A lot of little letters

I don’t really have an image for this one.

A month or so ago I asked if anyone wanted me to send them a postcard with a little story on it. It was a follow-up to a quick exercise where I wrote five postcards one Saturday morning and sent them to random twitter folk – first come, first served.

The plan was to write 30. 37 people asked for one, so I did a few more and (finally) popped the last batch in the post today.

The exercise was strange. Absolutely undocumented, absolutely unplanned. The writing was spontaneous, and there are more than a few out there that I’m embarrassed by (I hate that people will have them – I dread the idea of people keeping them). But there’s a bunch – well over half – that I’m really happy with.

Part of me wondered if it might turn into a story engine; ideas spitting out that might become future projects. Nope. Very few things really bit.

What I discovered is that I like putting words in people’s mouths – literally scribbling imagined dialogue. Thing is, when I sit down and write fiction that’s far and away the hardest part. Spontaneity of voice is something I’ll find different ways of practising again – maybe with a similar exercise, but focusing on the back-and-forth of people telling stories.

Getting the blank cards was fun. Once I started seeking postcards they started spontaneously appearing. The serendipity of finding cards in places I found myself – paid visitor or naive stranger – was really interesting, especially as I spent so much of September away.

Not everyone’s checked in, but about a quarter of the cards definitely arrived. Responses have been positive or neutral, and that’s about what I’d hope for scraps of writing jotted in London, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and all the routes between.

My favourite response though was Katie’s. She wandered in to her house to find a postcard on her mat – no idea which one – having entirely forgotten about volunteering to take part. For a few brief seconds she imagined herself in the opening of some Pynchon-esque narrative, something unfolding in front of her that made no linear sense.

I can only imagine how disappointed she must have felt when she remembered I owed her a postcard.