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TUFF Flash Fiction Contest Part Four

Did you stay in the saddle for the full ride? Or are you here to slide under the fence, last minute? Either way, Rodeo Writers, you’ve TUFFed it out and we have arrived at our final challenge.

TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction) is a progressive form that takes you from draft to revision through several word reductions — 99, 59, 9, 99. Each step has had a twist along the way as the TUFF contest has unfolded:

The final twist in the contest involves an additional trope. The first draft included the tropes for western and romance. Tropes are elements that define a genre or theme. In this contest, we have used tropes as themes. Now, we will add a final trope as a prop.

PART FOUR TWIST

A prop can be gold in your character’s hand. It’s a ring they fidget with that tells the readers they’re nervous. It’s the lariat they toss in boredom, the wooden spoon they waggle at someone with aggression, the leather wallet with a mysterious photo they won’t explain.

A prop can set a scene. It’s an empty glass on the saloon counter, the abandoned doll along a cattle trail, a slip of satin ribbon caught in a branch, an old saddle in the trunk of a sports car.

By now, you should have revised your first draft with insights gained through earlier twists and word reductions. Your final TUFF task is to add a prop without changing your revised story. Make the prop fit your story and set a scene or convey an emotion. Don’t change the story because of the prop. Instead, use the prop to better express the tone or emotion of your story.

An, of course, it’s not just any ol’ prop. You are to use the trope for an “eerily out of place object.” For those of you who like speculative fiction, now is your chance to add an alien spacecraft to the horse pasture. It can also be a small, ironic item such as a circuit pastor using a Crown Royal booze bag to carry his sermon notes.

Big or small, add it to your story without rewriting to accommodate or explain the item. Let it linger mysteriously. Better yet, use it to deepen characterization, create emotion or set a scene’s tone.

That’s it! This is when you will turn in all your work. Just like math class. Your first draft should be your first draft — unaltered! Your final draft should be the one you have tinkered and tweaked, editing and polishing.

ALL PARTS DUE BY NOVEMBER 1 (11:59 p.m. EST). USE THIS FORM.

Please read the rules thoroughly. And join us tomorrow for Marsha Ingrao’s Rodeo Contest when it goes live.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include western romance themes or tropes. See TVTropes.org for ideas wild west and romance to see how much fun you can have with this combination.
  2. Even though the story calls for you to mix two tropes, you are free to add more tropes or write in your genre of choice.
  3. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  4. You must turn in TWO 59-word count reductions of your story (one in the original POV, and one in a different POV).
  5. You must turn in three 9-word count reductions of your story into three different taglines.
  6. Add an eerily out of place prop to your final draft.
  7. Your second 99-word story should show transformation through revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process offer new insights for the final version?
  8. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  9. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most. However, we want to see a raw draft in the first 99-words, and a polished, edited draft in the second 99-words.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2020 (entry form posted October 26).
  6. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after the winner is announced on December 1, 2020.
  7. Use the entry form posted on part four of this contest Monday, October 26, 2020.

JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to send to the judges. Because we are committed to blind judging, please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog until after winners are announced. TUFF judges are familiar with this format. Life Coach and Grief Counselor, Cynthia Drake, uses TUFF with her clients. Poet, Editor, and College Professor, Laura Smyth, uses TUFF in her classroom. Both are returning judges and will be looking for transformative writing that results in a memorable story using western romance tropes. The top winner in each contest will receive a virtual badge and $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation). The winner announced on December 1, 2020.

Join Goldie for our final Rodeo Contest — Wanted Alive! Contest goes live Tuesday, October 27.

Kid and Pal return to the Saddle Up Saloon next Monday. Be sure to catch their latest interview. Winners for the Rodeo Contests, including TUFF, announced successively every Tuesday through December 1.

Thank you to all who joined in the contests. A special shout out to our Rodeo Leaders, Kerry, Colleen, Marsha, and Goldie. Thank you to all the judges.

October 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

An eerie glow backlit the clouds like copper. Appropriate, considering I live in Copper Country. The lighting reminded me of the way Midwestern clouds turn a greenish hue before spawning tornadoes. Due to the lingering scraps of maple and oak leaves, all orange and yellow, the veil of clouds that hid the sun took on an autumn glow.

Eerie? Maybe because it was unusual. Difference frightens us. It’s a primal urge, most. likely, a reaction for heightened vigilance. Those familiar with PTSD call it “lizard brain.” The amygdala can get hijacked, creating an intense emotional reaction. Eerie can transform to terrifying. And yet, some thrill-seekers welcome the response.

I used to love spooky tales when I was a kid. The western tradition adds its own flavor to the human tradition of such scary stories. Around a ranch campfire you’d hear frightening tales about tommy knockers in lost mines, monstrous jackalopes, or cowboys doomed to push the devil’s herd for eternity.

I think what I liked most about spooky tales from a region was learning about that place. Once I discovered historical fiction, I needed ghost stories less and less. Yet, I keep my ear open for eerie tales or phenomenon. There’s something thrilling yet about raised goosebumps. Maybe I also like a bit of mystery in my surroundings, too.

I’m going to end our western themes with this last prompt. Like the others, it’s not genre related but simply born of my buckaroo roots as the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo winds down. Kerry, Colleen, Marsha, and Goldie aren’t through with you all yet, and I have one more installment for TUFF. We’ll be working with our judges to pick a winner in each category.

Look for announcements of each winner:

  • November 3: Folk Tale or Fable
  • November 10: Double Ennead Syllabic Poetry
  • November 17: Git Along an’ Start Writin’
  • November 24: Wanted Alive
  • December 1: TUFF Love

Last week was one that buried me, and yet it had rich soil — I attended my first virtual writing conference for Women Writing the West. Conferences are a great way to meet agents and find out from industry representatives the trends impacting publishing. The workshops were high quality and I met many new author friends. Even got to see Ann Edall-Robson who is now the blog coordinator for WWW.

I’m on the home stretch of completing my shitty first draft (SFD). Emphasis on the “s.” Ah, but that is why we revise. I tried to be a plantser as I wrote but discovered that my pantsing tendencies do not serve me as well as I thought. At the end, I’m scrambling to use my plotting tools, realizing I need to write another shitty second draft before I can really get into the meat of revision. Enter NaNoWriMo at the perfect time.

My final goal is to have a decent revised thesis by March, and a polished (edited) version by mid-April. Wish me luck! My advisor has yet to say if she thinks I can pull it off. But this is my story, and I’m going to give it my best shot.

Forgive my absence last week. I did speak of the possibility and it’s not my intent to ignore any of you! It’s a rough month with not enough time, but it will pass. I appreciate those of you making rounds to comment on stories, welcoming everyone to the campfire at Carrot Ranch.

