Sometimes all you need is a single spark for a story or novel. For some it’s a character who comes to them fully formed. Maybe it’s a passage by another writer, or a phrase of music. For me it’s always an image of a character.

Do you ‘see’ your story flickering like images from a whirring projector, gradually gaining clarity and focus as you hone your words, as characters and locations gain color?

How do you write stories?

If you write visually, the truth of the old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ rings true. There’s no better way to kick-start a story than to immerse yourself in the world you are writing about, but if you can’t time travel back to the 1930s, or hop on a plane to Spain, photographs are the next best thing.

Thanks to the web, you have a limitless number of images at your fingertips to flick through until you find something that resonates.

For me a story starts with characters, names, and the journey of that character.


Now we have Pinterest. Why not give it a try, and make a board for the book you are working on? It’s a great reference for your work, and a way of sharing your research with other writers. I have a board for many of my stories. Pinterest is a rush if you enjoy pictures.

These images are a shorthand to the story. Each one is a point from which storylines grew, and interconnect.

Perhaps you have a story in hand, or maybe you are searching for inspiration? Choose just one photograph, and take a really good look at it? Ask yourself:

  • What strikes you first?
  • Step back – what is the photo of?
  • Are there people in the photograph? What can you figure out about them?
  • What’s hidden in the photograph – is it posed, or natural? What thoughts or emotions are the people hiding?
  • What’s not shown in the photo? What lies beyond the image?

Run with the image – write a thousand words about just one photograph.