Today’s Top Tip is brought to you by none other than Naomi Harvey over at So, I want to be an author. Naomi has only been writing for a short time but has found the type of inspiration that makes me green with envy. She has a knack for seeing the story in photographs and so I asked her to tell us how she does it.
I decided I needed a holiday so I’ve popped over here to see what it’s like. While I am here, I thought I would write a little something about:
Writers find inspiration all around them. It’s everywhere: in the fluttering of butterfly wings, the chatter of children in the park, the revving of a motorcycle in the distance, in the sunrise and the sunset, in the gossip overheard when sat in a coffee shop, or in a painting either in an art gallery or on the wall in your house. 99% of writers will keep a notebook and pen handy to write down snippets, ideas, bits of story that come to them randomly when stood amongst the vegetables in the supermarket (or grocery store).
When you see something that fascinates you, and you want to write about it later, it’s not always easy to jot down enough to remember the detail. You might find that you have got it all wrong. I did that once when I wrote a story about a picture of a tree. I thought I knew what the picture looked like in my head, but when I went back to where I had seen it, to look at it again, it was different to how I had described it, how I had remembered it.
I have noticed that a lot of writers seem to develop a bit of a love for photography to help with this. It’s much quicker to snap a photo of that tree picture, than it is to sit down and write all the details when you just happened to see it in a shop window when walking down the street. It’s definitely much better than going home and then trying to remember what you saw.
Now, you don’t need a super-expensive SLR to get some great pictures to lend to your inspiration. The quality of photos you can get with a compact camera or even with your smartphone is more than enough to capture the details of something you see that inspires you. All the apps you get on your phone these days can also add some interesting filters.
You can then use the photographs on your blog, or, if the quality of the photo is good enough, even use it for the front cover of your book. That saves using a stock photo which means you have the same book cover as half a dozen other books, and it also means you don’t have to pay an artist or photographer to use their work or have something done for you. Of course if you do want to use your own photos for book covers, you would be better off with a decent SLR and a bit of know-how on how to take a good crisp clean photo. I’m lucky to have a couple of photography enthusiast friends to help me out with that.
If photography is really not your thing, you don’t like going out much because it means actually having to communicate with people, or you can think of a million better things to spend your £400ish ($600ish) on, then fear not. Google and Pinterest etc. are your friends.
There are millions of pictures on the internet. All you have to do is search for the kind of things you are looking for (No porn jokes please) and instantly, you will have masses and masses of photos to choose from. Of course, for that to work as an initial inspiration, you would have to already know what kinds of things will inspire you, instead of just being struck by that lightning bolt.
NOTE: If you do use a picture from the internet, be sure you are not breaching copyright laws and as a courtesy, provide a link to where you found the picture.
I have only very recently started using Pinterest. My main reason for liking it so far is that it means I don’t have to save a load of random photos to my laptop or tablet. It’s all there online and you can save what you find under different headings to come back to later. You can search by things like “writing” and find posters with writing tips, how to say the same thing in 50 different ways, and quotes from famous writers.
Maybe you want to describe a country kitchen in your story. Search for it in Pinterest and you will find what inspires other people and what they think it should look like. It gives you a unique insight into what many people think, and not just rely on what you think. You may think a country kitchen should be big with an old fashioned range cooker and exposed wood cupboards, with the walls and floor in rich earthy colours. But when you search, you may find that the majority of pictures show white cupboards, blue colour schemes and tartan print aprons and oven gloves. It’s up to you to choose which you would rather describe for your book, but it will give you an idea of what kinds of things your readers will potentially expect to find in your description of that kitchen.
I came up with the idea for this post after a photo my sister took of her tattoo gave me the inspiration for a piece of flash fiction which I have since posted on my site. It is called Tattoo, and if you would like to see the picture and read the story, you can find them here. I hope it has given you something to think about.
Before I go, I’d like to set a challenge for you to write an article, or a story, based on this photograph:
I’m off now to go and write my own story about this picture. Be sure to comment below with links to your stories once you have posted them.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Naomi has been making up stories since childhood and, recently, realised she should start writing them down. Through an error during an online shopping experience, she managed to purchase an online writing course instead of a music course and the rest is history. Naomi blogs over at So, I want to be an author and is a frequent contributor to the 52 Week Flash Fiction Challenge.