Now, let’s tell some spooky tales!

October 22, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a spooky tale told around a campfire. It doesn’t have to include the campfire; it can be the tale. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 26, 2020. 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.

The Lady of Silver Mountain Mine by Charli Mills

“Once, an Englishman bought Silver Mountain Mine.” Jeb’s bushy brows scowled at each buckaroo around the campfire.

Slim smirked. “I’m quivering in my boots.”

Jeb spoke quietly. “Laugh it up, but this is the story of the vaquero woman who butchered his bones.”

Jan shrugged. “She was probably justified.”

“She’s. Still. Here.”

A ghostly figure emerged from the pines carrying a knife. Buckaroos scattered, hollering.

Myrtle, the camp-cook, wondered what got into her crew. First, the flour sack dumped over her head, then she found a rusty butcher-knife on the trail, now everyone vanished.

“That’s mine,” a voice hissed.

🥕🥕🥕

Chores

Every ranch has chores from simmering beans to growing carrots to soaping saddles. Chores are universal.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

PART I (10-minute read)

Tales Out of School by D. Avery

She loved the pedagogy, the art and science of teaching children, of engaging all learners. When she taught she learned, delving deeply into the topic when developing units of study. She led her students by following their lead. She relished helping her students make connections and demonstrate their learning creatively.

Then came the canned curriculum, the boxed units.

“This will be easier for all teachers.”

Easier isn’t better. Let me do it my way, she said.

“Curriculum delivery should all be the same. You can do your thing as long as you follow the program.”

Teaching became a chore.

🥕🥕🥕

Tales Out of School by R. V. Mitchell

“Okay Marines, liberty is scheduled to commence at 1100. Unless this field day is finished, not a single one of you wastes of space is setting foot out of this barracks,” the sergeant snapped, before turning on his heel and heading back to his office.

“You heard him,” Corporal Chin said to his squad. “Meissner and Reece empty those shit cans. White and Cortez get this deck swabbed. Doc, you and Smitty get the head swabbed.”

The head was a daunting proposition, but Hospitalman Davis used Navy ingenuity, finishing on time by overflowing the toilets to speed the mopping.

🥕🥕🥕

The Power of Dusting by Eliza Mimski

Since the quarantine, Darla had assigned herself one chore per day to keep from losing her mind. Normally, when working, she never had time to do anything but make her bed and maybe do the dishes. Now, months into the Covid, she’d become a dust aficionado. She hunted down dust on the tops of doors, in the corners of rooms, behind the couch, and other secretive places where it tried, unsuccessfully, to hide. Try as it might, it couldn’t escape her suction vacuum cleaner, her dustag and Pledge, her paper towels and water. “I’m coming for you,” she screamed.

🥕🥕🥕

Slipping by Deborah Dansante-White

Before Anita’s perceived organic emancipation from reality, she had, as a child, been required to balance a book on her head; to diligently RSVP, no matter how much she disliked the inviter and to make her bed each morning. Anita remembers this as she places the shiny box behind the bin row, carefully unfastening then squaring each corner precisely upon her once inconceivable pillow. Anita is pleased with her find and decides easily that cobblestones are almost buttery when laminated. Anita’s housekeeping chores completed for the day, she slips into restless sleep and into dreams of discarded shopping carts.

🥕🥕🥕

Blueberries by Charli Mills

Blueberries spilled to the ground. “Like this, Kev.” Fran righted the bucket, setting it between the toddler’s bare feet. She knelt behind him, gently covering his hands with hers to pull fat, round berries from bushy strands. It was a bit like milking a cow, she mused. Kev pulled berries on his own, squishing a few into crimson juice. She smiled at her nephew and knelt to pick enough blueberries to make a pie. She didn’t mind babysitting his parents could vacation. Maybe country life would stall the creep of urban shadows. Her sister never did like the farm.

🥕🥕🥕

Another Planet Maybe by Donna Matthews

“I don’t want to set the table,” Nicole wailed.

“Why not love?” I asked while trying to grab her up in a hug.

“It’s boring!”

“Well…if we don’t set the table, how will we eat the food?”

Nicole scoffs and stomps off.

But I get it. The table setting IS tedious, AND the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and all the other chores on the list. I wonder what it would be like living a chore-less existence? But please – a ridiculous proposal. Maybe on another planet or in another lifetime, but this one right here, dinner isn’t gonna cook itself.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bored Teen by Ruchira Khanna

“Pick up your plates, Nate. That’s the least you can do around the house,” I shouted at my teen in a high decibel.

“Mom! I get tired doing the same chore three times a day.” he retorted.

I stopped stirring the pot and gave him a confused look as if he had just declared that he has graduated from college; without going to one.

He saw that look and muttered, “A teen’s life is all about being with friends, and in these times, I’ve been eating home-cooked food. That is such a chore,” and he let out a sigh!

🥕🥕🥕

Listening by Doug Jacquier

Listening to our adult kids when they whine about how the world never gives them a break is a chore. Listening to politicians whose tin ears and stone hearts belong to the funders who put them there is a chore. Listening to teenagers who sheet home all the world’s ills to our generation and opt for despair is a chore. But listening to the magpies caroling to each other as they feed their new screeching chicks and listening to the whispering of the veg patch growing and listening to the desultory traffic of our village is not a chore.

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by kathy70

Never called chores in my house as a child, just the price you paid for the joy of living here. We were a house full of people, 10 plus the birds. Saturday chores/baths/laundry day. Descriptions on a paper slip went into the chore jar.  Oldest picked first. We all watched and secretly cheered when our least-liked was gone. Today I have the dining room, dust 1st, then sweep next wash the floor. Now my favorite, polish the wood, I still like the smell of the polish on wood. Funny how a smell brings a happy memory to a tough time.

🥕🥕🥕

Toxic Love by Anne Goodwin

Domesticity drove her crazy. Or was it merely my muck made her mad? A ten-pound food-processing system: in went puréed parsnip, out came puke and shit. Now she’s the one in nappies, I flutter around her in kid gloves.

I left her once; guilt made me boomerang back. Or perhaps the hope she’d finally love me, now she had time to spare.

People say I’m saintly. I say I’ve no choice. They don’t see how easy it is, behind the cooking and cleaning and laundry. How easy to mess with the mind of someone you’ve known your entire life.

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by Simon

Why aren’t you taking her?

She was a care taker, we can’t trust these people?

These people? frowned, She tied an apron herself, pay me then!

You shouldn’t do any chores, undo this apron!

She raised her voice, She had the world’s toughest job, taking care of old people. She lost beautiful soul’s front of her eyes, Knowing they will leave, she loved them, served them from heart. she is jobless now, I want to help her & I will.

Sigh, whatever, undo your apron, and stop hurting yourself, she is appointed!

