Wednesday, February 5, 2020

IWSG - February

It's the first Wednesday in February, so it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group.

This month's question is a good one!

Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

I can answer this with a definitive yes.  

I often use prompts to kickstart my writing, usually written prompts, but on occasion I have been inspired by visual prompts.  One of my first short stories to be published, Free, was inspired by a visual prompt.  It was a photograph of an old car with the driver's elbow, clad in leather, poking from the window.

The entire of my Beach House series of stories were inspired by photo prompts.  The Dock, by a photograph of a jetty protruding into the sea, The Kite by an enormous kite, trailing tails bobbing across the sky and The Mine Shaft by a picture of an abandoned mine, overgrown now, and almost invisible amongst the trees that had grown up around it.  The Treehouse, which is probably my favorite in this series, was even more complicated in that it was born out of a series of prompts, one photograph of a gnarled old tree, two words that needed to be used (I can't remember what they were now, I'm afraid) and a character with a broken leg.

But it's not just photographs or paintings that inspire me.  I work in film and I watch a lot of films.  Often something, usually a single scene or conversation, will inspire me.  The Sidewalk's Regrets was born out of a single line in a documentary about a guitarist friend of mine.  The whole book came to me, fully formed, almost overnight from that one line.  And the weirdest thing is, when I went back and re-watched the doco when the book was finished, I couldn't figure out what the line was that was the inspiration.

Stumped was also inspired by a documentary, this one about an Australian sex worker.  I had the pleasure of meeting her when the film had its first screenings in New Zealand and she was among the most inspirational people I've ever met.  As Stumped developed and changed with feedback from agents and publishers, the thing that she said in the film that inspired me to write the book in the first place ended up getting edited out because readers found it hard to believe.  Truth really is stranger than fiction...

Do you like to use prompts to kickstart your writing?  What works better for you, visual prompts or written ones?


  1. I haven't really written anything off prompts. Writing exercises in my writers groups, sure, but none of those ever go anywhere.

    But photos have definitely helped me figure out the mood of various scenes in my longer works. That, and music.

  2. I've had things that have inspired me to write something. It never seems to work out for me, though. I tend to end up bored with the idea.


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  5. I love an imagination that can paint an entire book from a single image!

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth Mueller, Author¨*•.♥

  6. I can think of only one instance where an image instantly prompted an idea for me. Alas, I have yet to actually write the story.

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