Friday, 8 July 2011

Postcards Are For More Than Writing On...

They can inspire stories...

Earlier this week the writers club held a workshop on this month's speaker evening, it was about short stories.

I have to admit that whenever we have to write something without any idea of what is going to be presented I slightly panic. My brain freezes and I have to remind myself I'm not going to be in trouble if I can't do it. So panic over...

We were given a postcard each, mine was a black and white semi-nude male with a large jar held on one arm- very classical. (If it didn't inspire us we could change it for another.) But it immediately triggered a character for my potential story, called Adam.

We had about ten minutes to write details about our character and some of us couldn't avoid starting to tell the story as we wrote. A few of us read out our descriptions. So far so good...

Next we were given another postcard and this was for our second character. I had a young girl sat in a restaurant with a waiter to one side with his back turned, so you couldn't see his face. This girl was Maria- very West Side Story connotations. Again another ten minutes to write about her.

Finally we were given a postcard with a scene, a building or a place like a river. I had a tall rounded building across a street, the painting's aspect gave the impression that you were in a high place somewhere across the road. Above one window was a striped red and white awning.

Adam, I decided, is a would-be artist earning money by posing as a life model. Maria works in an Italian restaurant across the road...

The final part of the exercise was one or both has a secret- what is it?

So it's on my list to do.

You might remember (or not) some time ago I mentioned that I had a box of postcards somewhere. Well I found them and they brought so many memories back as I looked through them.

There were postcards from exhibitions I attended in London when I was about twenty. Reminders of holidays I took in York, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Scarborough. Then there were the costume postcards from various museums, and cards of the beautiful Sutton Hoo exhibits, the real things held me mesmerised whenever I went to see them in the British Museum.

All the postcards triggered mental images of the past.

So I've decided to start gathering interesting postcard images to add to my box, like those used in the workshop, so when I need some different ideas I can look through and see what stories and characters they inspire.

But first I need another box...


  1. What a great way to build a story. My teacher in my last year at primary school had a box of pictures which he'd hand out and ask us to write a story about. We loved doing that!

    And I love old postcards too. Hope you find a suitable box!

  2. I've used postcards before, Carol, and they're a great way to start story ideas. In fact we're doing this in our writing group next session.

    I also used a pile of cards when doing a one-day creative class at a disabled centre. They loved using the pictures to create a poem and there were some very good results!

    Another thing I do is cut the front picture from old greetings cards and use them for sending messages.

  3. As always at NWC, I enjoyed the workshop. I didn't get much writing done on the night as I'm not very good at character building but it gave me some ideas.

  4. Teresa, I wish my teachers had been more like yours giving us pictures to use.
    I know just the box I need. :)

    Rosemary, I hadn't considered postcards to inspire poetry, but it's obvious now you've mentioned it. Thanks for the idea.

    Some modern greetings cards could be used in the same way as the postcards.

    Thanks for the comment Keith. Glad you got some ideas from the evening's excercises.


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