She hugged her mom, said “Thank you!”

🥕🥕🥕

Made To Tend by Michelle Vongkaysone

I tend to my home.
Only I occupy it now.
My family has left me.
They seek better things.

I’m left with their housework.
I clean, wash clothes and cook.
It dulls the pain within my heart.

Even living is another chore.
I can’t thrive without my kin.
I’m not enough for myself.

I want to live for them.
Without them, I toil vainly.
My life is a series of chores.

However, I adhere to them.
One day, they’ll return home.
Then, we can live like before.
I tend to my fleeting hopes.

Only they share my home now.

🥕🥕🥕

Tea and Biscuits with the Carer by M J Mallon

“That’s the blueberries washed!” she said with a smile.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Put the kettle on,” she said.

“Don’t you want to leave anything for the carer to do?”

She didn’t answer, instead she said, ““Get the pavlova and cream. Mini ones in the cupboard over there.”

I opened the biscuit tin and arranged them on a plate.

“What time’s she coming?”

“Now! Better wipe the table,” she said.

The carer bustled in.

🥕🥕🥕

Ten Again by Gloria McBreen

Norah’s room gleamed. Mamma will be pleased with her. She’s quicker at doing her chores now. Not like last year, when her mother cancelled her birthday party because she didn’t get them all done in time. Silly girl Norah. That won’t happen today. Her friends will soon be here and it’ll be the best party ever.

‘How’s Norah today?’ Nurse Annie asked her assistant.

‘She’s happy. She’s ten today…again!’

‘Bless her,’ Annie smiled.

‘I’ll nip out for a cream sponge.’

Norah blew out all ten candles on her cake as her companions in the nursing home sang happy birthday.

🥕🥕🥕

Vacuuming by Hugh W. Roberts

Having murdered his chore-loving wife, Herbert did the unthinkable and scattered her ashes throughout the house.

“That’ll teach you,’ Herbert chuckled. “Lived-in. Not a showhouse.”

On getting home from work the following day, the house was spotless. Unbeknown to Herbert, his wife had employed a domestic help to come in once a week.

That night, the sound of hoovering woke Herbert. Yet downstairs, the hoover was unplugged and stored under the stairs.

Questions: Had Herbert’s wife come back to haunt him? Was it time to buy a new vacuum cleaner? Or should he empty the cylinder of his wife?

🥕🥕🥕

Occupational Hazards? by JulesPaige

daydreams are cut short
my cat visitors seek out
attention from me

I pet, they sometimes purr but
mostly demand attention

one more week before
they make a return trip to
their adoptive folks

At the top of my chore list this past week and for next is to take care of my interlopers, two cats about a year old. They belong here, briefly. I am their chef cook and bottle washer, litter box cleaner, comforter and entertainer. Occasionally I get rewarded with a delicate cat purr. I’m behind on other chores, inanimate things can wait. Living things first!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Chores by Joanne Fisher

It had been a busy day for farm chores, Cindy thought. Aside from doing the housework, she had been planting new rows of carrots, checking how the corn was doing, getting rid of weeds, and clearing land for a new project.

Now it was mid-afternoon and she decided to sit in the sun for a few minutes. Just as soon as she had, Jess appeared.

“It’s alright for some!” Jess said with a disapproving look. “If you’re not doing anything, you can always help with the fencing.” Cindy rolled her eyes, but slowly got up and followed her wife.

🥕🥕🥕

Getting Things Done by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa looked disgusted. “Would you please help me with the laundry and dishes. I have a meeting tonight.”

With a twinkle in his eye, Michael responded, “I’ve got my own chore of getting fast enough at the fingering on my new tin whistle to be able to keep up with the band.”

She swatted his arm. “How about I take the whistle with me and when I get home you’ll have the other things done.”

“Dear woman, please, don’t start sounding like your mother making threats.”

Tessa laughed, “That’s on unfair analogy. We’ll share the chores.”

“Yes’m,” he grinned.

🥕🥕🥕

Preptober Chore by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She stared at the first run, several scenes of a promising short story. She sighs at the hand-written rollercoaster of initiating events, triggers, resolutions, a final dramatic crisis, and a resolution that leaves the reader both satisfied, and wanting more. There’s also the novel…

This story is for Nano. Her usual mode of running after the muse, pants afire, has been foresworn. The project begs more consideration. She scribbles more notes, crumples paper, and digs through a messy drawer for colored pens. Prep and planning is a chore.

The cat strolls by, looking for dinner.

Hungry herself, she bails.

🥕🥕🥕

Lynn Valley by Saifun Hassam

Shirley was dog-tired from her job as sous-chef at Hannah’s restaurant. She returned home to find her sister Carole fast asleep on the living room couch. Terry, 12, and Pauline, 13, were curled up in sleeping bags.

Shirley soaked dirty dishes in the sink and wiped the counter clean. Kitchen greens went into a bag for the mulch patch. She hugged and fed her tabby Cricket.

Carole and her daughter Terry moved in with Shirley and Pauline after Carole lost her librarian job in the pandemic chaos.

When all was said and done, it was good to be together.

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by Anita Dawes

Picking blueberries would not have been a chore
Ironing my stepfather’s underwear definitely was
As a ten-year-old, I thought it ridiculous
But mother insisted
Another, was polishing his shoes plus my brothers
At least they were smaller
Sitting beside my baby brother’s cot
Stroking his head, trying to get him to sleep
With the sun shining
through my mother’s bedroom window
Reminding me I should be playing outside
That day, something broke in my heart
I felt a strange kind of dislike towards my mother
That grew over the years
Today I decided to bury that memory…

🥕🥕🥕

The Sweeper by Allison Maruska

I open the closet and lug out the vacuum for the third time today. Creeping around my heels, Rylie grabs the dustpan and 3-year-old sized broom. “I seep!”

“Yes, you sweep and I’ll vacuum.”

She toddles to the kitchen, where spilled Cheerios wait for us. Humming to herself, she pushes them around, yelling in victory when a piece makes it into the dustpan.

I plug in the vacuum.

Rylie claps at getting three Cheerios into the pan at once.

Laughing, I abandon the vacuum and sit at the table.

Best to let my daughter enjoy chores while she can.

🥕🥕🥕

Lost in Translation by D. Avery

“I learned a new word at school today.”

Hope’s dad continued scooping beans with his bread. “In the classroom or on the playground?”

“Playground.”

He held his bread and looked up. “What word?”

“It started with a /c/ I think. Melinda made it seem like a bad word.” Hope continued while her parents exchanged glances. “It has to do with doing things you don’t want to do, and not getting to do fun things. Chores! That’s the word.”

“But Hope, you tend the chickens, and the garden; help us both out around the farm.”

“That’s fun! Mommy, what’s allowance?”

