Whenever I travel, I compose a short fun story for my five grandchildren, write it on fifteen or twenty postcards without numbering them, address three or four cards to each of the five (plus a couple for Mom and Dad), and mail them.
When the cards arrive, all out of order, my daughter saves them until I return from my trip, at which point everybody gathers in the living room, the postcards are distributed to the addressees to be read aloud. Of course, they have to figure out what the order is. The first card always starts with "Once upon a time," and the last one always ends with "Love, Grannie."
Since each card generally ends in the middle of a sentence, it can take a while to muddle through the possibilities, but we always have a good laugh as various sentence endings are tried out and rejected until somebody comes up with the right one.
This particular story is about a seagull named Gullwana who lived in the kingdom of Folly Beach. I was there in the fall of 2013 with a number of artist friends who would all disperse during the day to paint, draw, or photograph while I stayed in the beach house and wrote. In the evenings, we’d eat a meal together and then talk for hours. By the last evening, I had my postcard story written, so I handed out the cards and let them try to figure out the sequence.
I’ve written about an alligator named Willagator, five moose children who saved a cow whose leg was stuck between two rocks, a gathering of small animals on Nanny Goat Beach who were accompanied by a witch, two royal frogs named Plop and Fromena, … and so on.
Writing a postcard story is good experience for an author because:
it definitely gets the creative juices flowing;
it has to be succinct;
it hones one’s "beginning, middle, end" skills; and
it provides a good alternative to sitting there wondering how to deal with the next scene in the latest work-in-progress.
Once I finish the postcard story, I’m usually raring to get back to whatever writing project I’m working on.
You didn’t know writers had such sneaky tricks, did you?
Oh. Well then, why don’t you try writing a postcard story yourself? It’s loads of fun.