A Different Kind of Writing Prompt

Writing prompts are used by students and writers alike to challenge their creativity and/or to improve writing skills. They can be presented in a variety of ways – phrases, questions, topics – the sky’s the limit. Their purpose is to present you with an idea or thought that you can expand upon, allowing you to let your imagination roam as you write.  

But what if there was a different kind of writing prompt to inspire you and to get those creative juices flowing?

A Visual Writing Prompt

A visual writing prompt is using a picture of some sort to stir your imagination to create a new story. It can be a famous work of art or an intriguing photograph. It can be an image from a magazine, or an old postcard found at an antique store. The person who created that image was inspired to paint or draw or photograph that object for a reason. But, instead of using that particular idea, what do you see in that visual? What different story can you create?

How to Use a Visual Prompt

Let’s look at this picture for example. It is one I drew for a display for the students at the school I used to work for. What do you see?

You see a boy and a young camel with a pyramid in the distance. But what is his story? Why is he there? Is he in a desert, or is he in front of a backdrop on some motion picture studio lot? Why not take a moment and create a one-line introduction to his story.  

All done? Even though I drew this picture, I didn’t think of a story idea for it at the time. So here’s my quick thought about what’s going on:  

“It took Jamie Atkins two months, six days, twenty-seven minutes and thirty-six seconds to convince Uncle Lester to take him on his next expedition, but only fourteen seconds to realize there was no better job in the world than being a camel wrangler.”  

Now, how about this picture I also drew? Take a moment and think of something to write about. You don’t need it to be an introduction. Why not try writing something within the context of a story that you can later create?

Did you come up with something fun?  

Here’s my angle for this picture, using it toward the end of a story:  

“Amy almost cried with joy, realizing all the hard work, challenges, and difficulties of their journey, were worth it to see such a beautiful sight.”

Create Your Own Visual Writing Prompts

It’s easy to find pictures online or in other printed materials to use for your visual writing prompts, but I challenge you to find some of your own. Grab your phone, tablet, or camera and head out someplace fun, and just start snapping pictures. Or, if you like to draw, grab one of your old sketchbooks and find a little sketch you enjoyed making, or draw a fresh sketch that can inspire you. Then use those pictures or sketches to create a brand new story.  

Visual writing prompts are a different but fun way to inspire your writing. And with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) coming up in less than three months, maybe it will give you that little extra boost of creativity you need to write. You never know what adventures you can come up with!  

Have you used visual writing prompts before? What do you like or dislike about them?

Catherine L. Osornio has written inspirational articles for a women’s ministry newsletter, over 200 leveled reader stories for a school’s reading program, fiction and nonfiction articles for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines, The Declaration of Independence from A to Z, Thunder Comes a Rumblin’, plus various work-for-hire projects. A former elementary school librarian, Catherine is passionate about sharing the love of reading. She enjoys cartooning, illustration, and reading kids’ books. Email her at CLOsornio@verizon.net or visit her at www.catherineosornio.com.

Title photo credit: Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash  

2 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Writing Prompt

  1. Cool idea. I have trouble co.ing up with story ideas. Pic prompts might be the solution for me. Thanks.

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