🥕🥕🥕

Autumn Afternoons Are for Fun by Kerry E.B. Black

Sunlight filtered through golden leaves as Byron’s footsteps crunched to Oma’s. Momma sent baked goods for Old Oma and told him to do Oma’s chores, but who could work on a day like this?

Once there, though, Byron’s heart sunk. The old lady held a rake in her crippled fingers. Begrudgingly, he handed her the cake and took the rake. Grumbling internally, he scraped the leaves into a pile nearly his width and height.

Oma smiled as she sliced the cake and poured tea into autumn rose decorated cups. “Now hurry and jump in. This cake’s cooling!”

Oma understood!

🥕🥕🥕

A Lick and A Promise by Norah Colvin

Lisa dropped her bag, discarded her shoes, and darted down the hall.

“Where are you off to, miss?” called her mother.

“Read.”

“You’ve got chores first.”

“Did them this morning.”

“Did them? Ha! Was no more than a lick and a promise.”

“But, Mum. I’m up to the last chapter.”

“No buts. You’ll do your chores before anything else.”

Lisa muttered as she stomped to the broom closet.

“And don’t give me any more of that lip or you’ll be reading on the other side of your face for a week.”

When I’m an adult … Lisa promised herself.

🥕🥕🥕

A New Day by Chel Owens

Back and forth. In and out. Sun to down. Winter to winter, for thirty years.

The children changed. The house aged. The horses and cows and chickens and that mean old goat -all ended up at slaughter; to be replaced by horses, cows, chickens -but no more goats. For thirty years.

She stood while the priest spoke about the dark shadow she’d known for so very long. This and that. Bless his soul. Rest in peace.

Veiled and black. Grey and old. No more back or forth in or out sun to down. Clouds clearing, she smelled the spring.

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by Frank Hubeny

While raking leaves Bill thought back to the farm his parents had with asparagus, pickles, pumpkins, corn, hay and soybeans. The chores back then were not so bad. He hoed corn from the beans and stacked baled hay. There was the busy time of harvesting, but harvesting had to be done.

The worst were those chickens. He’d reach his hand under a sitting hen to gather eggs only to have it pecked. Sometimes he’d shoo them off the nest. Sometimes they wouldn’t go.

He wouldn’t want some hen doing that to him, but he had to get those eggs.

🥕🥕🥕

Chore Bores by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan, can you pick up your clothes? This place is a sty.’
‘Yes, mom, I’ll get right onto my chores.’
‘I know we’re in the States and I said we should embrace their culture, but in what world does ‘culture’ encompass their bastardised version of English?’
‘Hey, who yanked your tail?’
‘Everyone wishing me a good day and not meaning it.’
‘Like you always say you’re sorry and you don’t mean it.’
‘That’s different. Anyway we don’t do ‘chores’, any more than we do yard work.’
‘You liked it when that blonde said you had a cute accent…’
‘Nonsense.’

🥕🥕🥕

Thick As Thieves of Time by D. Avery

The call to chores went unheard and unheeded by Pal, for Pal was on vacation, an unprecedented October Rest. But visiting Cuzzins Ash and Dusty Trales at Turnip Farm was not restful for Pal. Ash and Dust’s idea of catching up meant using Pal’s help to harvest their crop, working from sunup to sundown. Speeding along in the overloaded turnip truck, Pal felt lucky to have not fallen off.
“I’m headin’ back to Carrot Ranch, cuzzins.”
“Stay. Blood’s thicker ‘an water Pal.”
“Yep. An’ water is life.”
And Pal rode back to where the wells ran deep and fresh.

🥕🥕🥕

En Garde, Le Pard by D. Avery

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, Kid worried about the kids. The billy goats had sampled Shorty’s manuscript and even ate write out of the story collection bin. Kid knew they didn’t have a chance against a champion goat wrestler like Shorty, who also had a thing for kid gloves.
Worried and desperate, Kid almost didn’t notice the rental car parked along the trail. Almost. Before Logan and Morgan returned from vista viewing or whatever chore had taken them away from their vehicle, Kid had those kids stowed in the back seat, knowing these two would care for the goats.

🥕🥕🥕

Git Along an’ Start Writin’

Seep yourself in rich western history, then gather up your doggies and enter this free writing contest, number three in the Rodeo lineup!

Marsha Ingrao - Always Write

Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest 2020

Rodeo #3: Three-ActStory

We live for stories, and as writers, we craft them in the written word. A story is about Something (plot) that happens to Someone (characters), Somewhere (setting). Even if it is only 99 words long.

Crafting the Story

Act I, the beginning, the story rises. If a story is about someone, we have to feel something for that character. When we care what happens next for or to this Someone, we come to the middle.

Act II shifts to fear, according to the Greeks. We can interpret this as the emotion that drives the writer and reader to worry about what happens next. Or be curious about what comes next. The driving emotion doesn’t have to be fear, but the middle holds an important shift or build-up of tension or expectation. The story is in motion.

Act III is when that motion…

View original post 1,293 more words

TUFF Flash Fiction Contest Part Three

How are you doing TUFF rodeo writers?

You should be familiar with your 99-word story by now (Part One), and hopefully, you have spent some time exploring your story from different points of view (Part Two). TUFF is The Ultimate Flash Fiction and those of you daring enough to enter this progressive contest are spending a month on a single story taking it from draft to revision.

Part Three is your final tool in the process. It’s the tightest word reduction of your story: 9 words. That’s not a typo. The word count isn’t missing a double-digit. It’s nine words that you can count on your hands, presuming you didn’t lose any fingers riding bulls at your last rodeo.

Why so few words? This is a tool to arrive at the heart of your story. It’s the hook to interest a reader. Think of taglines from movies:

  • In space, no one can hear you scream. (Alien)
  • 3.7 trillion fish in the ocean. They’re looking for one. (Finding Nemo)
  • One dream. Four Jamaicans. Twenty below zero. (Cool Runnings)

Novels have taglines, too. Often they stand out as a quote above a book blurb on a cover. It can be the hook for a query letter or a zinger for promotional materials.

  • Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. (An Ember in the Ashes)
  • Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death. (The Hunger Games)
  • She had six husbands, money, and one lover too many. (The Long Goodbye)

If you are writing a book, a tagline becomes your guide. You can print it off and tape it to your computer monitor, reminding you what your book is about.

Like with TUFF Part Two, this step is meant to be a tool to help you get to the heart of your story. And, yes, there is a twist.

THE PART THREE TWIST

Write THREE 9-word taglines that capture the heart of your story:

  1. Pick the strongest aspects of your story and write it in 9-words.
  2. Next, pick the aspects you left out, and write another 9-words.
  3. Write a final 9-words that summarizes the conflict or tension.

