I love how the right image can spark a whole set of questions that can eventually lead to a story. I tend to be pretty place/setting oriented in my writing (hello, Strengthfinders #1 Context) so sometimes having that visual in front of me as I brainstorm and write can make all the difference.
The challenge is finding that image. Since I write mysteries, sometimes with a little fantasy or horror thrown in, many of the visual writing prompts that I find just don’t quite cut it. Cutesy images don’t get me where I want to be most days. The image has to have just enough of something in it to spark the “what’s happening” without having too much in it that it stifles my own creative process.
So, once a week, I’m going to try posting a visual image that I’ve found or taken that prompts some story ideas for me. Maybe they’ll be helpful for you too. If so, be sure to leave a comment or link about your story!
On the surface, this image looks pleasant: sunny day, blue skies, lots of green growing. It’s a happy little barn, right? Or is it? (You know my first thought is having to walk through all those weeds were 3 million snakes are hiding, waiting to scare me.) What’s in that barn? What rusted out old tools are just waiting to become murder weapons? What bodies are hidden or not so hidden when the character walks through the front door? And those woods! What’s lurking back there? (Bigfoot, the answer is always bigfoot.)
Not gonna lie, barns fascinate me as a mystery writer. They are so incredibly murder-y. Or at the least the ones I spend time in are (sorry family members with barns). Hammers and pitchforks line the walls and wild, mean animals lie in wait. Barns and farms in general are places where accidents and blood and really disgusting things happen. The best ones are full of generations of stuff that someone needed once but has been left to collect dust and cobwebs, with the occasional secret item is tucked away. They are full of family drama and hardship and sometimes disappointed dreams. And they are always full of death….