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Cure Writer's Block by Looking at Pictures (Story Ideas From Photos)

Updated on November 2, 2022
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Writing is one of my several hobbies, and lists like the one below help me with writer's block every now and again.

Pictures and story ideas.
Pictures and story ideas. | Source

Photos Can Cure Writer's Block?

Using pictures to cure writer's block is a trick I learned from a fellow writer several years ago. For me, this trick works nearly 100% of the time. While this method should give you a wealth of ideas, they'll likely come to you in a scattershot approach, so don't expect a breakthrough scene to the specific story you may be working on. Keep an open mind and have a way to take notes as ideas will come by doing this.

Using photos to come up with ideas for short stories, novels, movies, comics or even songs has been used by the artistically inclined for years. Even before the photograph was invented, people used to look at a specific landscapes, events or scenery around them and let their imagination go to work.

Ideas for stories can seem like something that is out of reach when you can't seem to come up with any, but pulling ideas out of thin air isn't always the way to go. Using your eyes as well as your mind is the more natural way to come up with tales that will thrill and amaze your readers. This article was made to inspire you to come up with your own awesome sub-plots, story arcs and character motivations. Thank your for giving it a chance, and keep on writing.

Neil Gaiman On Writing

Tips and Tricks When Using Photos To Come Up With Story Ideas

  • Having a place to store your images and some kind of system to keep them somewhat organized is a must. Before the internet, I used notebooks and some tape. I still use that method, but I also now have a special folder devoted to cool pics I run across when exploring the web. If you run across something that catches you interest, save it.
  • How do you know what photos to save? The answer is simple... save the ones that speak to you. When I see a picture and my inner voices says, "that's interesting", then that's a key sign that I need to keep the photo on file for later use. All pics don't have to make you go 'WOW!' to give you great ideas.
  • Always have a notebook or piece of paper and a pencil nearby (even when you sleep), because you'll want to write down every idea that comes to you... even the stupid ones. Later, when going over the list, you'll discover that some good ideas won't work, while some of those you thought were stupid are actually good. Even the lightest scribble can help you remember a great idea.

Piggy bank being busted open.
Piggy bank being busted open. | Source

Pics That Have Been Photoshopped Can Give You Ideas Too - "Here Piggy, Piggy"

  • The man had suspected that the piggy bank had been doing things in his home while he was gone, but the idea sounded ludicrous... until he caught the pig move ever so slightly. He knew then that all the problems he'd been having was due to sabotage; the pig couldn't be allowed to live.
  • The children's bank always ended up on the table by her bed when she woke up each morning; it didn't matter where she put it before going to bed. Those nights were the nights when the nightmares are worse than ever. The idea of destroying the bank didn't take long to seep into her mind.
  • Twenty-seven times the boy has tried to destroy the pink menace, and twenty-seven times he's found it back on his shelf the next day. This time he's going to shatter it into a thousand pieces. Let's see if it can survive that.

A creepy setting for a story.
A creepy setting for a story. | Source

Horror Story Ideas From A Scary Picture?

I found it kind of tough to come up with a good 3rd story idea until I began looking at the words on the wall in a different way. When read not as a warning, but as an invitation, ideas began to form quickly. Whenever you think you can no longer get any ideas from something, try looking at it from another point of view.

  • The people continued to walk down the path by the wall even though the words "Scary Things This Way" was painted in very large letters... and even though this area was known for a lot of missing person reports.
  • A visitor from outer space escaped a building in which it was tortured in. He came back later and wrote "scary" on the side of outside walls as a way to warn people to "enter at your own risk". In his language "scary" means "Danger, do not enter."
  • If you know the right hour of the night and motivated enough to brave the storms, there is a secret doorway underneath the letter "A" that leads to a club frequented by creatures of the night.

Some Short Story Guidelines You Might Want To Follow


Why are you trying to come up with a story idea?

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Boring Pictures Aren't So Boring If You Have An Imagination

Keep in mind that even the most boring and oridnary photo can have a story in it if looked at closely enough, but you must use your imagination and life experience to mine those golden ideas that could turn into the next blockbuster novel, movie or graphic novel.

Story ideas from a broken key.
Story ideas from a broken key. | Source

How Does A Key Get Broken?

  • A woman has to use a key to defend her life, while the criminal will have to dig the other end of it out of his skull. How exactly the criminal gets that piece of key out of his head is the more interesting part of the story.
  • The lawman opens the jail cell door only to find that one of the concrete blocks has been removed from the wall. Laying on the floor were crumbs of mortar and a broken key. He still wonders how the crook was able to fit through such a small space, though.
  • A broken key is more common than you might think with people trying to unlock a car door in a hurry. The reason why they are in a hurry is often not a good one.

Writing Tips and Tricks From Stephen King

We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to have created something that will.

— Chuck Palahniuk

Short Story Ideas From Paintings

The Potato Eaters
The Potato Eaters | Source

Stories by the Fire

A diverse group of people coming together for a night at the dinner table holds all kinds of story possibilities. To make things even more interesting, be sure you know about each characters motivations and temperament before writing any dialogue. The story will almost write itself.

  • The host of the evening thought it best to poison her victim in front of the others so suspicion wouldn't fall on her... at least not immediately. By the end of the night she realized she'd failed in that attempt.
  • Though no beds are available, everyone plans on waiting out the storm from inside the inn. Nightmare storms don't happen often, but when they do, they last a while and have been know to drive people mad.
  • People telling stories in a bar or tavern to avoid bad weather has been done many times before, but never seems to get old... as long as the stories and characters are interesting.

A frog playing a fiddle.
A frog playing a fiddle. | Source

Good Short Stories Only Seem To Come Out of Nowhere (It Actually Takes an Open Mind)

Interesting ideas for stories can be gotten from anywhere and anything, though I find that looking at an interesting picture is a sure way to come up with an interesting idea. Below are a few ideas gleaned from the pic above:

  • The midwife was glad she invited the toad to dinner, and to everyone's surprise the toad was able to entertain them wonderfully.
  • After a little research, Ben had discovered the soap was not being made anymore, even though the notes on the back said the soap could heal fatal wounds.
  • Rumors abound about cards like this being left all over town. Wise folk say they are a gateway to another world; I've never been brave enough to see if the rumors are true... until now. Let's see exactly how much adventure there is to be had.

How To Come Up With Story Ideas

© 2018 Don


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