You will have one more TUFF step after this one. It will be your revision, the reason you are given tools to rethink your original story. You will submit all steps, using the submission form in Part Four by November 1 (11:59 p.m. EST).

We are not accepting challenges, only contest entries. Weekly challenges continue every Friday at CarrotRanch.com/blog.

Please read the rules thoroughly. And join us tomorrow for Marsha Ingrao’s Rodeo Contest when it goes live.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include western romance themes or tropes. See TVTropes.org for ideas wild west and romance to see how much fun you can have with this combination.
  2. Even though the story calls for you to mix two tropes, you are free to add more tropes or write in your genre of choice.
  3. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  4. You must turn in TWO 59-word count reductions of your story (one in the original POV, and one in a different POV).
  5. You must turn in three 9-word count reductions of your story into three different taglines.
  6. Your second 99-word story should show transformation through revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process offer new insights for the final version?
  7. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  8. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most. However, we want to see a raw draft in the first 99-words, and a polished, edited draft in the second 99-words.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2020 (entry form posted October 26).
  6. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after the winner is announced on December 1, 2020.
  7. Use the entry form posted on part four of this contest Monday, October 26, 2020.

JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to send to the judges. Because we are committed to blind judging, please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog until after winners are announced. TUFF judges are familiar with this format. Life Coach and Grief Counselor, Cynthia Drake, uses TUFF with her clients. Poet, Editor, and College Professor, Laura Smyth, uses TUFF in her classroom. Both are returning judges and will be looking for transformative writing that results in a memorable story using western romance tropes. The top winner in each contest will receive a virtual badge and $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

October 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

My exuberance spills over, and birdseed scatters all over my back porch. I try to calm my shaking hands, remind myself to slow down and breathe. It’s a monsther of a month (thank you, D. for that word coinage), and this week is the busiest. Today, the Women Writing the West conference began online.

Earlier, I sat on my purple meditation pillow in the Unicorn Room for a three-hour critique with two authors and an agent. It always surprises me when so few writers take a chance — to enter a contest, to submit to a literary journal, or to sign up for a writing critique at a conference.

You gotta do the things that scare you.

Last night I confessed to my professor that terror frizzes my nerves every time I sat down to write my thesis. I recognized that any previous distractions or procrastination held these jumpy emotions. Like Anne Lamott hunting mice, I grabbed at the tails to listen to their squeaks, Yes, I know, I’m supposed to silence them, but I wanted to know THE fear. The one all the rest of the fears build upon.

You know what that mouse said? Beneath it all, I fear those I love, those who believe in me, those who cheer me on are going to find out that my writing really and truly sucks. That I can’t do it.

Sounds a lot like Imposter Syndrome and People Pleasing had a child. Yet, Nothing was beneath it. I had caught the last mouse. I pinched its tail, faced it, and tossed it in the jar with the rest of the squeakers. You can do this exercise, too. I’ll let Anne Lamott explain:

“I happened to mention this to a hypnotist I saw many years ago, and he looked at me very nicely. At first I thought he was feeling around on the floor for the silent alarm button, but then he gave me the following exercise, which I still use to this day. Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop in any high-maintenance parental units, drop in any contractors, lawyers, colleagues, children, anyone who is whining in your head. Then put the lid on, and watch all these mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away, trying to make you feel like shit because you won’t do what they want—won’t give them more money, won’t be more successful, won’t see them more often. Then imagine that there is a volume-control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, neglected, guilt-mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down and watch the frantic mice lunge at the glass, trying to get to you. Leave it down, and get back to your shitty first draft.”

~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Even with that fear, I faced the three-hour critique because I’ve learned to want that feedback for my process. I left with a list of action items, a better understanding of what agents want, and two pieces of satisfaction. First, every critique the agent offered the two other writers, I had noted, too. That says a lot about what I’m learning with my MFA coursework. Second, the agent noticed and complimented my voice and showed interest in the work.

That mouse was wrong. I don’t suck and I won’t disappoint you.

Gotta run! This week we have chores to do, which is foundational to every ranch, and I’m sure, is universal. I hope you dare to enter contests that unnerve you and seek to silence your head mice.

October 15, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about chores. It doesn’t have to be a western ranch chore; it can be any routine task. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 20, 2020. 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 now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Blueberries by Charli Mills

Blueberries spilled to the ground. “Like this, Kev.” Fran righted the bucket, setting it between the toddler’s bare feet. She knelt behind him, gently covering his hands with hers to pull fat, round berries from bushy strands. It was a bit like milking a cow, she mused. Kev pulled berries on his own, squishing a few into crimson juice. She smiled at her nephew and knelt to pick enough blueberries to make a pie. She didn’t mind babysitting his parents could vacation. Maybe country life would stall the creep of urban shadows. Her sister never did like the farm.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves

A situation that calls for kid gloves requires careful handling. Those who wear fine leather crafted from the skin of kids (goats, not children) protect soft hands and perhaps perform unexpected tasks.

Writers had the option to explore all the possibilities and their creative insight expanded the phrase. Parents, wolves, and more feature in this week’s collection.

The following are based on the October 8, 2020, flash fiction challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes kid gloves.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Home On the Range by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Cal coiled up his riata. He had no goals to improve on his already impressive rope skills, but granddaughter Flora required kid glove treatment these days.

Grandson Jeremy had passed him up, carrying on the vaquero tradition through competition and education. Kids today wanted an excuse to put down their cell phones, to raise their faces to the sun. It was an unexpected but welcome blessing from the quarantine.

Flora had kicked him out of the house early, even before his morning coffee. She wanted him out from underfoot while she attempted to wrangle the internet and home schooling.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves by Pete Fanning

He never takes the gloves off. Ever. And if I try to make him a wrestling match ensues. “Germs are everywhere, Zia,” he warns. My brother, the six year-old scientist. He should have been outside, playing in the dirt. Instead this Covid thing has really messed him up. I mean, it messed everyone up, but for him I fear it’s irreversible. When he’s asleep, Mom peels them off, washes them with our masks. When they’re dry, she carefully works them back onto his stubby little fingers. Says they make him feel safe. Hmm. Maybe I should get a pair.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves by FloridaBorne

“Handle it with kid gloves,” Mom said.

“What does that mean?” I asked while washing a crystal plate.

“Don’t break my favorite serving dish.”

Unsatisfied with the answer, I consulted the public library’s encyclopedia. Gloves made with baby lambs or goats? Outraged, I ran a half mile home to yell at my mother.

“They kill babies to make kid gloves!!!!” I shouted. “Don’t ever tell me to handle anything with kid gloves again!”

“It’s only a saying, dear. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater is only a saying, too.”

I never ate another bite of meat again.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves by Joanne Fisher

When my daughter Jill announced she was taking up boxing, I was skeptical. She had already been through horse riding and karate.

