Tag Archives: Writing Prompts

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Four

If you’re looking for some inspiration today, keep reading.

A year ago, I decided to start doing something with all of the beautiful, haunting, bizarre, creative, and otherwise unique photos I kept finding on the various stock image sites I have on my RSS feed. That was how this series of posts originally came to be, and today I have another entry in it for you.

As usual, there is a brief description underneath every photo for all of my readers who can’t see the photos for any reason. I’ve also included my thoughts on how I’d use them in a story, poem, essay, or other creative work, but feel free to let your imaginations run wild.

I can’t wait to see how you all react to these images and what you do with them.

This is a picture of a tree stump that’s been carved into the shape of a person. The person’s head is tilted back, and he or she is gazing at the sky. There is a large crack in the tree that is splitting this carving’s neck down the middle.

Step one: carve the perfect sculpture into a tree.

Step two: magically convert all of the knowledge you’ve gained from this project into the energy to carve your greatest work into stone so that it will last for an eternity. When the carving is complete, bring the wooden sculpture back to your home and put it somewhere safe. As long as it is still standing, you will remain alive and well, too.

This is a picture of someone wearing a Guy Fawkes mask looking at a red flower that is sitting on the palm of their hand. 

All I can think about when I look at this photograph are the protests that used to happen in Toronto a few years ago. People wearing these masks often played a large part in those protests. It was fascinating to see how someone behaves (in a totally law-abiding way) when no one knows who they are. Their body language is more relaxed and their movements are freer than one generally sees in a stranger on the streets of this city.

Would you or I behave the same way in that situation? I’d like to think so. Maybe we’d even pause to admire a flower before jumping back into the protest.

 

This is a picture of a young woman whose body is covered in skimpy bandages and whose face is covered in indecipherable writing. She is staring directly at the person who took this picture. 

The first thing to pass through my mind when I saw this was: “why must so many Halloween costumes for women be ‘sexy’?” I have no problem at all with people of any gender choosing to wear revealing costumes on Halloween, but it bothers me that men’s costumes are generally made to look as realistic as possible while women’s costumes are usually made to look as revealing as possible.

As hard as I tried to find some supernatural or science fiction spin on this picture, the only thing it would inspire me to write is a long essay about the intersection between capitalism and sexism.

 

 

This is a picture of two discarded artificial legs lying on a dusty wooden floor. One of the legs is bigger and longer than the other one. 

These legs belong to the same kid. As that child grows up and needs larger artificial legs, they always make sure to pause and take a picture of the limbs they’ve left behind before moving onto the next one.

This isn’t a sad moment to me. It’s a happy one. Look at how much that kid has grown!

This is a picture of someone holding a piece of green moss that has had two googly eyes glued to it. 

After forgetting to buy a birthday present for her preschool-aged son, the main character decided to surprise him with a pet moss. She wasn’t expecting him to love it as he did, and she definitely wan’t expecting the pet moss to grow legs and begin scampering around the house one night.

This picture, titled “Cosmic Winter Wonderland,” is of region NGC 6357 in space. It is a birthplace for new stars. The stars in the photograph are surrounded by large clouds of dust that resemble the clouds made of water we have on Earth.

How did life first begin? Many people have wondered that over the years. I’d like to think it happened in a place as beautiful and peaceful as this one. Perhaps it could even be witnessed by aliens or other beings who were intelligent and long-lived enough to see it all play out.

 

This is a picture of a green parakeet. It is staring directly at the photographer. 

This bird looks slightly annoyed to me. Is it actually annoyed, though? Do birds have a similarly difficult time reading human body language?

If the first sentient aliens we ever met were avian-like, how well would our species be able to understand each other? Would they find us endearing the way humans often squeal over birds on Earth?

Why can’t I stop thinking about this scenario?

 

This is a picture of a barefoot woman who is sitting in a grocery cart. 

I love everything about this photo other than the fact that the subject is barefoot. It seems like such a dangerous place to walk around if you’re not wearing shoes.

