Since I haven’t produced much this year, for the month of October, I was determined to enter something in the micro, flash, and short story contests over on SFFWorld.com’s writing forum. I managed to write the first two and entered an old story for the third. Woohoo! But what I wanted to talk about today is the first of those contests – the micro story.
Remember those? I wrote a post about it earlier this year. Basically, micro-fiction is a story in 100 words. Not an easy feat, but it’s such a short challenge, you can’t help but try. Well…at least, I can’t.
Anyway, uncommon celestial events was October’s micro story contest theme. The theme was inspired by September’s Blood Moon. I struggled to find a story about some odd astronomical event that didn’t involve the moon crashing into Earth. Or had to do with the moon at all. The theme was any celestial event, not necessarily the moon. So I didn’t want to go for the obvious.
Not that the stories that did go for the obvious were not good stories.
Were there too many ‘not’s in that last sentence?
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that there are some very good entries that featured the moon (or something similar). Believe me, they are all much more inventive than anything I would have come up with. The sad fact is, if I had went for a moon story, I would have probably come up with something cliché.
What to do?
When faced with a theme and a blank page, I often just start typing. I start by typing the theme, how many words I need for the story, and then I’ll try sentences that describe the main character or a character. For example: during the storm of the century, a father finds out his son isn’t really his. Or: when a star crashes into her backyard, a young, imperfect woman struggles to find her place in a perfect world. Or whatever comes to mind. I just start typing and hope a character starts talking to me. If I’m lucky, the character’s story stays in line with the theme. Sometimes, that doesn’t happen. Or worse still, sometimes a character doesn’t come along to tell their story.
That’s when I get stumped and turn to…
I know, it’s terrible, but truly, the internet can be a great source of inspiration when your personal story machine fails.
Which is how I found out about anchimayen.
In case you don’t know, Mapuche are an indigenous culture on the southern tip of South American (Chile and Argentina). And like all cultures, they harbor stories that attempt to explain the horrific loss of a child and bright lights in the sky.
The myth spoke to me and I wrote a quick little story. It’s not that great (copied below), but I submitted it to the contest.
The feedback was illuminating. A few thanked me for alerting them to a concept they had never heard of. It occurred to me that there are countless South American myths and folklore stories that we essentially ignore over the tragedies of the Greeks and Romans. It made me think of some of the great stories out there that have plied Central and Southern American history to tell great stories.
So, I thought I would too.
Every now and then, I’ll alert you to an inspiring creature or parable from places high and low from the Americas that most of us don’t even know exist. From the plateaus of the Andes to the dense, humid jungles of the Amazon, prepare to be educated, amazed, and inspired.
By. N. E. White
The anchimayen hovered above Quidel. Shielding her eyes from its actinic light, Quidel glimpsed the silhouette of a child.
From its center, a voice pulsed. “Why have you summoned me?”
Quidel’s breath caught at the sound of her dead child’s voice.
“It’s time, my daughter,” Quidel managed.
“My time is over,” the anchimayen responded.
“I have given you more,” Quidel whispered. “Together, we shall claim our vengeance.”
The anchimayen swelled. It tested its power, sending arcs of lightning to strike mountain tops.
And then it ignited the skies.