Five Ways to Use Picture Writing Prompts

You may already be familiar with creative writing prompts. A prompt basically presents an idea or topic that you can use to spark and fuel your writing fire. Examples of writing prompts:

Blue.

Write about your first crush.

Start a story with the following sentence: “He hid it under the porcelain whale.”

Picture writing prompts work in a similar way, only instead of using words as a trigger, you use…(wait for it)…a picture!  And like word prompts, picture prompts can inspire everything from nonsensical freewriting paragraphs to short character vignettes to brick-thick novels.

Word prompts are great, but the visual nature of photo prompts is perhaps even more effective in catapulting creativity. But how do you use them?

Well, the obvious way is to simply look at the picture and describe or write a story about what you see. And that’s just great. But why stop at the obvious? Read on for more ideas.

Five Ways to Use Picture Writing Prompts:

1. Harvest your reactions. Photos often invite gut reactions, trigger associations, and awaken buried memories. A picture of a red ball may make you uneasy because you remember how the school bully stole your marbles and then elbowed you in the nose so hard that blood sprayed onto your shoes. So write a story about a shoe salesman with a short temper who turns into marble.

2. Ask Questions. Say you’re presented with a picture of a toy horse. Who created the horse? Who does the horse belong to? Is the toy popular with it’s owner, or is it tucked away in a closet? If the horse could speak, what would it say? What is the toy’s highest wish? Where does it want to retire? And suddenly, you find yourself writing a story about a boy whose best friend is a winged horse with nine lives.

3. Change Things Around. So many possibilities here. Play with color, texture, shape, size. Cut and paste. That picture of luscious peaches weighing down a tree branch? Turn the peaches into planets. Or the tree into a robot. Or move the whole peach tree to the bottom of the ocean. Or inside a character’s head. And that’s how you figure out pollution will one day force humans to grow their food artificially inside mountains.

4. Focus on a Single Element. The red cap on the boy’s head – whenever he wears it, he can read other people’s minds. And now someone wants to steal it.

5. Ponder What’s Not in the Picture. What’s going on outside the frame? What happened before this particular moment in time? After? What or who is missing? Is something hidden? That picture of a sunflower – did you know that fairies are growing inside the brown seeds? In fact, they are just about to be hatched.

Wow, this was so much fun. Even if my examples aren’t to your taste, I hope you see that by using these five techniques, you can squeeze out a plethora of wildly diverse stories from the simplest of photos.

Please return for more picture writing prompts – right now, I plan to post one photo a week. On the right-hand sidebar, you can sign up to receive an automatic email notice whenever I post on the blog. Until next week, I challenge you to list ten possible stories based on the picture below:

PWPballoon

Comments

  1. Fun! And I can definitely tell from your examples that you have much more experience with creative writing than I do! The way you spun that example of the red ball was hilarious. :)

    • angelicahagman says:

      Thanks, Erica! Once you get going on these things, it’s easy to get carried away. =) Let me know if you end up using one of my photo prompts to inspire a story!

  2. Angela Richards says:

    Wow you are a creative writer Those were very inspiring examples. What a great idea for a blog. Keep up the good work.

  3. Great. Amazing post. The way of writing prompts, images and your thought. Your presentation skill is very good. Thanks for sharing.http://www.writerscarnival.ca/

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