JTH 8: Visual Writing Prompts


With today’s easy access to books, magazines, travel, social media and the vast internet combined with what we see during our own daily life we are deluged with images that can become visual prompts for our writing. Just think what a glorious story you can write for children from the above image. What if dinosaurs and humans co-exist peacefully together? Is it a secret from everyone else? What can change it? Is the myth about dragons from a deep memory when we lived together on the same planet?


It can be the shapes that you keep noticing even though the actual images are dissimilar in other ways. It might be the same time popping up every day. When you are pregnant you notice how many other pregnant people are surrounding you. Buy a new car and you see similar ones every time you are out driving. Out walking you see the same bird every time and when you Google it to see if there is a meaning about that bird the response starts a story in your mind.


A picture paints a thousand words is correct as it takes a lot of words to tell someone else what you have just seen in an instant. People have different ways of learning so they have different ways of getting story ideas. You may hear something and your mind is off. You read a headline or a prompt and the start of a story pops into your mind. Visual ideas do the same. Smell fresh bread and what do you think of. Everyone reacts in different ways as we see and respond to stimuli from what we have already learnt in our life.


Visual prompts help us access more of our subconscious mind which allows creative ideas to bubble to the surface. One of the ways you can sort through your ideas for a new story is to create a moodboard. You can do it digitally on Pinterest or Canva ( or other programs you use). You might want to do it by taking images out of magazines or printed out and put onto a corkboard or sheet of cardboard. It helps expand your knowledge of the world and its characters in your story. Words from the same sources can emphasize the ideas you have.

images (16)

You can take your own photos or pick up postcards. Sometimes you can do a series of photos to show how you want your story to go. I find having an image that is close to what I think they look like helps me write about my characters as if they are people I know. Their world scape in pictures does the same. I have taken to putting them up on a Pinterest Board to remind myself of that. Other writers I follow have done this also. Do what you find works for you if you respond to visual images with story ideas.

What images can tell you?

  • They can bring back feelings or memories associated with the image
  • Is what you see really there or enhanced by your mind in some way
  • Do you love or hate that image
  • How can you alter the story around the image
  • Select an image at random to help you get around a writing block
  • Use images to write something in a different genre
  • Does the image change your thoughts or perspective in any way
  • Is the image you notice related to a problem you may be having
  • What do you see when you close your eyes.
  • Does music bring up an image in your mind that helps you
  • You may learn more about yourself or your story.


21st February 2020

Images can do so much to help explore your creativity. While you are reading a book you are taking the character’s description and making an image of them within your own mind. I like to take an image of a person, mine or someone else’s, photo, painting or illustration and using that to get my description of my character organised. Earlier in my blogging on WordPress, I did a post on Moodboarding for your story here

Using the images you put on a moodboard can help you decide on a story or envisage the story you are writing better. I did it with my writing group using old magazines. We all cut images out that appealed to us and pasted them onto an A3 piece of paper in a pattern that appealed to us. Each one was different but each one was useful to the person who made it. We went over our moodboard pictures saying why we had chosen each image or headline and created our own story narrative from them.

Moodboard Your Book

My moodboard for an MG novel I am working on

Mood-boarding is a suggestion that can be done digitally or physically. Your subconscious chooses the images that often help you figure out the  5W’s and an H of a story. Pinterest, Canva, Photoshop or any similar program can be used for a digital MB. Using a corkboard hung near your writing space makes it easy to see the inspiration you got from the exercise of using the images and you can expand it slightly with notecards that expound on what you got from them. Washi tape means to can apply images, cards, diagrams etc directly onto the wall beside you as they don’t damage the wall surfaces. Every individual can organise their inspirational images in whatever way works best for them.

Real history

Historical novels need you to know the foods, clothes, transportation, unique words or saying in general usage, for the exact time you are writing about. Images make it easier to understand, use and describe in your writing. Present-day has its own problems and the future is up to you but people are already trying to figure it out ahead of time. Fantasy stories have a huge number of images to help figure out what their inspiration is.

At HPWG last fortnight we had to find a person’s image that spoke to us from a cover or from inside a book. Our homework was to do the 1st three pages of an extensive character study on them. In the next fortnight, we are supposed to collaborate a bit on stories involving one of the other member’s character. We had an image and a short description that the group leader would email to us after the meeting.

Your images can be from magazines, newspapers, photos, paintings, sculptures and nature. They can be places we live or work in, places we’ve been and others we may only have seen in movies on TV, or the internet but would like to have visited. You narrate how the image speaks to you. As we are all individuals with different life experiences there will be different reactions even from the same images. One person might love the image of an airport as they love flying out to new places, another may have watched loves leave them forever and some people hate airports because they are phobic about flying.

POV is different for everyone and you can use your POV as you want to. If you are finding the selection process difficult it may mean that you don’t fully have an idea of what you want to write about. Figure out a question you want to be answered before trying to find images may make it easier. Don’t overthink in your selection process. If you like it cut it out or copy/paste it into a file or pin it. Sometimes closing your eyes and lowering your finger on the spot of the page that warms your finger can give you the right image. The images chosen can end up taking you in a better direction or bring what you are working on a very interesting point.


The moodboard made in my writing group

Many authors use Tarot cards to plot out their stories. They can be fun to use to give yourself a new vision. Use a Tarot card set that appeals to you above all others. Only you shuffle the cards and rewrap them up in silk after each use to limit outside influences. They are a way you, as a writer, can access your subconscious mind bypassing your Inner Critic as you do so. Your subconscious mind is thinking about your writing while you are doing other things. We have all had AHA moment in our writing while ironing, walking or exercising – times when we are moving automatically more than consciously. If you are stuck in your story ask for inspiration as you shuffle the deck and pick the card/s that stand out to you. Your answer will be in them.

A Heros Journey

There are multiple online Tarot cards that you can access for free as well. They can be just as effective because you cause the needed cards to appear if you believe in quantum physics. Take what you feel from the cards, then check out from the book or the digital file what the meaning is and what it may affect. Any intentions involved and the actual images may show something when you deeply scrutinize them that helps you.

Possibilities in my stories

The main reason why people like Facebook or Instagram is because of the number of images included in them. It takes many words to fully describe an image that your brain takes in instantly and creates myriad connections in your brain about it. Writers use those words in their stores. The image I selected for the HPWG may yet end up having a 50-75,000 word story written about it. It gave me a number of good ideas to use in a post-apocalyptic world run by women.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s