Day Three & Another Post From Me!
Images as Writing Prompts
I often use pictures, photographs, paintings and even postcards to stimulate the imagination of students and give them a visual experience to prompt a story or poem.
It may be a cliche but a picture can be worth (or stimulate) a thousand words. The best photographers not only show people, other subjects, and environments that are fresh and unfamiliar, but they reveal the familiar from a new point of view depending on where the camera is focused.
So too with painters, an artist’s eye trained and sensitive like the photographer’s. Unusual angles, specific details, particular highlights… the visual prompt sets off trains of thought and feelings and can be a powerful starting point for all forms of writing.
The example is a tool to use and sometimes it’s helpful to go round the table and discuss initial impressions and responses, sometimes I suggest a particular genre, and may even give the choice of a first or last line.
There are always a variety of ways of creating a context to encourage writing.
Below is one of my favourite images because I love mysteries.
(I’m also a self-confessed devotee of British crime drama and in 2017 was thrilled to stand outside the house of Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez in Shetland!)
Look at the picture and think of possible ideas for a story.
Look beyond the obvious – this could be the beginning or the end of a tale/adventure.
- It could be a woman or a man’s feet.
- The car may be hired or stolen – it may not even be involved.
- Is this death/injury by accident or design?
- Is the car stopping to help or is it the weapon?
- Is/are the documents stolen and/or valuable?
- Could the paper be lecture notes, a will, a shopping list, a contract, top-secret plans?
- Perhaps the papers belong to a bystander. Are they important or unimportant?
- Where is the story set – will you make it a period piece, modern-day, pick a particular country?
- Will you take the idea and not too much detail and apply it to a personal experience?
Your Interpretation and Your Story – Have fun
“Your voice is how you write, the way you handle language, your style—if you have one. Do I? I write like I think. I like spontaneity. I push and pull, change speed and rhythm, balance short and long sentences. I compare it to jazz riffs and drum rolls. I’m economical with words, but I won’t interrupt a nice solo. I never have to think about this. It’s me… I’ve known excellent writers who don’t have a recognizable voice but have earned awards and attracted readers through their work. Your voice, ultimately, will be what comes out of you. And you’re entitled to it. But how you use it will also depend upon the audience at which it’s aimed and/or the market to which it’s sold.”
If you can’t get too enthused about this image you might like to practise your sentence structures and powers of observation by:
- writing a simple description of the scene, making sure you include the important details
- writing your opinion of what you see and your feelings about the scene
- writing a poem describing the feelings of onlookers or the person lying on the road
- writing what an imaginary visitor might think or how they’d act coming across the scene
- writing a list of how many other characters could be in a story about this scene
I guarantee if you do all of the above, you will be hooked and a story – maybe even a novel – will be in the making!
All these different approaches should result in an interesting piece of writing but start by looking carefully at the image and using sharp observation skills with a hefty dose of imagination.
Here is my effort – I called it Tripped Up short story 581 words
I love double meanings, writing in layers and short stories with a twist. I was aiming for under 600 words and after writing the story in class along with my students, I edited at home following my mantra:
- Revisit and polish what you wrote in class – did you pick up ideas/phrases/different viewpoint from listening to other’s read their work? What can you add to your piece?
If you are uninspired or disinterested in this photo prompt just go to Google images and type in a subject or event you care about and go through a similar process until an idea for a story or poem bubbles to the surface.
Please share your work – we all learn from each other!