Writing Prompt of the Week: Defined by Loss
The Jessica Jones trailer inspired a writing prompt concerning characterization and props. In contrast, this week’s prompt considers characterization by the absence of something. What happens when a character is defined by loss? This may sound like a depressing prompt, and in most cases it will be, but it can really take the tone that you choose. Different types of loss will inspire different types of characters.
Defined by Loss Character Prompt: Write a flash fiction, under 500 words, about a character who is defined by loss. Think of a character who’s current life has been created by the things or people that they have lost.
My Three Children
Goodwife Johnson passed today, along with the babe she bore. Her sister came for me before dawn, and we walked the six miles west to Johnson Farm. The poor woman bled quite a bit before I arrived, and over the next few hours, I exhausted my abilities in effort to keep her alive just long enough to bring her child to this world. The wail of the newborn is a soul salve for any woman dying as she was. Goody Johnson lived long enough to hold the babe in her arms, but the little babe, a boy, never cried. I don’t believe it ever took a breath in this world. Purple and wrinkled and still, just as my three had been– three buried in boxes not large enough to be called coffins.
Farmer Johnson, hearing the end of his wife’s screams and the absence of the newborn’s, guessed the fate of mother and child. He burst into the birthing chamber before I had even cleaned the poor woman. I was bathing the babe with a cloth when he entered, and I saw, for a moment, the hope in his eyes that the child I held was living. His face twisted when he noticed the purple hue of its skin and the blue lips. He began swearing and ranting the way only a man wounded that way can. These words, directed at me, were none I had not heard before. Men in his position blame the midwife where they should blame God. He brought up the old accusation, that no woman who was not a mother herself should be a midwife. Not a mother.
My oldest son is fourteen now. He shares both his father’s name and eyes. He already winks at the girls when he thinks I do not see. It will not be long before he is building a family of his own.
We name little John after my brother, and he has just turned seven. He has left my apron strings and often accompanies the men to the fields during the day where he works and plays in equal measure. At night, he puts on his father’s boots and mimics the sure posture of a man, pointing with authority at a row of cornhusk dolls ordering them to clear a new row of field.
My daughter is six, that sweet and innocent age. I name her Imogen, but we call her Immy. She is just grown enough to help me in the kitchen, and she learns by my side as I did by my own mother’s. Every night I plait her hair, which is the same color as mine, while I tell her stories about her aunts and myself when we were little girls.
My breath gives them fleeting life. Exhale, they are next to me. Inhale, they are memory.