons. Kids of many ages. And kind adults who liked to teach. Dancing took me into stories.

Nothing formal ever came of my groovy ability to dance in circles to conjure characters and settings and adventures. I was never a prodigy with fiddle or clogs. In kindergarten, the nuns made it clear art was not in my future. In first grade, I got pulled from class because I couldn’t read although they later discovered I could read chapter books. At 56 years old, I’ve not yet published any of my manuscripts. I’m no writing prodigy, either.

So what if dancing circles to 8-track tapes gave me vivid images? If you talk too much about your imagination, people take notice. Like my frog. I had a frog I’d carry around in my cupped hand. Apparently, I was the only one to see the image. Most people didn’t dance circles in their living rooms. But I was committed to this frog and carried the image everywhere. Finally, one adult figured out a remedy. My grandfather grabbed my imaginary frog, threw it on the ground, and stomped it with his cowboy boot. I accepted Frog’s death and never carried it again.

By the time I was twelve, I knew I wanted to be a writer. The challenge of taking images from the imaginal to animate in my imagination was easy for me. When I was still young enough to be playing Barbies along Markleeville Creek in the 1970s, I understood my friend, her little sister, and I could create and share images between us that our Barbies could embody. But it became socially taboo to share images the older we got as if we were supposed to forget image-making-sharing or forever go insane. I sucked at playing the clarinet. We had no dance schools in the mountains. Colors refused to take form for me. But I could write stories.

Stories in form bored me. However, stories I could imagine compelled me to read books voraciously. I was never without a book. But to write stories meant I had to overcome my confusion over punctuation and spelling. Once my 7th-grade teacher got me writing five, ten, and then fifteen pages of spelling stories each week, I knew I was hooked. I had never been a good student, and there I was entertaining my classmates weekly when Mr. P invited me to read my latest out loud. Words became like dancing but inwardly.

Recently, questions struck me. Did I always want to be a writer? Why do all the other arts pull at me, too? What is it that calls me to write? Then, I recognized that all I ever wanted to be was a Dreamer alive. That seems a contradiction to me — is the Dreamer awake or asleep. Yet, life surges in both the dreaming and waking worlds. Thus, images are living. Dream Tenders work with living images, but so do artists of all kinds, including writers of all sorts. Our craft is what we hone to translate from the imaginal into the waking world.

We are writers, therefore we delve into all the complexities of layering plot with motive, populating new worlds with deep or superficial characters. We craft with words, punctuation, syntax, poetry, structure, and form. To be alive, a book must breathe images onto the page for readers to catch. It’s enough for the image to convey meaning. The work becomes living. Shakespeare’s not dead, yet. Writers are Dreamers able to bring living images to life for eons.

Next party you go to, proudly state your superpowers.

For now, let’s dance! This week we are inspired by the idea of a dance-off amidst all the year-end celebrations. Let’s work with images of unity. The world needs more Peace on Earth. I’m willing to dance to that image!

December 12, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a dance-off. Who has come together in dance for what purpose? What are dancers wearing? What kind of music? Bring some unity to people through the act of coming together, each getting to step to their own groove. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by December 18, 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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26 Comments

  1. restlessjo

    Charli, you’ve led such an interesting life, and it couldn’t be more different from mine. I’m constantly impressed by your imaginings. I’ve got music and images in my head but I don’t think I can make the music come alive. I think I’ll just boogie quietly. Have a wonderful festive season!

    • Charli Mills

      As long as your images boogie with you and you feel the joy of the vibe, dance as quietly and inwardly as you want, Jo! You have a wonderful festive season, too!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Dervish-ity

    “Look’t there, Kid! Dust devil!”
    “Relax, Pal, that ain’t a dust devil. It’s jist a whirlin dance a story-makin. Swirlin ideas, spinnin plots; characters struttin their stuff, readyin ta take the page.”
    “Why ain’t you up an dancin, Kid?”
    “Shovelin shift’s my superpower, Pal, not dancin an story makin.”
    “Then why ain’t ya shovelin?”
    “Jist rumi-natin fer a bit. Thinkin on how Shorty’s a whirlin dervish, celebratin art an life. Thinkin on how ever week folks from roun the world step up an step out, puttin their own spin on the beat a the prompt.
    “Cain’t ‘magin anythin finer.”

    • Charli Mills

      Now I know where dust devils come from! Looking forward to the dervishing collection to follow, D.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Oh, you knew. Yep, it’ll be another great collection. See you there.

  3. Sarah Brentyn

    All I can think of is Peter Quill (Star-Lord). ???????????? I can’t get the image out of my head.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! A fun, sassy image, Sarah!

    • Charli Mills

      To get you dancing!

  4. Jules

    Charli and all;

    Here’s a link to my story; Dancin’ at the Swim-Gym

    There’s some fun facts there too about the Swim-Gym and how ta use ‘a’ and ‘an’ with “H’s”. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Off to learn what a swim-gym is, Jules…

      • Jules

        🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Love how you amplified the timeless tale of sibling rivalry through a modern lens and the expansion of using new and old traditions to heal a familial rift. Well done, Liz!

      • Liz H-H

        Thank you, Charli!

  5. E.A. Colquitt

    I made it! (I… think?)

    I had a lot of fun with this one. Happy holidays, everyone 🙂

    • Robert Kirkendall

      was FUN to write I meant to say

    • Charli Mills

      It’s good to be silly, Robert! What a fun image you crafted. I’m ready for hat dance-off to begin, lol!

  6. Sue Spitulnik

    Happy Holidays everyone.

  7. joanne the geek

    Sadly I tripped over when running to a supermarket and was out of action for almost a week, so I never got round to writing my response to the prompt, though I have thought of quite a good one.

    • Jules

      Hope you are all healed from your ‘trip’ – I had a vacation and returned with ‘Covid’… Not fun.
      I think that anytime you miss a prompt you can still write for it and stick it in the comments at the collection. I’ve seen other folks do that.

      Be well, and Happy New Year!

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