Of course, the subject has probably heard this a thousand times before. She no doubt has some sort of invention to keep anything from cutting her feet as she runs around. Maybe she’s a scientist or a magician?

This is a picture of a man who is cosplaying in the forest. He’s carrying an ornate walking stick and wearing a green cloak and other Medieval-esque pieces of clothing. 

Anyone else would have been terrified by the sight of a dragon appearing in the sky and landing in the park one summer day. Marvin had played so many rounds of Dungeons & Dragons, though, that he was sure he could get it to fly home again.

This is a picture of an empty playground that is covered in fog.

What if Stephen King’s The Mist wasn’t just a story? We know how it ended in the parallel universe he tapped into while he was writing, but maybe this is how that tale will begin in our universe.

Previous posts in this series:

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Two

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Three.

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Three

I come across the strangest and most interesting images when I’m searching for stock photos for this blog. It always makes me a little sad when I realize that nothing I’ve written so far fits them in any way.

This is the third instalment in my series of posts about these kinds of pictures. As always, I included a brief description of  each photo directly below it for anyone who isn’t able to see them.  If you use of these images as a writing prompt, I’d love to know how you interpreted it! Send me a message about it on Twitter.

Picture description: two young girls are crouching underneath a stone doorway. They are gazing at something that is just outside of the scope of the photograph. 

I don’t actually see anything horror-related in this image at all. The girls in it look well cared for and only mildly startled. Maybe they were visiting a kind relative and playing hide-and-go-seek with their cousins? It would also make sense for them to try to sneak out of the house to buy more candy only to be caught by a slightly-annoyed parent just before they made their final dash for sugar.

Picture description:  there are three glowing glass bottles filled with some sort of liquid. One of the glasses is blue, one is teal, and the final one is purple. 

I have one word for you: spells. If spells really existed in our world, Don’t you think this is exactly what they’d look like? Bright, pretty colours like these would probably have happy effects. It’s the dark, cloudy bottles you’d need to be careful with.

Picture description: a man with a large barcode tattooed onto his face is staring out directly at the audience. One half of his face is obscured by shadow. 

Is technology going to save the future or ruin it? I’d argue it will do a little of both, but the barcode makes me think that this dystopian setting isn’t going to give the main character many chances to turn things around before everything falls apart. On the flip side, maybe the tattoo will give him the camouflage he needs to slip through the shadows and live well just outside the reach of mainstream society.

Picture description:  a group of businesspeople are wearing conservative suits and shiny leather shoes. They are facing the camera and pulling up the legs on their pants, revealing colourful striped socks on their legs. Their faces aren’t visible.

These people – and no, not all of them are men – grew up together. The hours they spent constructing imaginative worlds as children followed them into adulthood. Every once in a while, they take a weekend away from their adult responsibilities and revisit the magical places they’ve been telling each other stories about for as long as they can remember.

Their colourful socks are a dead giveaway that one of these weekends is about to begin.

Picture description:  a human skull and bones are partially buried in the woods. They are lying on top of and next to a very old flight of wooden steps. 

No, this person didn’t have a violent death. It was a good one, and their soul was at rest until this happened.

Here’s the problem: they had a wooden headstone and the graveyard they were buried in fell out of use a few decades after they died. A few hundred years later, the family who was planning to build a house here accidentally dug them up alongside the remains of a dozen or so other forgotten plots.

They will all be reburied soon. On an even better note, their headstones will all be made of stone this time. Soon they will at rest again, and this time it will be forever.

 

Picture description: smooth, grey stones that have been glued together to look like a flock of birds. 

I’m imagining  a lonely old man who recently lost his spouse and their dog in the same year. The man has been an artist for decades, but he’s never had this much free time to fill. Adopting a new dog from the animal shelter helped him fill up much of that time, especially since Oscar the dog loved going on walks even more than his new human did.

One  day he discovered some smooth grey stones while they were out on one of their walks. After collecting them for a few months, he began to glue them together to make little birds. He noticed a flyer that was advertising a community art event at the library. They were looking for more local artists to participate in it.

