Last Saturday, August 19, was World Picture Day—and I missed it! But it’s never to late to recall a good idea.
Those of us who have taken writing workshops know the value of pictures as writing prompts. I’ve been on the receiving end and the giving end of postcards, photos, or paintings as the stimulus for stories. Several of my published stories started with such prompts, including Naked Truth, Love Me Tender, and Pictures Not Displayed (forthcoming).
Whole books have been published for the specific purpose of prompting stories. There’s a lot to be said for using such a book for daily—or at least regular—writing exercises, some of which turn into scenes in longer pieces or books. They can add a plot twist that surprises the reader.
Books that aren’t necessarily intended as writing prompts can nevertheless be great resources.
Each picture should lead to a full story, including—at the minimum—who, what, when, where, and why. Never underestimate the importance of why. Rorschach cards are used to elicit such stories for diagnostic purposes. And as with the Rorschach cards, the good writer will consider what led up to the picture, what will happen now, and what is the protagonist thinking and feeling.
But beyond looking at pictures, you should take pictures. This is often easy, given the availability of cell phones with a photo capability. Keeping an eye out for photo opps makes you more sensitive to details of your surroundings—from the color of flowers to found art—to capturing people’s emotions in the moment. Your own pictures are as useful for material as any others. Go for it.