One of my favorite writing exercises is to use photographs as prompts.

Choose a photograph — any photograph, really — and then do a 10-minute timed write on it. You can:

  • describe what you see in great detail and without emotion or interpretation
  • describe what you feel when you look at the image
  • talk to the characters or objects in the photograph (my favorite)
  • write from the first-person perspective of one of the characters or objects
  • create a dialogue between the characters or objects
  • imagine yourself in the photograph and write from that perspective
  • explain the photo as if to a person from another planet (what I call “Man from Mars” writing)

Provocative or surreal images are a great way to jumpstart a piece of fiction. Old family photos may give you a conduit to memoir. High-quality nature shots may offer a terrific setting for that story you’ve been meaning┬áto tell.

In only ten minutes, your “piece” may be virtually complete. With just a little refinement, you’ll have something to share. Or it may generate ideas for future writings.

If you feel like writing on the image above, please share your result with me?

I write and lead writing workshops in the Bay Area. My approach is one that can be used in a variety of settings — from helping family members commemorate an important event to assisting a business team in articulating a shared vision. Contact me for more information.