I’m a member of an online writing group. Each week, there is a Writing Challenge in the form of a sentence, a topic, or something similar. The idea is to write something based on whatever is presented, then submit it to the group for comment. The challenges are optional, and up to now I’ve pretty much ignored them.
As mentioned on the About Me page, I’m not very good at writing short stories. I just can’t come up with ideas small enough to fit in a short story. Because of that, I’ve decided to start taking on as many of the weekly Writing Challenges as I can to (hopefully) train my brain to think smaller when it comes to planning stories.
There are no real rules for how one responds to the challenges, but I’ve made it my personal goal to use as few words as possible to get the point of the “story” across. (I use the term “story” loosely, as the results may not fit everybody’s definition of a story.)
I’ll be posting all of my “Writing Small” challenge stories here. The first one is below.
CHALLENGE: The archer stood alone in the forest.
The archer stood alone in the forest. A brief gust of wind rustled the foliage around her, and the long, glossy black feather tied to the end of her bow fluttered, then stilled. The guttural caw of a distant raven drifted on the cool evening air, but no other sound disturbed the woods.
Slowly, the orange glow of sunset faded, and the first dim star appeared, twinkling through a break in the trees overhead. She set the enchanted, silver-headed arrow against the string and raised her bow.
Words of instruction, delivered days ago, drifted through her mind: “It will be like shooting a firefly, a brief spark of light between the trees just after dusk.”
She preferred to think of it as shooting a key into a lock.
“Once the fold is opened, do not look at it.” A warning, voiced in grave tones. “Malcomb is a trickster. He will use illusions to try to lure you inside.”
Trickster. She scoffed at the term and drew the bow taut. Malcomb was no mere trickster. He was a fiend, a dark wizard, a harvester of souls.
A tiny light flickered in the dimness before her, less than twenty paces distant. She took aim and let loose the arrow.
The silver arrowhead struck the hovering light. For a moment, the arrow hung quivering in midair, then the brightness at its tip flashed outward in a silent explosion. It filled the space between the trees with a sunlit scene of blue sky above a vast green meadow. A light breeze painted flowing patterns in the long grass, and a flock of small birds flew low over the meadow, twittering merrily.
She started to turn away, but a warm wind whispered through the opening, and she froze. The breeze carried the sweet, familiar scent of hollybock. The scent conjured memories she thought safely tucked away. A smiling face, a gentle touch, strong arms and dark wings wrapped around her in a lover’s embrace.
“Darus,” she breathed and turned back.
He stood in the meadow just beyond the opening, dark eyes locked on hers, arms outstretched. The gentle wind ruffled his black hair and whispered through the shining, blue-black feathers of his wings.
It was an illusion, she knew. She did not care. Malcomb’s wizard fold, his private sanctuary, stood open, unlocked. Death would find him, and Darus would be avenged. If Malcomb took her soul, it would not matter; it would be the last one he ever took.
She dropped her bow and took a step toward the opening.
Darus smiled and nodded. She rushed forward into his arms, and his dark wings folded around her.