Nevertheless we went to the sporting goods store. I tried to imagine her in the boxing ring, but this was still a girl who has soft-toys in every available space in her bedroom…

“Excuse me madam?” the store assistant broke me out of my reverie.

“I’m looking for gloves.”

“Gloves?”

“Kid gloves.”

“Kid gloves?”

“For my daughter.” I replied. “Boxing.”

“Follow me.”

Of course Jill was already there selecting them. I wondered how long this would last.

🥕🥕🥕

The Jokester by Bill Engleson

I remember when it began.

First grade.

They abandoned me to a mocking mob.

“Play nice. Make friends.”

I tried, but what did they know.

The rabble seemed as one.

Bigger.

Stronger.

Maybe even smarter.

One day, faced with aggression, I pulled off a sweet backflip. Landed it. Came up smiling.

“Funny guy,” the bully said.

My life’s river changed course.

Tricks!

Grins!

Bigger tricks!

Fatter grins!

Decades of idiotic hijinks.

Three marriages!

Three divorces!

“Too much,” each said. “Always over the top! Puns! Interminable, heavy-handed humour! Release me.”

Now I get it.

Life.

Love.

Both need kidding gloves.

🥕🥕🥕

Coffee by R. V. Mitchell

Coffee was one tough hombre. Some said he’d more likely shoot you than look at you. Three things set him apart from other gunslingers though. The first was his refined English accent. This feller could really talk pretty, and used the sort of three dollar words most folks weren’t too akin to. The second was that he made one mighty fine cup of coffee, thus his moniker. But oddest trait of all was them there white kid gloves he always sported. Who would have thought that the deadliest fast draw in the Dakota Territory used to be a butler?I remember when it began.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves by Anita Dawes

A glorious spring morning
I decided to take Morning Glory
For her early run
Racing across the fields as if on wings
I took the low hedge too late
I landed on my backside beside a young man
Leaning there against my hedge
A stranger with a soft smile on his lips
Morning Glory stood waiting for me to remount
Her breath escaping in soft white clouds
He moved with great speed to assist me to my feet
The second thing I noticed, his hands against my skin
As soft as my mothers
When wearing her best kid gloves…

🥕🥕🥕

1863 Revisited Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Henry scoffed, an ugly, guttural dismissal. “Sure, you saw a ghost.”

Clara swiped tears from blazing cheeks and stormed to her car.

“Come back,” he called to the thinning taillights, “maybe Casper would like tea.”

Chill breeze brought wafts of rotting peaches, and he pulled his jacket tight.

“Did you offer tea, Sir?” A translucent woman dressed in antebellum finery, from her lace-edged cap and upswept hair, to the hem of her hoop-defined skirts, tapped a tasseled fan in her kid-gloved hands. “But my name’s Amanda, not Casper.”

Henry beat a hastier retreat than General Lee’s exit from Gettysburg.

🥕🥕🥕

Unused Kid Gloves by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa called Michael’s sister. “I got my divorce papers today and when I put them away in the hutch drawer I noticed a pair of exquisite men’s goat skin gloves I hadn’t seen before. I didn’t want to ask Michael about them just in case…”

Becca’s laugh stopped Tessa’s comment. “I gave those to him thinking he would wear them while learning to wheel his chair. He informed me he didn’t want prissy hands with no calluses and I never saw them again. I am flattered he kept them. If they’re in that drawer, I wouldn’t mention finding them.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Seven Essential Types of Glove by Anne Goodwin

A chair, a couch, the tools of her trade, plus a motley choice of gloves. One pair, snipped at the knuckles, to touch hurt with her fingertips; soft kid gloves to soothe pain. Archaeologist gloves for delving through history; hospital-grade latex to shield her skin and prevent her cuts contaminating theirs. Mismatched heirlooms from her mentors, she traces the left to Rogers, the right to Freud. She reserves the harlequins for those who’ve never learnt laughter, the boxing gloves for those who avoid through jokes. Seven pairs packed, she’s ready to follow her client on a journey into truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Unquenched by D. Avery

More than thirst might make his voice crack. He left them in the dugout without speaking. Carrying the shovel, work gloves feathering out of his back pocket, he hoped he appeared confident to his family.
He arrived at the spring, the once muddy surface now flaked, dried and split like old leather. He methodically pulled his gloves on, grasped the shovel and bent to his work, one scoop at a time. Each thrust of the blade was a prayer, each going unanswered until finally he stopped.
Under a blistering blue sky he held his head in his gloved hands.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves for Sale by Norah Colvin

Wolf covered his sinister smile with a pleasant facade as he organised a stall between Little Red Hen’s Home-Made Bread and Pig Brothers’ Home Improvements. Dinner could wait. He was hoping for a killing of another kind — monetary — selling his home-made kid gloves.

When an unlikely pair of cowpokes enquired about the origins of his leather, he was evasive. When asked his whereabout the previous week, he attempted to flee; but the recently deputised Pal and Kid were too fast and snapped on the hand cuffs. “We arrest you for the disappearance and suspected murder of seven little kids.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hot News by Simon

She stared at the pic of Kid and Pal duo.

It’s been 18 years since she lost the kids. She shed a drop of a tear and walked out her bedroom. She startled when she saw a man wearing kids costume with a kid’s glove. She remembered the Kid and Pal duo.

Before she reacted there was a tap on her left shoulder, she turns to feel the pain of a long knife shoved in her ribs and the axe from behind chops her head off.

News headlines ‘Murder stories continues in town, people are warned to stay alert!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Dark and Stormy Man by Chel Owens

Mabel knew she’d found a winner when she met Shane -tall, dark, handsome. He came into her life on a dark and stormy night. Unfortunately, she’d mistaken his kid glove-approach as a gentleness that didn’t exist.

No, Mabel sighed as she looked out into the storm, there was no more Shane. Her tears matched those streaming down the windowpane.

“‘Scuse me, ma’am,” a deep voice said. Mabel glanced up through wet eyelashes to see a burly man in a plaid shirt. “I couldn’t help but notice you weren’t too happy.”

The man sat. “Could I buy you a coffee?”

🥕🥕🥕

Inside Out by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan! Where are you?’
‘Hang on, I’m… what’s got into you?’
‘Nothing.’
‘So why do you sound like you’re being mugged and why are you standing on a table?’
‘It’s… there… oh god! It’s coming…’
‘A spider? You’re an agoraphobe?’
‘Arachnophobe. Can you…?’
‘Squish it? Sure. I…’
‘Nooo. Just get it outside.’
‘What is an agoraphobe?’
‘Can we do this later? Please take it outside but don’t hurt it.’
‘You want me to use kid gloves?’
‘You can use lead-lined gauntlets if you’ll just take it outside.’
‘First tell me. Agoraphobe? Or I’m not going outside.’
‘Exactly.’
‘?’

