One of the most difficult aspects of being a writer is remaining consistent with your writing, and pushing through the all-too-common writer’s block. One of the ways that we can combat this is challenging ourselves to write every day, even if it’s just for a month at a time. That’s what author R J (Ruth) Amos did, and she published her results in the book Challenge Accepted.
While I attempted to undertake this challenge (and failed, miserably!), I enjoyed reading Amos’ results and seeing how she interpreted each prompt.
Challenge Accepted is a series of 30 short stories, inspired by prompts that the author found on Reddit. The prompts are mostly based on sci-fi or magical elements, and some have a wider scope than others. I think one of the reasons I personally failed this challenge was the fact that the prompts were in a genre I wasn’t used to writing in, but Amos takes these themes in her stride and makes them her own. It’s also incredibly brave to put your writing out into the world in a book like this, and Amos does acknowledge that some stories turned out better than others. I can be such a perfectionist that the idea of putting my creative writing on the Internet sends a shiver down my spine!
Overall, I found the stories to be entertaining and interesting to read. Most of them have a clear vision and direction when it came to addressing the theme/prompt, and a few really stood out to me. Some favourites include: Care for Your Human, A Case of Identity, and Fun Weekend for all the Family.
If you’re looking to take up a challenge to test your creative writing skills, I highly recommend picking up Challenge Accepted! A great way to tackle these prompts is to write your own story, and then read the author’s story, and see how you both addressed the prompt. I really like that the author listed all of the prompts at the beginning of the book, so that you can try for yourself before reading her results.
To get you started, here is the first prompt, along with my short story! This prompt actually inspired me to expand on this particular theme (of which I took a few creative liberties), and I have started planning out a manuscript for a full-length novel. Whether that comes to fruition is another story.
Challenge Accepted can be purchased from the author’s website.
You’re a paramedic. In fact, an immortal paramedic. Since you first treated a wounded soldier on the fields of the 30-years War, you didn’t age and followed the development of “Emergency Medical Service”. Your co-workers are astonished by your knowledge, but sometimes, you slip into old habits. (credit: Seraphim9120 on Reddit)
It was hard to tell what was paint and what was blood. The Ferrari’s crimson exterior was now a mangled mess on the wet road, covered in deep gouges and bits of smashed glass. It lay on its roof, spotlighted by the heavy-duty lights set up by the fire department.
It wasn’t unusual for a car like this to be on an empty backroad in the middle of the night. Amish country was exceptionally quiet, and the lack of street lights made for a wild ride at high speeds. You never knew what was around the corner, and that’s what the thrill seekers enjoyed the most. The nearest town was over 50 miles away, and so the paramedics were still a while away, weaving through traffic, siren wailing and lights flashing that ominous blue and red. I had settled into the small village in Pennsylvania over a century ago, and my medical knowledge never really developed to match the advances over the years. I still had my trusty medical tote from the Civil War days, and it had aged as well as I had. It was as if my instruments were as immortal as I was.
I woke to a frantic knock at my door. Through bleary eyes I read the time on the cuckoo clock; just after 3am. One of the farmer’s must have had a run-in with a dairy cow again. I threw on my coat and headed to the door, cringing at the volume of the desperate knocking.
“Come quick! A motorcar has crashed on the highway! Oh goodness, there’s debris everywhere… and the blood…”
“I’ll grab my bag.”
As I climbed off the buggy, a firefighter raced over to me and shook my hand.
“You’re the doctor?” he asked, and I could tell he was sceptical.
“Yes sir.” I nodded, glancing over at the carnage ahead.
“Well, we have two occupants of the vehicle. One deceased, one clinging to life. I’m not hopeful the other will survive. Her injuries, upon initial assessment, are not compatible will life.” He looked pale. Clearly what he had witnessed inside that car was horrific.
The woman was laying on the road, neck stabilised with some sort of plastic brace. Her blonde hair was matted with dried blood and glinted with shattered glass. One eye was swollen shut and her breath was coming in painful, ragged huffs.
I might be immortal, but I don’t have magic powers. I can’t bring people back to life. That’s not how this works.
The only thing I could do for this poor woman was tourniquet her wounds and render aid until the real EMT’s arrived. My hands were shaking and I felt the eyes of the crew on me the entire time. I whispered to her as I worked, trying to keep her conscious. It was barely working.
She looked up at me, terrified. The pupil of the eye that wasn’t swollen was blown, giving her blue eyes a demonic, blackened appearance. Her mouth hung open slightly, and I watched her take another laboured breath.
I had no pain relief, aside from some concoctions I had created in my home apothecary. I considered putting her out of her misery, like I had done with some of our town’s horses in the past. She wasn’t going to survive this. I reached into my bag and pulled out a vial and a syringe. The last time I had used something this potent was when I was treating soldiers on the battlefield. That was also the last time I had seen this much blood. I could smell the iron as it seeped into the crevices of the tar on the road.
A sense of peace washed over her as the medicine took effect. The creases in her forehead and around her eyes disappeared, and her body began to go limp. She looked as though she was sleeping. I checked around me to see if anyone had seen what I had just done, but they were all busy trying to stem the flow of petrol trickling from the engine.
I closed my bag, leant bag on my heels and watched as she drifted off into death. And then I clasped my hands and prayed. For her, or for me, I wasn’t sure.