This week, Futures is delighted to welcome back Beth Cato and her story The wind knows all. Regular readers will recall that Beth is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the Blood of Earth trilogy, as well as having written a number of stories for Futures (you’ll find a full list at the foot of this post). You can find out more about her work at her website or by following her on Twitter. Here, she reveals what inspired her latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.
Writing: The wind knows all
I belong to Codex, a site for neo-pro writers that provides deep friendships, publishing industry news, and numerous writing contests throughout the year. The twice-a-year flash-fiction contests are among my very favourites.
The usual contest format involves five story prompts followed by a weekend of frenzied writing and revising to produce a work of flash fiction that I hope will not prove to be an embarrassment. Often, I end up combining several prompts to prod a story from my brain. That was the case with The wind knows all.
One of the prompts called on me to randomly shuffle through my phone’s music. That brought me to a song by one of my favourite bands, ‘Dust Bowl Dance’ by Mumford and Sons. Still, the song alone wasn’t enough to build a story. I studied the other prompts and fixated on one that asked, “How do you feed a ghost?”
My writer-brain, funny thing that it is, wondered: what if the dusty wind is filled with ghosts? Not just the ghosts of people, but the very spirit of a planet?
To make things even more challenging, I resolved to make the planet into the narrator, giving it insight into every other character and control over my protagonist, Maribel. Contest feedback pointed out that Maribel needed more agency. I agreed. I made the point-of-view even more complex by limiting the planet’s control over Maribel, establishing her as an independent teen girl amid horrible circumstances.
Codex’s contests are awesome because they push me to experiment, such as with prompts I’d never use otherwise (like the playlist on my phone) or with perspectives that would be downright daunting if I gave them too much thought (like the voice of an entire planet). Sometimes those experiments don’t work. In this case, it did, and I’m happy to see The wind knows all find a home with Nature’s Futures.
Read more Futures stories by Beth:
A picture is worth | The 133rd Live Podcast of the Gourmando Resistance | Powers of observation | Excerpts from the 100-day food diary of Angela Meyer | The human is late to feed the cat | Bread of life | Post-apocalyptic conversations with a sidewalk | Canopy of skulls