On a whim, he signed up. Not only did he sell nearly all of his birds, he met several other artists there and quickly developed strong friendships with them. Nothing could ever replace his wife or previous dog, but he wasn’t lonely anymore. He now had friends, a rewarding hobby, and many reasons to wake up in the morning.

 

Picture description: a blindfolded woman who is wearing a loose dress standing beside the ruins of an old building. 

Some books like to straddle genres. Half of the plot of this one would be a chilling ghost story about an old house that was so haunted it had been abandoned entirely. No one could ever convince the angry spirits who lived there to move on.

The other half of it would be a spicy romance between the main character – a psychic who believes that ghosts are more willing to talk to you if can’t see them – and the EMT who rescued her in in the first scene when she fell off the steps and badly cut her leg on a sharp piece of debris.

Picture description:  a woman is calmly standing upside down on her kitchen ceiling. The table, appliances, and everything else in this room are obeying the laws of gravity like normal. 

This is what happens when you only pay part of your monthly gravity bill. Will she learn her lesson? Only time and a few wacky hijinks will tell for sure.

Picture description: a ghostly woman carrying a lantern while walking on a beach. She appears on both the right and left side of the photo. There is an old building in the background.

The fact that we can’t see the face of this “ghost” makes me think it’s a woman pretending to be a ghost with trick photography in order to draw attention to the building in the background. Maybe she owns a bed and breakfast there and thinks she’ll get more business if people think it’s haunted.

Something tells me that the actual ghosts who live there won’t be to happy with this, though.

Picture description:   a giant paw print on the edge of a concrete step. The paw has four sharp claws that extend over the lip of the step and onto the side of the next step. 

Monsters are real. Not only that, but some of them have learned how to thrive in our modern, urban world while only rarely leaving behind traces of their existence.

The construction workers wondered if something had been lurking around their worksite at night or when they went on their lunch break. It wasn’t until this paw print appeared that they were certain something was coexisting with them.

Since it never hurt anyone and since the concrete had hardened by the time they discovered the print, they decided to leave it as it was. Maybe the creature will come out of the shadows for good one day if he or she sees it.

Previous posts in this series:

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Two

5 Scifi Themes I Wish We Had More Stories About

I know there are fans and writers of the science fiction and fantasy genres who read this blog. Today, I wanted to talk about themes that I wish would be explored more often in these genres and pick your brains. If you know of any books that include these themes, come on over to Twitter and tell me about them.

If you don’t know of any stories that fit these descriptions, maybe it’s time for us to start writing them!

Sentient Plants

By far my favourite characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were the Ents. I was enthralled by the idea of a tree-like creature being as intelligent as any person, elf, or hobbit. The more I learned about their physiology, the more curious I became about what it would be like to exist in-between the world of plants and the world of mammals.

I’m struggling to think of any other examples of this kind of storytelling in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Occasionally I’ll read something about an alien or magical plant that’s surprisingly dangerous, but they’re almost never able to carry on a conversation.

It’s hard to imagine what a plant would think about the world around us. How would staying in the same place for your entire life – more or less – while hoping that nothing eats you change the way you thought about everything from family to how dangerous this planet it? Would a plant be surprised by the human concept of war or understanding of it? How would they compare the seeds they dropped every year to how people raise their young?

If I knew more about biology, I’d have written a story about this already. The more I think about it, the more I feel the urge to research it enough to make educated guesses about what such a creature might be like. There is so much scope for the imagination here, as Anne Shirley would say.

A Replacement for Religion

Organized religion is in a rapid decline in western countries. Fewer people are attending religious meetings or labelling themselves as members of a particular faith with every passing generation.

What will western society be like when the majority of people label themselves as Atheist, Agnostic, None, or vaguely spiritual but without loyalty to any particular religion? Western Europe is a few decades ahead of North America in this process, so there are glimpses of what that kind of society will be like.

My question is, what, if anything, is going to replace religion as a widespread cultural understanding that binds a society together? Will it be sports? Pop culture? A rising interest in science? Nationalism? Has the idea itself of having one thing that most of a population grew up experiencing outlived itself?

