Story Prompts for Non-Verbal Thinkers, Part 2

I don’t experience the same hesitation with verbal prompts that Mark does. Generally, words of any kind spring to life as pictures in my head. However “image inspiration” is one of my favorite approaches to writing prompts. When Mark wanted to offer tips about what works for him, I knew I could jump in with some suggestions of my own.

Mark says, “I sometimes go to the “explore” page, and just scroll around, or do a search for a particular thing or idea, or even a character’s name, just to get some images to go with the ideas.” I’ve never tried this with flickr, but I do it with magazine clippings.

Hoarder I may be, but images from magazines are useful for many things. Collaging, lining the bird cage, and oh, writing prompts!

I love flipping through magazines, tearing out pictures that are interesting. I learned to use them as prompts in a class titled Write From The Body, taught by Elizabeth Schwyzer Smith.

Elizabeth separates images of places and people so she can use them in different ways in her classes. I sort mine into a variety of categories: 

The images can be utilized for things like writing your novels faster, jump-starting your imagination, and even becoming more empathetic, which can help you deepen your characters. That third trick is done via a process that looks like this:

  1. Look at the picture below for one minute. Stare at it and learn everything about it.

2. For two more minutes, put your body in a position as close as possible to that of the girl in the picture (without falling down). Mimic what you see in the image. Swing that arm, maybe run forward in slow motion, lift your cheeks into a big smile. Feel the sun on your face.

3. Set a timer and write about taking on that body posture, that expression.

This activity can be used in so many ways. Let’s say you’re having a shitty day, but the next scene you need to write is a happy one. Use an image like this to access “happy.” Extend this to all the resources at your disposal: a picture of your own child, of yourself at the age your character is…anything that LOOKS HAPPY.

Or you can use it just to be inspired to start a story: Who is this girl running to? Why is she happy? What’s just beyond the sand dune?

The sensory exercise can also be sparked by an image: What does that beach smell like, feel like, sound like, taste like?

Once you begin collecting your own images, you add to your writer bag of holding. The fuller your bag, the more you have at your disposal for your writing adventure. More tools, like a file of images to pull from and get you going, means the dreaded Writer’s Block Monster can’t EVER get in your way. You have too many good weapons, tricks, and spells in your bag to fight anything that tries to get in your way of enjoying putting words on the page.

The Picture Game
Similarly, I found out about this site for writers via Mary Robinette Kowal of Writing Excuses Fame: The Picture Game. It is essentially how Mark is using Flickr, and how I use tear-outs, except that you can go down the rabbit hole of reading what other writers are creating. In fact, if you want to read one of the quick bits I wrote using a glorious photo of an amazingly whimsical sculpture, check out the comments here.


What do you think?