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Postcard Stories

A Picture is worth a thousand words

When I was in university, I had a professor give us all postcards and have us write stories on the back. I think the front of the card was intended to inspire the story, but I'm not certain that strictly speaking that is what is meant by postcard story. Rather, a postcard story is a form of flash fiction. It is a very short story that seeks to capture a single moment in time. You will need to use your words with extreme care, and often start in the middle of the action.

I first started to realize that the image might not be meant to be the theme of the story while watching Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun. There is a scene where she is helping a guy write home to his mom, and she starts to write this incredibly descriptive and poetic paragraph about Tuscany. The man reads it and is disgusted. His mother is never going to believe he wrote the card. Anyway, her story had nothing to do with the image on the postcard. If only I'd seen the movie before I dished out all that tuition! :)

When I was younger, I wrote a novel which I simply called Scenes. I set it at a camp and instead of writing chronologically according to a plot, I wrote it in scenes (thus the title). I planned to go back and do all the connecting work when I was done, but first I'd write the fun stuff. The kissing scene. The fighting scene. The cabin raid scene. In a sense, those little scenes which happen inside every story are postcard stories. A better description might be 'snapshots.' As writers, we are describing the moments in time (snapshots) that combine to make up the bigger story of a life.

Over November, I will be writing non-fiction. Partially, the book will be researched factual information on a variety of topics, and partially it will be a series of short personal essays where I describe my experiences and observations within the towns I am visiting. My observations will be far from comprehensive -- how could they be, possibly since my interaction with each location will be temporary. The images I captured in each location are my 'postcard stories.' They snap me bag to the vibe, the experience, the time and place. In Where the Locals Go, I will be writing snapshots, really. And just like Diane Lane's character, hopefully with what I write, you will see the sights, smell the scents, and taste the flavours which I experienced on these journeys.

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