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April 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionCreativity seems like a night sky full of burning stars sparking into infinity and beyond until it pokes the eye of creation. Endless. Boundless. Open to all possibilities.

Yet, that might not be so. Consider the blank page.

Many writers have stared into the endless, boundless white ready to take on all possibilities only to discover that they have nothing to add. In fact, writer’s block is often denoted as the blank page.

Creativity is also viewed as something free-spirited. I’ve even known parents who excused the poor behavior of their toddlers as creative free-spirits.

Yet, behavioral experts advise that toddlers best thrive in an environment that offers a schedule. To raise a free-spirit requires parenting with constraints.

Apply that to our writing, and you can see that constraints can also make for an environment where creativity can thrive. Give an artist a frame and she’ll give you a painting; give a writer a specific number of syllables and he’ll give you a poem.

I don’t claim expertise in the area of creativity and constraints beyond what I’ve personally experienced. When told to write anything, my mind tends to freeze. Anything? Suddenly I know nothing. The blank page remains white.

When told to write anything as long as these three words are included (lioness, taxi and lemon), suddenly my mind is making brilliant connections–“the lioness of New York city with her bottle-bleached, lemon-blonde hair drove a taxi at night to stalk her prey.” A story emerges from the constraint.

Why is that? One of our flash fiction writer’s from last week’s compilation, Biographies Real and Imagined, reflected on the 99-word constraint of Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction. Anne Goodwin wrote that reducing a story to 99 words “was like growing bonsai.” Yet she recognized that “limits can be liberating.”

Anne introduced me to another blog that explored the genius of Dr. Seuss. The post, “The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work (And Why You Should Use It Too)” reveals that Theo Geisel wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” after a publisher issued him a 50 word challenge.

It’s worth the read to better understand the power of constraints. They can help you define your white page. And that’s what we are doing here each week–using constraints to create. A weekly prompt and the 99-word rule can work to spark that expansive creativity we feel when we look up into the night sky.

Seems how it is the day after Earth Day, our prompt is going to be about climate change, so to speak. Climate in fiction can be the container that holds our characters and their story. Climate can set the scene, shadow the tone or hint at a plot twist.

Mastering the setting is a subtle but vital skill. This week, let’s practice the impact that climate change has on a story, even a very short one. Think of ideas like sunshine and happiness, or rain and depression. What does it mean to your story if the clouds move in to block the sun, or the rain suddenly stops? Your climate change can be overt or implied.

April 23, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) describe the climate of a story as it changes to reflect a character’s mood or to create a sense of what is to come. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, April 30 to be included in the compilation. My contribution follows and is an exploration of a larger project I have in mind. May the sun shine on your writing this week!

Basking by Charli Mills

Chickens scratched at bare dirt as Sarah tossed dried corn from her apron pocket. They pecked at kernels and she watched, feeling the morning sun warm on her back. It was like basking with Colb in bed, his chest pressed to her back. His arms snugged around her. He’d crossed Rock Creek two days ago to take care of business. Business always drew him away, but like the chickens at her feet he never wandered far from his favorite roost. The trundle of wagon wheels caught Sarah’s attention. A dark cloud slid over the sun. It was Colb’s wife.


Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.