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Have you tried to come up with ideas for stories using writing prompts and not had much luck? That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your imagination. It could just be you’re using the wrong kind of writing prompt. When most people think of writing prompts, they think of a short sentence or paragraph, describing a situation. But in truth, there are other ways to trigger that spark of imagination – like using pictures as writing prompts.

How Images Trigger Imagination

Some people are what we call “visual learners.” That means they need to see something in order to be able to process it. For these folks, visual stimulation is more important than written stimulation. So it stands to reason that an image could cause a bigger spark in their imagination than a sentence.

Writing Prompts From Pictures

You can use a picture writing prompt in the same way you would use a written writing prompt: as a spark to trigger a bigger idea. Use a writing prompt picture as a jumping off point. Look at the person in the picture, and think about how they got there. Or think about where they’re going. Look at the setting in the picture, and imagine what might have happened there—or what will. 

Once you start, you may find that the ideas are endless. So all you really need is that initial inspiration!

10 Pictures as Writing Prompts

Want to give it a try? If you’re a visual learner, here are 10 images you can use as picture writing prompts.

1. Hands in a River

Dirty hands dig into the ground as a body emerges onto a riverbank out of the ocean. What horrific events led to this moment?

2. Busy City Street

A person stands in the middle of a busy city street with their back to us, looking down with their hands in their hair. What are they thinking about? Where are they headed?

3. Bored Child

A child sits on the ground with his chin in his hand, looking glum, surrounded by standing adults. What is his imagination dreaming up?

4. The “Smile”

cyring girl with smile drawn
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash 

A woman in the dark with smudged black makeup holds a piece of paper in front of her mouth with a smile drawn onto it. What’s the backstory?

5. Desert Destruction

house full of sand
Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash 

We see the inside of an abandoned house in the desert, with peeling walls and a hill of sand blocking a doorway. What events led to this? Where are the house’s former inhabitants?

6. Subway Drummer

A man sits on a subway platform, playing a drum joyfully as a train goes by in the background, even though no one seems to be paying him any attention. What happens next?

7. Boy on a Bridge

kid on bridge
Photo by Japheth Mast on Unsplash 

A young boy stands on a bridge, looking thoughtfully out at a river. Is he longing for a family member—or does he see a fantastical creature off into the distance?

8. Woman With Roses

A woman clutches a bouquet of roses and starts to cry. Why? The romance novel plots this photo could inspire are endless!

9. The Fire

Two people stand in front of a fire, one of them hunched over in despair, the other masked and holding something in the air, looking triumphant. Is it a war? A protest? Something else entirely?

10. Misty Hand

A dark window is clouded over with mist, and a solitary handprint appears. Whose is it? What happens next?

What Sparked Your Imagination? 

Did any of these images spark the idea for a story for you? If one image doesn’t work for you, move on to the next. Remember it doesn’t have to come to you whole-cloth. Just write down a piece of it. Then the next piece. Then the next. Chances are, once you get going, you won’t be able to stop!

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