Pictures as prompts

We’re all familiar with that feeling of ‘I want to write but I don’t know where to start’. If you’re forever busy and rushing around you often feel you don’t have the thinking time to generate new ideas. I find travelling on the Tube a great place for ideas – the only place you have nothing to do, no mobile reception to distract you and nowhere to write the ideas down!

What's on the other side?
What’s on the other side?

So what do you do when inspiration refuses to strike or you sit down to your writing practice and have no idea where to start? There are several tricks you can try, including writing prompts. Sometimes these come in the form of a sentence to start you off – for example ‘In my experience, those who beg for mercy seldom deserve it’. That was from a short story competition on the TV channel Alibi many moons ago. But my personal favourite at the moment, is using a picture. There are tons available on the Internet or even among your own photo collection so find one that sparks your interest and makes you wonder what it’s all about.

Sit and stare at the picture and ask yourself a few questions – who, where, what, how, why and what if. The last question is by far the most important and has served me well in generating ideas in the past. Probably more so even than earwigging on unsuspecting people’s conversations on public transport and in cafes.

A ghostly boat submerged beneath the water of a lake
A ghostly boat submerged beneath the water of a lake

Using a picture gives your brain the freedom to look beyond what you would usually write and perhaps allows you to choose a different genre. You can also transplant your favourite character – one you’re working on – into that setting and see what happens. The two pictures on today’s blog are ones I’ve used recently and which led to very enjoyable writing sessions and more importantly pieces that I think I can actually use. Feel free to use them yourself and let me know in the comments section how you get on!

Keeping the ideas coming is vital. It means that if one idea isn’t working, you don’t need to keep on trying to make it work. Instead you can set it aside and move onto something else. This may prove to be more successful; whatever it leads to just keep writing. Even if you’re not finishing everything you start at this stage, just keep going. We’ll look at finishing later.

What do you think of using pictures as prompts? Does this work for you? What other tricks do you use to keep your writing flowing? Answers in the comment box below please!

One thought on “Pictures as prompts

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  1. Pictures are always good for inspiration, but I don’t think I’ve ever written one specifically about a picture.

    I tend to use music a lot… whether it’s the actual story in the lyrics or just the atmosphere of the song…

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