Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #8 (The Postcard Story)

I'm posting something a little different this week for the Writing Workout. It's a break from the usual in-depth exercises. Everyone I know seems ultra busy right now, so I thought this was appropriate.

I was inspired when I read about a contest sponsored by the Writers' Union of Canada (not to be confused with the Writers Guild of Canada). The contest is called the Postcard Story Contest and it's open to all Canadian citizens and landed immigrants (sorry, Vicki).

The challenge is "to create a dramatic, short, snappy piece in only 250 words. You can use humour, poetry, dialogue…anything goes."

This type of fiction is often called Flash Fiction or Micro Fiction. I'd always admired it, but had never tried it. I've written plenty of poems, some of them narrative, and many short stories. However, I think the shortest story I've ever written was still over 1,000 words. This sounded like a great challenge...

Many of you know I love challenges and often do them in 10 day spurts. Well, this opportunity was no exception. I got two friends together and we decided to write a postcard story every day for 10 days. We're on our last day today.

Here are some different ways to approach your workout:

1) Write a story in 250 words or less. If you have no idea how to begin the story, I've supplied you with several start lines below. You can also just randomly pick a line from a book you're reading. When I was writing my stories I would simply crank out a bunch of first lines until one inspired me and I continued. That's why I have all these leftover first lines.

First Lines:

She packed everything except the salt and pepper shakers.

He was the biggest kid in the class at 310 lbs.

As soon as he had mailed the letter, he regretted having done so.

When he awoke from his dream, he had the answer.

If she was going to leave him, it was now or never.

There was only one person left on her Christmas list.

I buried the dog on Monday.

The zoo was empty.

He walked up to the blackboard.

Example Postcard Story:

Final Chapter

When he awoke from his dream, he had the answer. The final chapter for his book. A way to end it that was not contrived, not maudlin… a way to imply “happily ever after,” but not in fairy-tale manner, in a way anyone could believe might happen. He stumbled out of bed. It was 3:15 am. Where was his laptop… no, forget the laptop, this had to be written in ink, writer’s blood, it had to flow like his dream… his dream… He had been dreaming of Samantha. Of how she had looked at 17 and he was fresh from the Navy. He met her at a cafĂ©. She was a waitress studying art history. He was a writer disguised as a servant of the government. She saw right through him. He left poems on napkins for her. He asked her to marry him by writing the words on her bathroom mirror. She said yes in red lipstick. He stumbled through the hallway, bathed strangely in green light. Without his glasses on, it looked as if he were underwater. The walls breathed like gills. He didn’t remember the house having so many pictures. Ghostly figures in large frames followed him until he reached his office. The door was closed. The doorknob so cold it caught him off guard. Then the smell, subtle, yet unmistakable, the perfume Samantha had worn every day for 50 years. He opened the door and was enveloped in the light.

2) If you are working on a screenplay or novel right now, why not try a series of postcard stories about your characters? You might write a series of five postcard stories about one character, or one each for five different characters.

3) Join the challenge! Write one postcard story a day for 10 days. If you're Canadian, enter the postcard contest for a chance to win $500.

Post the stories on your own blogs and link below.


julia said...

Hi Danika - Life is a little topsey-turvey for me at the moment. My gram is in the hospital and my mom and I are taking turns looking after her. Not that there aren't nurses! But we don't like to leave her alone. So we're there for all the visitor's hours, which is a bit tiring. That's why we've split it between us.

Anyway, my brain won't work at the moment. I'll check back later if you still have it up.

Danika / OpenChannel said...

Sorry to hear about your Grandmother. I think that's great you can take shifts to be with her.

I always keep my exercises up, so you can come back any time you like.

Wakela Runen said...

I still haven't gotten around to doing last weeks, I will eventually.

However, I did get this week's done. It was a lot of fun.

Danika / OpenChannel said...

Awesome, Wakela - you go!

Danika / OpenChannel said...

P.S. I ended up doing 10 of them in total and it was a great challenge, especially making each one unique - I experimented going in different directions and using different styles. I highly recommend the 10-day challenge.