A Picture’s Worth . . . How Many Words?

Something New at The Writerly Life: Photo Prompts

For years I kept a folder of photographs (yes, real ones, printed out or clipped from magazines and newspapers) and used them as writing prompts for my students. I would set the pictures up around the room and let the students browse until something “struck them” about a photo. Then they were to take it back to their desks and free-write. Those early drafts often led to striking memoirs, stories, or poems.

Dive into a Photo, Come Up with a Story 

What I’m proposing is the opposite of a photo challenge (which I love), where a particular word sparks the search for an image. Here, the image sparks the words.

Every other week, I’ll post a photo. You’ll supply the creativity!

Maybe the photograph will trigger a memory, prompt a story or a poem, or even a blog post! Take the situation and run with it. Write about what’s happening in the picture. Write what came before. Write what comes after. Take it anywhere you like . . .

Your reward, if you choose to accept the challenge, is the pleasure of writing something new!

Let me know how this works for you. You might even post the first 100 words or so—or a few lines of a poem—in a comment. Or share a link to a longer piece. Whatever you do, have fun. Happy writing!

Here’s the first photo:

“Jumping Into Swimming Pool” by Ian Kahn
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

12 thoughts on “A Picture’s Worth . . . How Many Words?

  1. Hi Gerry,
    today I’ve finished work and have plans for the evening, but I will take part in this photo journey. I’ll comment again with the link 🙂 Thanks for the idea!
    Best, M.

    1. Hi, Jane– I read your piece! Good for you. I went back for an MA in English as an “adult” student, and you know what? I think my life experience gave me an advantage! I’m so glad you liked the prompt. And yes, there will be more. Thanks so much for following the blog, for the comment, and link.

  2. I am a writer to prompts and photos, it’s my version of piano scales. A pianist warms up by playing the scales, why can’t a writer limber up to a photo. You just never know where you will go or what you will find in the words. It’s a wonderful idea. (I saw your post on She Writes – blooming late)

    1. Brenda, I love your analogy of playing scales on the piano; what a great comparison! I’m glad you found me on She Writes/Blooming Late. I’m just finding my way around there. Thanks for the visit here and the comment.

  3. I’ve always admired writers. I even was one at one time. There are lots of stories, interviews, news releases, human interest pieces in my head. And boy do they sound good.

    But then I try to put them down on paper and they fall apart. That said: This picture invokes thoughts (not words) as:
    Wish I could do that. Or I wish I looked like those girls. Or better yet, wish I had a man that looked like that. Or what energy!

    Before the picture? Well, “We could all do a cannonball and see how much we could empty the pool!” Or just a little mischief, “Let’s soak Jennifer by ….”. You get the picture.

    Oh, those fun filled days when we had all summer to do what we wanted. Now, we could, but there are obligations, someone has to work, someone has to cook, do laundry, pick up the kids, balance the checkbook, sweep the walk, mow the grass. And our bodies do not have that kind of energy.

    I’m tired just thinking what I have to do.

    But for the moment, I’ll close my eyes, put on my bikini and just into the pool, with all the cares and concerns gone somewhere else! Ah, youth once again!

      1. This idea squirmed its way into my post today. I tried not to let it. I didn’t want to steal your thunder. But it wiggled in deeper, multiplied, and infested my brain until there was nothing I could do.

        Go check it out: http://rebeccabarray.wordpress.com

        And, please, forgive me. 😉

      2. Wiggle on, Becca! This idea is certainly not original with me; it’s an old trick among creative writing teachers. I hope you’ll come back here and respond to a photo with some flash fiction. : )

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