How would a post-religious society interact with other countries on Earth that tend to be much more devout?

Yes, Star Trek has given us one vision of what this kind of future might look like, but I’d like to see other people’s extrapolations, too. Science fiction in general seems hesitant to explore religious themes in depth unless it was written specifically to proselytize or as part of the Inspirational genre.

I wish this wasn’t so. There are ways to explore people’s relationship to their faith (or lack thereof) without assuming the audience agrees with the character or trying to (de)convert anyone.

 

Life After Fossil Fuels

Eventually, we’re not going to be able to get enough oil, natural gas, and coal out of the Earth in order to sustain all of the systems that rely on those fuels to keep going. This moment could arrive far sooner than we realize, too.

I’ve read many post-apocalyptic books about people returning to agrarian societies as a direct result of some kind of war or other conflict, but I haven’t read too many that explore what would happen if there wasn’t a single disaster that broke modern society down.

How would you keep communities going after the last drop of gasoline has been used up? What parts of our medical  educational, correctional,and municipal systems could adapt to a world that must rely on renewable resources? What parts of them would become luxuries for the wealthy or fade away entirely as resources grew scarce?

I wouldn’t be surprised if most people began working from home in this sort of future. While I think of that as a positive step for society due to the elimination of commutes, the reduction in the spread of communicable diseases, and the increased freedom that comes with having total control over your work environment, only time will tell what negative side effects from that arrangement could be.

Photo credit: Terminator007007007.

Aliens Who Aren’t as Technologically Advanced as Humans

Imagine meeting an alien species that was a few hundred thousand to a few million years behind us.

How would we treat their planet?

How would humans treat them?

If they could talk, would they be better off or worse off than a species that had no idea what was happening to it?

There are hundreds of stories out there about aliens coming to Earth and trying to steal our resources. I wonder why we so often assume they’d be violent, cruel, and greedy. Is that the way we’d treat them? Is it a quietly lingering cultural guilt over how certain groups of people have been terribly mistreated in the past?

Given how difficult it seems to be for life to take hold in the universe in the first place, I wouldn’t be surprised if any alien species we do find out there is closer to the self-awareness of a houseplant or a lizard than to a fellow humanoid.

 

Crop Circles

I remember hearing all kinds of bizarre stories about crop circles when I was a kid.

Some people were convinced that they were messages from alien races. It was never clear to me what kinds of messages they were or if anyone ever thought they’d decoded them.

Other folks set out to prove that many different types of crop circles could be recreated by humans using simple tools. There have been a few other cases where crop circles were shown to be a natural reaction to archeological remains. When this happens, the same design appears in the field every year because of how those ruins have affected the soil.

For a topic as old and well-known as this one, I’m a little surprised by the fact that I don’t remember reading any sci-fi stories about it at all. This sure seems like it would a topic that could be explored from many different angles, from the extraterrestrial to the paranormal to the bizarre but still completely logical.

How about you? What science fiction and fantasy themes do you wish were more commonplace?

10 Pictures That Are Begging to Be Turned Into Stories, Part Two

I come across so many unique images when I’m searching for stock photos for this blog. It always makes me a little sad when I realize that nothing I’ve written so far fits them in any way.

They’re the kind of pictures that demand an audience, so today I’m sharing ten of them with you in the hope that you’ll be inspired by them. If anyone uses one of these photos as a writing prompt, I’d love to know how you interpreted it! Send me a message about it on Twitter.

I will include brief descriptions of the images in this post as well for readers who aren’t able to see the pictures I’ve found.

This is a picture of a man who has tilted his head back and closed his eyes. He has a neutral expression on his face, and he is balancing a pineapple on the top of his forehead.

It makes me giggle every time I see it. I could see it being an eye-catching opener for a post about meditation, healthy eating, or alternative uses for pineapple for those of us who don’t like the taste of them.

