Writing Notes: Image to Idea

A friend and I were talking via email
the other day about how inspiring images can be. Sometimes my cover
artist  sends me
several photos to choose from for whatever cover we happen to be
working on, and several of the “extras” will either trigger a
name, scene or occupation in my head. Other times I’ll be scanning
the stock photo sites for potential cover art elements and a photo
will just jump out at me, insisting there’s a story to be told
about it. It’s both amazing and a little annoying, as once an idea
comes to mind, it needs to be written down. But that’s a topic for
another day…

Interestingly, the photo that triggered
the idea isn’t always the one that gets used in the final cover
art. Then again, sometimes the final cover art inspires a change in
the book itself. Originally, there was no fire in my novella,
Tempest. Heidi put one on the cover because it seemed to her
like there had been one and it was symbolic of the heat level at
certain parts of the story. I liked it so much; I went back and added
a fire to the story so it would match the cover. I do think it
enhanced the story too.

Falling in Public, my latest
serial draft was inspired by a photo of a rock star I saw on the
internet last fall (no, I’m not telling which one). He was sitting
on a curb in front of his gorgeous black mustang – the car, not the
horse, of course. It was the car that first caught my eye, but when I
studied the man’s posture, clothing, and the expression on his
face, I was inspired to write a story about the man I perceived him
to be. I have no idea what the actual guy is like, but Eddie Pierce
is based on my initial assessment of him. I’ve purposefully avoided
learning anything more about the real star to avoid subconscious
cross-over. Incidentally, this particular story came to me nearly
fully formed, with the title and everything. That doesn’t happen
very often, but it’s very cool when it does. 

When was the last time you looked at a
photo and wondered (or knew) what the story behind it was?

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3 comments on “Writing Notes: Image to Idea

  1. Carol

    I used to look at pictures all the time for ideas. In fact, I have a huge stock pile of pictures that I’ve cut out of various magazines for just that purpose.

    While I haven’t used them to come up with a new idea in a long time (the last thing I need is another new idea) I will sometimes check them out for inspiration if I get stuck in a story.

  2. Heidi

    Last year, while sitting in the stands at the local rodeo during the county fair, one of my current stories washed over me. It was very vivid, all of the characters fully formed, even the title. I sat there and “watched” it unravel for me and missed most of the rodeo in the process. Nearly a year later and it is more vivid now and surprisingly, it hasn’t strayed from the initial direction that popped into my head that afternoon.

    Music and situational vignettes also spark creative road trips for me. Surprisingly, I have to work a little harder to get inspiration for stories from images. I know, it makes little sense considering what I do for a living, but there it is. It IS there, and I can easily match images to other’s stories, but they don’t seem to hit me as hard as the other sensory inputs do.

  3. Ardee-ann Eichelmann

    I tend to only be a “semi-visual” person…I will see pictures, wonder what the backstory is and then make one up if it strikes my fancy but like Heidi I tend to be affected by my other senses too. I am very kinesthetic and get my inspiration from touching. I am inspired by washing dishes, folding clothes, playing in mud, feeling the softness of clover or petting my little dog. Those things trigger my imagination as do tastes and smells. These senses bring out words, phrases and ideas.

    I wonder about the story in a picture but I move beyond the visual rather quickly to the deeper textures of life.