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

Updated on October 11, 2019
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I have many interests and an inability to make up my mind about which one to focus on. That's how I came up with my name: ControlledChaos1.

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Cool Story Ideas Are All Around You

Coming up with story ideas (short, medium or long) when you've got a case of writer's block is never fun, but I've got a little trick that works for me 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. The big secret is... to look at pictures.

Using pictures as inspiration to come up with ideas for short stories, novels, movies, comics or even songs has been used by the artistically inclined for decades. 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 amazing tales that will thrill others. I hope this article can inspire you to come up with your own awesome sub-plots, story arcs and character motivations. Thanks for giving it a chance, and keep writing.

Neil Gaiman On Writing

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

  • Having a place to put your pictures 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 resonate with you. When I see a picture and my inner voices says, "that's interesting", then that is 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.
  • Have some paper standing by, 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.

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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 that pink nightmare, 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.

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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 in a completely different train of thought.

  • The people continued to walk down the path by the wall even though the words "Scary Things This Way" was painted in 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

Motivations

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 mundane 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.

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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 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 was 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 when trying to unlock a car door while fleeing from a bank robbery. That's just one reason why one man bank jobs should not be tried.

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

A Cozy Night Together

A group of people coming together for dinner holds all kinds of story possibilities. To make things even more interesting, know about each characters motivations and temperament before writing any dialogue.

  • The host of the evening thought it best to poison her victim in front of others so suspicion wouldn't fall on her... at least not immediately.
  • 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.

Advertising / Frog Playing Fiddle
Advertising / Frog Playing 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 little girl was glad she invited the toad to dinner, and to everyone's surprise the toad brought some entertainment along.
  • 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.

How To Come Up With Story Ideas

© 2018 Don

Any Short Story Ideas You Want To Share With The World?

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