I’ve always been a fan of blogging challenges, whether it be to write something or to take a picture of something inline with a prompt or theme set by another blogger.
Not only can these challenges improve the way you write or take photos, but they put you in touch with lots of other bloggers, all focusing on the same challenge.
Recently, one blogging challenge has got me on a new road to the way I write fiction; a path I thought I’d never travel.
Not only have I been amazed by the results of this new writing journey, but so have many of my readers. They’ve given me valuable feedback about the new way I’m writing.
How did it start?
In the second week of January 2020, after Charli Mills published her 99-word flash fiction prompt, Doug, Sophie and Mike were created in my mind.
Given that I intended to say goodbye to these three characters after pressing the ‘publish’ button, I was surprised they reemerged the following week.
If you don’t know Charli Mills and the 99-word flash fiction challenge she publishes every Thursday, then take a look at her blog and introduce yourself. Better still, join in with hundreds of other writers who participate in the 99-word flash fiction challenge every week. Click here for details.
This was the challenge Charli set that week.
January 9th, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife. Why is she being carried? Who is carrying? Pick a genre if you’d like and craft a memorable character. Go where the prompt leads!
Enter Doug, who is carrying his new wife, Sophie, over the threshold of their honeymoon suite.
Everything looks merry and happy for the newlyweds, but not all is as it seems. Two floors below, a secret festers. That’s where Mike comes into the story.
I’d given this piece of flash fiction a twist which not only did I love but so did many of my readers. Result!
You can read the piece I wrote for the challenge by clicking here.
Only having 99-words to play with made this a tough challenge, but I had no idea that Doug, Sophie and Mike would reappear again the following week.
This is the challenge Charli published the following week.
January 16th, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story. It can be about a protest, or you can investigate the word and expand the idea. Who is protesting, where, and why? Go where the prompt leads!
When I read the prompt, Doug, Sophie and Mike came into my mind. Should I carry on their story from where I had left them the week before, or should I create a brand new story?
It wasn’t long before I had the answer, although it was with the help of those three characters. However, I was about to make the 99-word flash fiction challenge even harder for myself.
How I turned a 99-word flash fiction challenge into something even more challenging.
Given that I had three characters who all wanted to give their point-of-view of what was going on, I had to spilt the number of words I could use between all three. That gave me only 33 words to play with for each character.
At first, that seemed like an even tougher challenge than writing a piece of flash fiction in only 99 words, but with Doug, Sophie and Mike firmly embedded in my mind, I decided to take up my new challenge.
Fast forward a few more weeks, and I found myself writing pieces of fiction in a completely different style to what I’d been used to. It was as if I’d unlocked a door to a new writing gift.
I’d always thought that writers were in full control of the direction of their stories. However, here I was not in complete control of what was going to happen to Doug, Sophie and Mike each week.
Every time I published the next part of their story, I had to wait for Charli to post the next prompt, of which I knew absolutely nothing about until publication.
During week seven of the challenge, I’d thought I’d have to call it a day and concede defeat. This was the challenge Charli published that week.
February 20th, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a library cat named Rainbow who escapes. Use this situation to write what happens next. Where does this situation take place, and who else might be involved? Go where the prompt leads!
As Doug, Sophie and Mike were all based in a hotel, how on earth was I going to include a library cat named Rainbow into the story?
I also thought that a cat named Rainbow was something that was more suitable to a story in a children’s book (not one that had included spiking drinks, sleeping around, and lies).
Rainbow, the cat, proved to be a big problem for me, but I wasn’t going to allow this challenge to defeat me.
After a long, hard think about the challenge, I duly sat down, wrote something and wondered if my audience would like the new direction the story was about to take.
Given that I’ve published one more episode since Rainbow the cat first appeared (and I’ve another new episode lined up), I’ll let you be the judge of whether the introduction of a cat named Rainbow into the story was a success.
Click here to read part one of the story, and follow the links to each part.
The icing on the cake
Last week, I received an email from a reader who ended their email with this –
‘…and I’ll continue to watch (with bated breath) how Doug, Sophie and Mike are doing.’
Not only do those few words tell me something, but I think they say it all.
Thank you to Charli Mills who publishes her 99-word flash fiction challenge every week.
Not only do her blogging challenges help improve the way I write but they have now pushed me to think differently about the way I write.
Click here to read this week’s writing challenge from Charli.
And a big thank you to all the other bloggers who publish blogging challenges. You’re doing such an excellent service for the blogging community.
Do you publish a weekly or monthly blogging challenge on your blog? If so, leave a link to it in the comments section.
Do you participate in blogging challenges? If so, which ones? Have they worked for you and changed the way you write or take photos? Have you had any success with them or do you think they’re a waste of time? Join the discussion and share your thoughts in the comments section.