Writing prompt #3: postcards from the edge

Shawn Anderson postcard rack.jpg

Postcards make the best writing prompts. They're little, portable works of art that you can slip into a novel or notebook for inspiration on the go. Over the years, I've collected quite a few.

Since I've been doing a short-story-a-week challenge as part of #52week52stories, I've gone into my collection to help generate story ideas and keep the creativity flowing.

The ones that I have selected for this writing prompt have been collected over the years from Bear Pond Bookstore in Montpelier, Vermont. I usually grab a couple to use as book marks or to decorate the bulletin board in my office. Sometimes I just like to spin the rack and pick the first one that catches my eye.

 POSTCARD #1:  E.T.A. Hoffmann (Frei Nach Goya)  by Gerhard Gluc

POSTCARD #1: E.T.A. Hoffmann (Frei Nach Goya) by Gerhard Gluc

I just love these German postcards, so you are going to see many of them. This one is both creepy and comical, and there's something magical about mirrors. It's one part boogieman mixed with one part Narnia-ish portal fantasy. And that monkey mischievously holding up the second mirror—well, he's just up to no good.

 POSTCARD #2:  Fun Fair, Tragedy, 1997  by David Lachapelle

POSTCARD #2: Fun Fair, Tragedy, 1997 by David Lachapelle

Equally creepy, this photograph is a carnival fairway gone mad. The garish lights and colors take you to a whimsical loony bin filled with characters. This image recently gave me an idea for a novel-length manuscript, and I recently used it for #52weeks52stories to explore writing short, short stories. I wrote seven one-sentence stories based on the characters in the photo. Each story was themed by a sin from the Seven Deadly Sins, and the stories flowed together to capture the story interpreted from the postcard's artwork. 



This one is probably the oldest in my postcard collection. I've always found this image haunting and unsettling. The sparrow's body language and garb make him seem far less confident than the fox children. The drum in the foreground hints to some type of playground ritual or military game. You can which fox is the leader by his posture. The bare branches and gray sky... Something bad is going to happen.

 POSTCARD #4:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988  by Elliot Erwitt

POSTCARD #4: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988 by Elliot Erwitt

There's something whimsical about children in museums. For me, this image embodies the playful curiosity of this little girl enjoying a day at the museum. Maybe she is on a class trip or maybe it's a weekend outing with her caregiver. Build a story around the image. Museums could be another creative-writing prompt altogether. They are so inspiring and filled to the rooftop with stories.

 POSTCARD #5:  LESENDE FRAU  by Quint Buchholz

POSTCARD #5: LESENDE FRAU by Quint Buchholz

This image says, what if there was magic to be discovered in our everyday lives. Maybe you stumble across it when someone didn't think you were looking, or maybe you or a family member is living with a fantastic secret or special gift. This is a fertile premise for storytelling.

 POSTCARD #6:  FINISHING SCHOOL, 2000  by Barry Downard

POSTCARD #6: FINISHING SCHOOL, 2000 by Barry Downard

Cows, cows, and more cows! Living in Vermont, I've always wanted to write a short story or picture-book draft about cows. This is one of the more strange cow images that I have. What would cow class be like? What would they study? 

 POSTCARD #7:  IN DER KLETTERWAND  by Quint Buchholz


This colorful climbing image is full of fun and fantasy. What will the boy encounter on his climb up the drawers? Who will be his friends? What will stand in his way? Where is he going? Where has he come from? How far must he climb to reach the top?