Bring Your Writing to Life with Strong Images of Your Story’s World

Hey, writers! If you remember our video on imagery from last year, you know I love using imagery in storytelling to further enhance the world in which the characters live and breathe. By painting an image of your world in the reader’s mind, you give that world extra weight and detail. This helps them to connect more deeply to your characters.

Using Real Images

When we think of using imagery in our storytelling, we usually conjure a picture in our minds. Then we write the words to vividly express that image. Think of it like you’re the painter, your words are your paintbrush, and the page is your canvas. However, sometimes painters will paint from a real-life subject. So what if we used an actual picture to develop our story?

As an example, the band Nine Inch Nails released the album Ghosts I-IV in 2008 with an idea: each song would be inspired by a picture they would put up on their studio wall. They would try to capture the feeling of each image and convey what might be occurring through the sound of their music. Let’s try that same thing, but with writing.


Below is a series of 7 images (2 more than the video!), each with their own story of a thousand words. Pick one that stands out to you most and write a short story (or even a couple of paragraphs) using the image as your reference point. You could try describing in detail what is happening in each image, explaining what led up to that image, or imagining what happens immediately after the picture has been taken.

A woman in a red dress is crossing a doorway into another room. Each room is blank, with one room colored blue and the other a golden hue.

Where does the door lead? Is the woman coming or going? Where is she?

A house in a row of several on the street has a shark's head crashed through its roof. The body of the shark is stiff and suspended on top of the house.

What happened? How did a shark land here?

A house in a field is shown at night with a UFO behind it, beaming light into the house's windows.

Who is here? Why this house?

Two young girls are holding hands and walking down a street with many streetlights on its sides. A streetlight bends down to one of the girl's arms, which is outstretched as if trying to touch the light.

Who are the two girls? What is happening here?

A military-style vehicle is speeding down a dirt road with four tornadoes in its path. Fields can be seen on either side of the road.

What is happening here? Which way is the vehicle going? Who is inside?

A young woman is suspended in an empty room. There are wood floors and painted walls, which look like a bedroom, and the woman is grabbing the doorknob to her room to keep from floating higher. It looks as if there is no gravity.

Why is she floating? Is there gravity? Where does the door lead?

A singular rainbow line darts between a series of trees in the woods, almost as if leaving a path of motion.

What caused this phenomenon? Does it only happen at a certain time or place? Who took the picture?

For bonus points, after you’ve written your story, share it with a friend or family member! Ask them what they picture in their head after reading. See how close they get to the original image you used. If you’re feeling an extra challenge, don’t hesitate to try this exercise with as many different images as you want. As always, if you want to share what you’ve written or would like some feedback on your work, please submit your stories to Happy writing!

Kody is a Youth Librarian at TSCPL who primarily works with teens. He enjoys music, writing, photography, and lots of coffee in his spare time. Don't hesitate to say hello!