 

This is a picture of a man wearing the kind of thick, white makeup that clowns and other performers wear. He has an American flag draped over his left shoulder and he’s slung a stick or weapon across his other shoulder. We cannot see the end of that item, only its handle. His face has a menacing expression on it.

What a frightening image. It would make great fodder for any kind of horror tale, but I’d personally use it for something that revolved around not realizing a person or situation was dangerous until it was too late. Not every scary thing in life announces itself that way immediately.

This is a picture of a skeleton wearing headphones, sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer, and typing on a keyboard. 

There was nothing alarming about this to me at all. The skeleton looks and acts just like a living person, so I’d imagine them in a completely innocuous setting whose conflict has nothing at all to do with the fact that skeletons shouldn’t actually be able to move around.

For example, maybe everyone else sees a normal person when they look at this character. He or she is the only person who knows their true form, and they honestly find it kind of a boring topic.

This is a picture of a woman grimacing and biting the pages of a blank, open book.

Honestly, she looks hungry. Someone give her an apple before she starts devouring her tale from the inside out before its even had a chance to end.

 

This is a picture of a viking who has a long, brown beard and moustache. There is a small mound of brightly-coloured confetti covering his facial hair.

If this isn’t the perfect image to use for a story about an uncanny parade, I don’t know what is. Perhaps Ivar was magically awoken from his eternal rest, and was terribly disappointed to learn that his new role in modern times was as nothing but the main attraction in parades, festivals, and other large community gatherings. He’d give anything for one serious conversation about who he was, where he came from, and how he died.

This is a picture of about a dozen cellphones that are nailed to a wall. The sign on the wall reads “Please destroy cell phones before entering.”

A luddite lives here, and they have zero patience for cellphones of any sort. This could be horror as easily as it could be a romantic comedy. So much depends on how the luddite reacts when he or she meets someone who refuses to give up their phone.

 

This is a picture of the face and shoulders of a woman who is wearing nothing but a towel on her head. The expression on her face could either be read as shock or surprise.

I find this image unsettling. Is the woman thrilled or frightened? What could she have possibly seen that would make her feel both emotions simultaneously?

This is a picture of a laptop, book, computer mouse, and smart phone being wrapped up in chains.

“Security” was one of the keywords labeling this image on the stock photo site I found it on. To me, though, it looks far more like it’s about limiting nearly every kind of information that’s available to the average person. How could someone learn about the world if they were denied the use of books and the Internet?

This is a picture of a pair of wind-up toy teeth biting down on a few 5 pound British bills.

I giggle every time I look at this image. The first thing that popped into my mind was that dental bills can be very expensive. Maybe it’s a reminder to take good care of your teeth?

This is a picture of a man sitting at a table. One of his arms is robotic, and he is holding his flesh-and-blood-hand in his robotic one. 

Is this futuristic or something happening now? From what I’ve read about replacement limbs, they have begun to be able to do all kinds of things they weren’t able to do before. I’ve heard of people being able to clench their fists, hold a glass of water, and do so much more with their artificial arms.

If I were going to make this a scifi story, the entire right side of this guy’s body would be a machine. Maybe he was in an accident and lives just far enough into the future that machines can take over the work of some of his internal organs as well as his right arm and leg?

For a contemporary setting, I’d go with something more ordinary like him forgetting to charge up his limb the night before and needing to sit quietly until it had enough juice in it to keep him going for the rest of the day.

Previous posts in this series:

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned into Stories

I come across the most beautiful, scary, haunting, and fascinating images when I’m searching for stock photos for this blog. It always makes me a little sad when I realize that nothing I’ve written so far fits them in any way.

They’re the kind of images that demand an audience, so today I’m sharing a few of these unusual pictures with you in the hope that you’ll be inspired by them. If anyone uses one of these images as a writing prompt, I’d love to know how you interpreted it! Send me a message about it on Twitter.

 

An Unbroken Doll

The fact that this doll’s face was broken at one point doesn’t surprise me. Toys break all of the time.

Who painstakingly glued her back together, though?

