Back in February 2016, I included this photo in a post. Michelle Clements James of Book Chat said she thought it would make a great writing prompt, so I set up a post, not expecting that many would take part. To my surprise, ten stories emerged. When the challenge was over, K.L. Caley from new2writing asked when the next photo prompt would be…and so the weekly ‘writephoto’ prompt came into being.
I try to pick images that are open to interpretation, title the challenge ambiguously and retitle the photo, erasing any clue to location or circumstance that might influence the way it is percieved, avoiding imposing my own ‘take’ on the image to allow imagination to run free.
Almost two years after it began, the prompt regularly sees thirty or more responses every week. There have been over a hundred and fifty different authors. Some who were there for that very first prompt still participate, others come and go, most weeks there is someone new who joins the challenge and it is my privilege to share their work here.
Not only is it a great way to discover new writers and their stories, I have found that the prompt has a lot to teach about how we view the world. The same photograph will suggest completely different things to each writer. It may paint a picture of romance, murder, mystery or adventure. There will be fairytales, sci-fi and fantasy. It may call up a poem or incite laughter. It may suggest words that speak to the heart, the mind or the imagination. And yet, the image remains the same.
The challenge is just a bit of fun, yet by its very nature, it highlights the fact that although we are all looking at the same image, we all bring our own unique perspective to what we see. How we interpret that, what form we choose to give it, how we bring it to life and send it from our own heart and mind out into the world… there are as many variants as there are participants in the challenge.
Sometimes there will be a similar story running through several pieces; the image has suggested a common theme to a handful of writers, and yet, for others, it will have called up something completely different. Where one sees a love story, another sees a fabulous fable, where one sees poetry, another sees a dystopian tale. Yet all those who respond to the prompt see something. That, at least, all have in common.
No good story is ever quite what it seems. There are hidden streams of thought and experience, symbols, fragments of the writer’s life and perception…and often a twist in the tale. A story captures an image of the world and holds it up for us to see. It is quite apt that a single image can reflect so much of the human story, both in what it inspires and in what it reveals.