🥕🥕🥕

Eagle Point by Saifun Hassam

Last night another tremor shook the ranchlands. The snowcapped serrated peaks of Stoney Mountain Range glinted in the sunlight.

Carly and Carmen climbed up Pine Ridge Trail to Eagle Point. They dismounted several times to push sharp and jagged small rocks from the trail. Both women were experienced rangers and ranchers. Their kid gloves were as essential as their horses for the trek.

A new jagged crack ran from west to east on Eagle Point’s plateau. This summer, wildfires turned the forests into ashes.

Kid gloves or not, the two women would do everything to protect this rugged wilderness.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves by Frank Hubeny

“You see how those trees hug the shore. They didn’t wear kid gloves to do that. They grabbed on with everything they had. You’re going to have to deal with Bernard the same way.”

“How many times do I have to tell him to stop drinking? He’s like a misshapen piece of fired pottery that can no longer change.”

“Those trees look unchangeably misshapen to me as well. The problem is not every tree that grabbed the shore was able to hold on long enough for strong roots to develop.

“If Bernard doesn’t change he’ll fall off the shore.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Kidding? by JulesPaige

The old woman kept her kid gloves on the table under the arc that divided the entryway of her apartment to the living space. It was not her intent to illude anyone. Unable to elude her own aging waiting for her own imagined ark to sail her permanently away into the heavens. She wore the kid gloves when she had company she wanted to allude to the perfect hands she once had, her fingers now knobby and bent from arthritis.

When the young Cub Scout came to interview her, she smiled. He politely did not ask about her gloves.

🥕🥕🥕

Mushroom Man by Anonymole – Apocryphal Abecedarian

With a tarp held over my head, I made my way to the Mushroom Man. Noon and the sun would cook my skin without it. The city’s ruins, baked white, provided pockets of shade. I scrambled from shadow to shadow.

Down the subway stairs, rubble clacking away, the smell of loam filled my senses. Darkness gave me pause, my eyes adjusted slowly. The ancient forest smell consumed me.

“They’re not ready,” said the man who grew the mycelium leather.

I picked my way deeper into the gloom. “My kid needs those gloves.”

🥕🥕🥕

Misfits (Part I) by D. Avery

While others tended to rodeo events or cracked their WIPs, Pal took a vacation, time away from Kid. Just for a while. Pal even left Carrot Ranch.

Just for a while, for it had been such a long while since Pal had seen Cousins Ash and Dusty Trales.

Dismounting at their Turnip Farm Pal was greeted warmly. “Hey there, Cuz. It’s been a while.”

“Yep.”

“We gotta git these turnips harvested.”

“I’ll hep.”

“You’ll want gloves.”

“Yep. Dang! These are Kid’s gloves! Ugh! I musta in’vert’ly took Kid’s saddlebag.”

Even on vacation, Pal would be burdened with Kid’s baggage.

🥕🥕🥕

Misfits (Part II) by D. Avery

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kid was skedaddling to the Saloon, for as you may recall Kid has some goats out back of the saloon. Bursting through the swinging doors, Kid saw— “Shorty!”

“Kid. Shouldn’t you be vacationin’?”

“Worried ‘bout my kids, what with that prompt an’ all.”

“The kids are alright, Kid, the Ranch and the saloon are safe places for all.”

“Okay.” Kid then took in the quiet saloon. Shorty was so busy writing she hadn’t noticed the goat feeding from a stack of papers. Despite assurances, Kid did not feel safe and vacated, goat in hand.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrot RODEO #2: DOUBLE ENNEAD SYLLABIC POETRY

Free Writing Contest!

Introducing a new form from the Cattle Queen of Syllabic Wrangling, Colleen Chesebro! Gather up your syllables and get to counting!

Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry

Welcome to the Carrot Ranch Rodeo! This challenge is sponsored by the Carrot Ranch Literary Community at carrotranch.com and run by lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills.

Almost everyone knows my love for syllabic poetry; especially haiku, tanka, cinquain, and more. Woo HOO! I’ve got something special wrangled up for this challenge!

For this year’s rodeo, I’ve created a special form called the Double Ennead. The word Ennead means nine, and a double nine is ninety-nine! Carrot Ranch is famous for 99-word flash fiction. Now, the ranch has its own syllabic poetry form written in 99 syllables!

The Double Ennead comprises five lines with a syllable count of 6/5/11/6/5, (33 SYLLABLES per stanza) 3 STANZAS EACH = 99 SYLLABLES, NO MORE, NO LESS!

The Carrot Ranch Double Ennead

Carrot Ranch Rodeo is calling all poets round up all the word players, now's the time to ride let's wrangle syllables and build…

View original post 1,487 more words

TUFF Flash Fiction Contest Part Two

Welcome back TUFF, rodeo writers!

By now, you’ve figured out you have an entire month to work on your flash fiction entry to TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction). That might lull you into complacency. It might tempt you to disregard the contest until the very end (October 26 when the submission form goes live with the final part). Let me convince you otherwise.

Mastering TUFF in its flash fiction form teaches you the skills every fiction writer needs. We all have to draft and we all have to revise. TUFF can be a tool to work on your story with progressive word constraints.

Last week, in TUFF Part One, you drafted a 99-word story. Do. Not. Touch. It. A raw draft is a raw draft. Let it be. What comes next are the tools of your writing craft. Use the next two constraints to revise your final 99-word story. You can write that final 99-word revision 99 times if you’d like. But you can only turn in one, of course. This is where we start exploring and experimenting — with 59-words.

THE PART TWO TWIST

For this week’s addition to the TUFF contest, you will write TWO 59-word stories, reducing your original draft. In one 59-word story, reduce it using the original point of view. In the other 59-word story change the point of view.

It’s the same story, just smaller. You are tasked with picking and choosing the strongest elements from your 99-word draft. This makes you consider what is working, where your story’s focus is, and how to tell it.

Here is an example:

Saving Grace by Charl Mills (99-word draft)

Grace looped her right leg into the padded hook of her sidesaddle. Her long skirts without hoops nearly touched the ground. With war coming to New Mexico, camp guards eyed her skirts critically. If Grace felt threatened, she straightened her back and spoke her family name. But it wasn’t to her grandfather’s quarters she rode. A man in riding boots met her behind the row of soldiers’ tents. Rory O’Bannon. Her lips parted. He approached her skirts, reached beneath to touch her left ankle. She nearly swooned. Though her skirts were big enough to hide ammunition, she smuggled love-letters.