That isn’t the kind of chore that can be finished in a few minutes. It probably took days of carefully sifting through the sharp porcelain pieces of her head to figure out how every piece fit together and what kind of glue works best for this sort of delicate project.

It would take a lot of determination to see this project through to the end. I imagine only someone who had a strong emotional urge to do it would succeed.

 

The Pretty Poison

None of the household poisons I’ve ever seen look anything like this.

The purple liquid sure seems like it would smell nice. I’m imagining a light, floral scent that almost disappears once air hits it. You’d have to be quite close to it to catch a whiff of anything.

That wouldn’t make it any less dangerous, of course. Every apothecarist knows that.

Leg Day

Look closely at the picture above. It may take you a moment to notice the strange twist in it.

My first thought when I saw it was that it was some kind of genetic engineering gone weird. The horses legs look almost human at first glance. Is a horse still a horse if some part of its DNA somehow came from a human?

I’d love to read that book and find out.

Happily Ever After

The bright colours and whimsical scenery in it caught my eye. immediately. They’re exactly what I’d expect to find in a fantasy romance novel.

This is the kind of cover that would make me pick up a book to find out more about its plot. If nothing else, I’d want to know if there was an entire forest of heart-shaped trees for the characters to skip through or if this tree was unique in that way.

Knock, knock!

This is another one of those photographs that seems perfectly ordinary when you first glance at it. I was actually planning to save it for a future post about something cheerful and ordinary like going on vacation until one strange little detail in it popped out at me.

That detail catapulted this post from it’s original purpose into possible story territory. The explanation for it could be completely logical and scientific, but there’s also room for science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, or even horror elements to it if you prefer. Stop reading now if you want to figure out on your own what I noticed.

For anyone who needs or wants a hint about, pay attention to the body language of the woman in the centre of the photograph. How has she positioned herself? Do you notice anything unexpected about it?

The Insincere Smile

The stock photo site that I use most often has dozens of pictures that are similar to this one. The models are always nicely dressed  but have completely insincere expressions on their faces.

There are many explanations for why that might be so. Sometimes I like to come up with some reasons for the fun of it. Were the models worn out from a day of posing? Are they trying to secretly warn their audiences about who or what might be lurking behind the camera? The possibilities are endless, and the sci-fi writer in me prefers the unexplainable ones.

All that Glitters…

What I like the most about this picture is how versatile it is. Off the top of my head, it could be interpreted to be part of the erotic romance, regular romance, science fiction, fantasy, or even the older end of the young adult genre. You could probably even find a way to turn it into a mystery or a thriller if you massaged the possibilities enough.

That ambiguity makes me smile. I like it when stories leave room for more than one genre to flourish in them. When its done correctly, this can be a wonderful way to introduce people to types of storytelling that they might not otherwise be open to trying.

Deep in Thought

I both love and hate seeing gorillas and other apes at the zoo for the same reason: they remind me so much of human beings.

Everything from their mannerisms to their facial expressions can be eerily close to the way that people behave at times. When I look at them, I feel like we are this close to having a conversation about the weather or which kind of fruit is in season now.

While I’m glad that they have a safe place to live, it also feels wrong to cage them up. They feel too intelligent for that fate to me.

The nice thing about this picture is that it could be used for non-fiction just as easily as it could for fiction. You don’t have to invent anything about the intelligence of other primates in order to write about them. We already know that while they might not be exactly like us, they’re also not exactly like other animals either.

When Justice Is Blind

Is it just me, or does that water look uncomfortably cold?

The first thing I thought when I saw this scene was that it looked like a test of some sorts. Is he expected to swim in that chilly water or simply stand in it blindfolded for a predetermined amount of time?

The One Who’s Watching You

Obviously I had to save the best picture for last today. This is the creepiest thing I’ve stumbled across in a long time.

Not seeing a character’s face always scares me.

The fact that we can see his or her hands doesn’t help the situation, though. Their nails look sharp and rough. Their skin looks leathery, and I’m not entirely sure it would still be warm to the touch if they brushed against you.

What does he or she want?

I’m afraid to ask, but I’m even more afraid to turn away before they do.