I’ve been in Dream Tending and Deep Imagination community for three intense days, facing down demons, personifying the intolerable, and making masks. Like most literary artists, I’m aware of the role of a villain in a story.

In the epic tale of good versus evil, the Ancient Greeks give us classic villains — Pan, who represents animal instincts and desire; Medusa who villainizes the nature of female choice; Zeus and Hera locked in petty battles of retribution with harmful consequences for humans caught in their crossfire; Narcissist in love with the mask of his making.

Dreams give us nightmares, and in Dream Tending, we call those figures and settings, “intolerables.” Intolerable Dream Figures represent what scares us, what we can’t face, and what we want to escape and destroy. It can be in others, the world, or ourselves. Intolerables can rise from our fears or the animus mundi. Collectively, unconsciously, we can co-create villains to personify the world’s soul.

However, we begin with the beauty and protection of the Sacred — nature on the outside and the feeling of experiencing a sunset on the inside. We connect to something greater than ourselves; something we are a part of, and something that is a part of us. We invite support to help us write Intolrables. This can be a character who is a guardian, a Dream Figure, the anecdote to the Intolerable. This Helper is meant to support our journey to the Underworld to meet our masked villains to hear their story.

Artists know how to play in the imaginal — the space from where we create or animate images. We dialog, dance, eavesdrop, go on a road trip, create a playlist, and more. We can host an Intolerable and interact with its mask through play. Maybe the monster was waiting all along for an invitation to play. Maybe they will remain stoic. Play, but have a safe word, too: “Stop.” If writing something scary ever feels overwhelming, know that you can say, “Stop. I am here, you are there, and you can go no further.”

Yep, even in the Dreaming world, we have boundaries. You have a right to feel safe within. The more you work with this inner truth, the further away external fears, worries, and anxieties go. Maybe this stop becomes a pivot point in your story. Maybe someone else personifies the stop. Maybe the Intolerable transforms. Which, really is, the goal. We don’t animate the dark to leash nightmares in the world. We animate the dark to fully understand its nature.

Mask-making is surprising and deep work. It’s an activity writers could use to explore characters and personas. This week, we will look into the dark side of masks and see what stories want to come forth.

Here’s a bit of Cheer & Delight so it’s not all intolerable this week: Red has a fan who sent fanart to Carrot Ranch, and he watched his first Super Bowl (it put him to sleep).

Speaking of the Super Bowl, does anyone else watch for the ads? This year had some great ones, but my favorite was a nod to fellow bird nerds:

February 13, 2024, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an intolerable mask. Who is wearing the mask and why? What is so intolerable about the mask? Is there empathy for the one behind the mask? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by February 19, 2024. 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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