Stories on a postcard


It’s the end of the Great Exhibition of the North and what a brilliant few months it’s been. As well as enjoying the various exhibitions and events, I was pleased to share my love of flash fiction with visitors to the Get North Family Expo – a weekend of activities designed to inspire children to explore the Exhibition’s themes of science, sport, innovation and technology.

My idea was simple and it’s been done before. I’d give people a blank postcard to write a story on. This could be about anything. What if they had a superpower? The 1980s. Their favourite animal. A family ritual or saying. Something interesting they’d seen that day. I’d then pin up the postcard sized stories for people to read and enjoy throughout the weekend.

On the morning of the event – all set up with my display board, blank postcards and prompt ideas – I was worried. The Expo had some incredible stalls and activities for families to try. I was sandwiched between a snazzy light painting screen and a Newcastle United football challenge. Would anyone want to sit quietly and write? Should I have bought some flashing lights for my noticeboard? What if no-one took a postcard?

Gradually, though, people began to stop and write. Some had stories ready to go. Others needed help to start – by rolling story dice or talking about a favourite TV programme. Some claimed not to have stories at all, well apart from the time when…

The noticeboard began to fill up. From the scribbles and pictures of the youngest visitors to the memories of grandparents – the activity was easy to understand and could be enjoyed by people of any age or ability. It was magical to see people pause and enjoy a quiet moment in such a busy and lively event. And also to talk to people about the stories they were writing and what had inspired them. Thanks to everyone who shared a story with me. If you’d like to write your own postcard story here are some quick tips for writing flash fiction:

  • Think about it like a photograph – try to capture a single moment in time.
  • Focus. What’s your story about? Can you sum it up in a sentence?
  • Choose your words with care. Use words that have associations and implications (e.g. ‘parquet’ instead of ‘floor’).
  • Start in the middle of the action.
  • Don’t explain everything. Let readers fill in the gaps with their own ideas.
  • Try something unusual. Experiment with different ways of telling your story.
  • Edit. Avoid repetition. Remove adjectives, adverbs and any other unnecessary words.
  • Read flash fiction.