In the incredibly visual world in which we live, we are constantly bombarded by images. Rather than being off-put by this sometimes overstimulating environment, I’ve found it very helpful to use pictures to inspire my storytelling. Here are four ways images can inspire writing:
#1. Images as Reminders:
While my brain is wonderful at many things, it simply cannot remember the minutia of every single life experience I have ever had. Which is why I try to take as many pictures as I possibly can. I take great delight in looking back at pictures of my trips, or even pictures I’ve taken of my everyday life. I like to remind myself not only of the exciting adventures I’ve had, but of the seemingly mundane moments of life, and how those small moments can hold so much wonder! This is so important for my writing, because the best stories are reflective of reality. Life holds so many amazing, and wonderful moments, but equally important are the smaller moments, which can be just as poignant, and beautiful, and need to be reflected in the stories we tell.
#2. Perspective Shift:
One of the reasons I love taking pictures is because what I see at the moment I take the photo, is not always what I see when I go back and look at the image later. For example, when I took the photo below last August, I was very focused on the early evening sun filtering through the trees. And yet, what I see when I look at the photo now, is the unusual shape of the tree in the foreground of the photo. In fact, when I first glanced at the image, I was struck by how alien the tree looks, and it inspired an idea for a scene in my next novel! I never know where an idea will come from, and sometimes photos I’ve taken for a particular reason, later become inspiration for something else!
#3. Engaging all five senses:
Sometimes I will use images as writing exercises. The other day I found an image of a cup of tea sitting on a coffee table. I wrote 712 words describing that cup of tea, because the image inspired me to engage all five senses; sight, touch, smell, taste, and even the sounds of a cup of tea. As counter intuitive as it may seem, images can inspire you to think of all five of the senses, not just sight. This is an important aspect of storytelling!
#4. Vicarious Experiences:
Whilst wandering around the internet one morning, I came across this article by Buzzfeed: The 33 Most Beautiful Abandoned Places in the World
. While all of the images are stunning, I was particularly struck by this photo taken by Chris Gray of Komanskop in Namibia (original National Geographic article here
While I have been fortunate enough to have travelled around the world fairly extensively, I have never seen anything like the image above. And I probably never will.
This stunning image inspired a myriad of new story ideas for me, despite the fact that I have never actually been to Namibia.The photograph transported my imagination, and allowed me to be inspired not only by my own experiences, but bythe experiences of others!
Have you ever used images to inspire your own storytelling?
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