59-word Same POV

Grace rode sidesaddle into camp. Without hoops, her skirts hung low, catching the critical eye of guards. She straightened. “You dare touch the General’s granddaughter?” They let her pass. Before tea with Grandpa, she rode past the soldiers’ tents. Rory O’Bannon reached where guards dared not. He touched her ankle and her lips parted. Her skirts smuggled love letters.

59-word Different POV

I had to elude the guards with my contraband. Everyone knew who I was, but with war coming to New Mexico, suspicions grew. They couldn’t know I was meeting a Confederate soldier. Dressed in Union colors, Rory emerged from the tents near the woods. His touch beneath my skirts electrified me. I headed to Grandfather. My love letter delivered.

Notice how I used or omitted different details in each. That’s how you can use the POV tool. Often writers instinctually write in a POV that feels familiar. Maybe it’s what you read, or common to your genre. When you switch POV, the closeness to the character changes. First-person is more intimate but also limited. What I found interesting is that when I switch POVs, I had different ideas about the story pop into my head. You can use the 59-word constraint to explore different ideas, different POVs, or even different craft elements (notice that I added dialog to one of the reductions).

You can play with this story all month! Don’t touch the original draft, change up the final revision. And if you are just getting started, that’s fine — everyone has until November 1 (11:59 p.m. EST) to enter. There is no entry form yet. This is your time to process and be working on your final revision, using the reduction tools. Use the 59-word reduction as often or as differently as you want, but be prepared to only turn in TWO different 59-word POV reductions of your original draft.

Have fun! Check back next week for TUFF Part Three.

We are not accepting challenges, only contest entries. Weekly challenges continue every Friday at CarrotRanch.com/blog.

Please read the rules thoroughly. And join us tomorrow for Colleen Chesebro’s Rodeo Contest when it goes live.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include western romance themes or tropes. See TVTropes.org for ideas wild west and romance to see how much fun you can have with this combination.
  2. Even though the story calls for you to mix two tropes, you are free to add more tropes or write in your genre of choice.
  3. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  4. You must turn in TWO 59-word count reductions of your story (one in the original POV, and one in a different POV).
  5. Your second 99-word story should show transformation through revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process offer new insights for the final version?
  6. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  7. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most. However, we want to see a raw draft in the first 99-words, and a polished, edited draft in the second 99-words.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2020 (entry form posted October 26).
  6. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after the winner is announced on December 1, 2020.
  7. Use the entry form posted on part four of this contest Monday, October 26, 2020.

JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to send to the judges. Because we are committed to blind judging, please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog until after winners are announced. TUFF judges are familiar with this format. Life Coach and Grief Counselor, Cynthia Drake, uses TUFF with her clients. Poet, Editor, and College Professor, Laura Smyth, uses TUFF in her classroom. Both are returning judges and will be looking for transformative writing that results in a memorable story using western romance tropes. The top winner in each contest will receive a virtual badge and $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

October 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

An early memory is getting a pair of little white kid gloves to wear at San Benito County Rodeo. Maybe they were cotton. But in my memory, they linger as fine kid leather. Not from the hide of Kid or a young person, but from the hide of a young goat. Why were goats involved in buckaroo culture? I have no idea. I tackled them, hog-tied them, licked them (unintentionally, I swear), and apparently, I wore their hide on my hands. Well, we could pick that apart as perhaps an unusual childhood. But authentically buckaroo.

California is a region of assimilation. I can only imagine what a place it must have been under the stewardship of the many and varied tribes that lived there for thousands of years before the rest of the world finding out about gold in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Did you know that Indigenous people practiced fire management in California? I like to think of buckaroo traditions stemming from the rancho culture that arrived with the missionaries and their Spanish horses and cattle. People whose ancestors managed mountains and forests and coasts took to horses with a special kind of wisdom.

They say buckaroos evolved out of the vaquero culture, but they fail to say how much earlier influence came from the original Native Californians. With the Gold Rush, people from around the world flooded into California. Among them, two sets of Basque 3rd-great grandparents. They ranched a small place near Paicines and later ran the hotel in Tres Pinos. Through marriages and descendants, I can claim Basque, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Brazilian, Flemish, and Dane. Talk about the Californian melting pot. Each one of those heritages came under the direct influence of the vaqueros.

And I had the kid gloves to prove it. Well, maybe not the gloves, but the early gear we used spoke of our heritage. My grandfather was a rawhider, and I learned the basics. I know how to make rawhide, string it, and braid it. We carried riatas (braided ropes) and rode with bosals to keep a horse from tossing its head. We had hefty horns on our beautifully tooled saddles because we roped cattle in a certain style. My grandfather was a figure-eight roping champion at this same rodeo grounds where I once won my own championship (okay, it was just a goat, but I won a trophy). This video gives you a glimpse of the style of roping and the land where I was born as a fifth-generation Californian

If you want to read an insightful essay about the buckaroo culture I come from, the Library of Congress recorded a bit of it here.

Our own Flash Fiction Rodeo is unfolding with a new event every Tuesday. Kerry E.B. Black is currently hosting Fables and Tall Tales. Colleen Chesebro is up next, and her contest is the equivalent of the figure-eight loop to syllabic poets. Kid and Pal hit the Dusty Trail last week, and I took over the Saddle Up Saloon to host TUFF, a progressive flash fiction contest. Part Two posts early Monday morning and offers the first twist to the sequence of word count reductions.

I’m going to do my best to keep up with all of you taking the weekly challenges, but I may be eyebrows deep in my thesis. The complete first draft is due by the end of the month, and then I’ll be using NaNoWriMo to revise it. That might sound like crazy-talk, but I do have a strategy in mind! My first draft is a mess. I want to use November to make it more cohesive and streamlined so that when I go into thesis revisions with my professor and peers, I have a better working manuscript. On a side note — Danni is the daughter of a Basque buckaroo from Nevada. Her life was much different from my own, but I wanted to use a culture I’m familiar with, and when writing about the West, I reached into my own back pocket. With kid gloves, of course.

October 8, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes kid gloves. A prop in the hands of a character should further the story. Why the gloves? Who is that in the photo, and did he steal Kids’ gloves (of the Kid and Pal duo)? Consider different uses of the phrase, too. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 6, 2020. 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. See our latest challenge to enter.

Dressed and Ready by Charli Mills

Annabelle’s mother braided her hair so tight her eyes tugged at the corners. “Ma,” she wailed, “I won’t be able to see.”

“Get hair in your eyes, young lady, and you won’t see to throw your loop.” Ma was all business about rodeo events.

Already Annabelle had on her boots, jeans, frilled shirt, turquoise vest, and a hot-pink scarf with a concho slide. Ma zipped up the back leg on each side of her navy blue shotgun chaps and tightened the belt. Her brand-new kid gloves would protect her hands.

All this for a chance to rope a calf.