What story does this picture tell? I was intrigued when I noticed it on A Writer’s Right to Keep Writing and followed the trail to bingobongo’s source image. I challenge each viewer to add a comment with a couple of sentences answering that question, and to do it before reading any of the other comments. I guarantee you that no two stories will be quite the same. Themes may emerge, but each story will have a unique twist. This illustrates that no two people see or understand the same way, and pictures require clear verbal communication to ensure that everybody is on the same page.
Now and then when we have a little extra time in a writing group, I pull out my folio of a few hundred pictures I’ve clipped to use as prompts for a freewriting exercise. Some are as simple as a single flower blossom. Others are complex scenes. Many feature people doing things or interacting with other people. The instructions are simple:
“Look through the pictures and select one that calls to you. Take a couple if you wish. Look at the picture for a minute or two, then start writing whatever story comes to mind.”
If we have lots of time, we may write for fifteen or twenty minutes, but more likely it will be five or six. No two people write about the same picture, so no two stories are the same. It wouldn’t matter if everyone wrote about the same picture. (No two stories would be the same.) People are always amazed at the depth and quality of the stories that emerge from this exercise. They tend to be rich in detail and highly personal. They always go home with dozens of new entries on their story idea lists.
Sometimes I use these pictures to start a story myself. They are great for smashing through a crusty case of Writer’s Block and they always result in stories I would not have thought to write on my own. Family photos are also a great source of story prompts.
If you want to start a collection of writing prompt pictures to use on your own or share with a group, assemble a selection of magazines, ideally with a wide variety of content and heavily illustrated. The pictures may be photos or any other art. I trim all the words. Other people leave words and sometimes incorporate them into the stories. I’ve used pictures from travel magazines and brochures, sports , history/culture (i.e. Smithsonian, Nat’l Geographic), home décor, cooking, parenting, news, and general interest magazines. Any size will do – half a page is ideal.
Another approach is to hit the web and search for pictures on sites like Flickr, Picasa, or Webshots. Select a topic and use Google’s Images tab to find pictures about it. Unless you plan to publish the picture, copyright doesn’t matter.
Write now: just for fun or two overcome writer’s block, find one or more pictures and write about them. Begin a collection to share with a writing group, or invite a group f friends and neighbors to join you for an evening of writing fun.
Picture credit: bongobingo