Using Pictures for Story Ideas

I often use pictures to get ideas for scenes and/or settings. The above picture is the property of jlgsgirl photography and was specifically taken for use in my book, Dear Ellie. Before I explain the significance of the picture in the story, let me ask you, what kind of story might this image tell? Tell it in your imagination.

Then translate what your imagination is telling you to the written word. Maybe you see a sense of peace. Perhaps you see a lonely bench where happiness and dreams once sat. Could it be a storm is brewing just over the horizon that’s not in view yet? What about the railing? Is it there to prevent a suicide? What might the tree tell us? It could possibly represent shade and protection from an ordeal your character is experiencing. In reality, there may be scores of things this picture could be communicating to our imagination. But it’s your imagination and your story.

The above picture was taken for a specific idea I had while writing Dear Ellie, but you can use pictures to gain ideas from as well. I hope you’ve seen that. I don’t want to break anybody’s bubble, but I don’t believe writer’s block exists. I think it’s also a product of the imagination. Sometimes I need to think about a scene before it’s fully developed in my mind, and I’ve found that browsing through online images often help to break the ice and get the creative juices flowing again.

There are many online image sources. I usually use Google images, but you might also try Pinterest, Pixabay, and a host of others. Let your imagination pore over the images and develop your scene as your muse dictates. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Now, back to the picture from Dear Ellie. There were actually two. This one was placed in the beginnig of the book before the first word of chapter appears.

In this picture, Ellie is filled with confusion over circustances in her life. All she sees are trees and weeds that block her thinking. Her reality has become muddied as she comtemplates her life – her life that is to be revealed as the story progresses.

The first picture of the empty bench appears at the end of the book, after the very last word was written. We see she has found another bench looking out over a relatively clear sky with no obstructions – but she is gone. The story tells of a life of pain reconciled with the acceptance of reality. The storm has passed, and she moves on.

Even though the two bench photos were taken to fit the story, so often it works the other way around for me. I see a scene first with my eyes and then translate it to my imagination. The final product exists when I translate it from my imagination to the written word. Give it a try. It just may be what you need to block writer’s block.

7 thoughts on “Using Pictures for Story Ideas

  1. I only have my little phone to photograph with and the quality lacks sometimes so I rely heavily on Pixabay and recently discovered Unsplash. Also, Creation Swap and Free Bible Images for faith and inspirational work. Thought I’d pass those along.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Images are so poweful. Not be be cliche, but the saying “A picture paints a thousand words,” is true. I have seen photos during writing and thought “That would make a great scene in the story,” or it might strike me as a way to illustrate what I’ve already written.

    I got my start in writing when I was in fourth grade and what I remember most is my teacher using pictures as writing prompts. I taught a writing class once using this method. It wasn’t a writing class to learn writing, it was to help people with mental health challenges to learn to express themselves. I didn’t use images every time, but often and it was amazing what kind of things the people came up with.

    This was a good post Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill
    Great post here. I’ve done the same with some of the posts I’ve done on Hubpages, especially when I was serializing ‘Scorpion’s Reach’
    I think it’s a great way to give the reader a small indication of the places talked about.
    My favourite was the farmhouse Joey and Sandy were in when the biker gang showed up. For that I used a photo I took of a farmhouse near a place called ‘Blue springs’ where the water from the spring is so much pure its actually blue in colour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess you know what I’m talking about, Lawrence. That farmhouse scene was a great scene. Sometimes what we know to be fact makes the best fiction, and I think that’s the way pictures work. The words seem easier if we have a clear picture in our mind to translate.


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