Sunday, October 24, 2010

Camera as Well

I've gotten into the habit of taking my camera with me almost everywhere, because the ordinary things I photograph often give me story ideas. For example, this spider (click on any image to see a larger version):

She set up house in one corner of my porch near where I like to write (and before I relocated her, I took a shot to show my guy.) That's when I noticed the little red dot on her butt, which made me think of another kind of bug (the reclusive, unnoticed surveillance variety.) Would you notice a bug on a bug? Probably not. Could you use a bug as a bug? Why not? And thinking about how I'd use her as the other kind of bug ended up in a scene in Frostfire.

I was in a park with my daughter when I noticed a little artificial spring and decided to take a photo of the water. As soon as I focused on it, the sunlight hitting the surface began shooting bright vertical light beams across my camera's display. It was almost like the transporter visual effect from Star Trek TNG. Despite this, the picture I snapped only showed a modest amount of sparkle confined to the surface of the water. Now I'm sure there's a logical reason why what I saw on the display didn't match what I saw with my eyes, but what I thought of was something I actually needed to up the wattage for a story I'll be writing next year.

In the same park I also saw these odd wee pods sprouting from a big plant that I didn't recognize. I stopped to admire them because they look just like teeny little pumpkins. If mice ever needed jack-o-lanterns, these would be the perfect size for them. And if mice celebrate Halloween, they'd need little costumes, too. They probably dress up as cats and owls and exterminators before they go out trick-or-treating. I bet on Halloween night all the candy the human kids drop while they're making their rounds ends up in the paws of trick-or-treating mice. Then when it's very late, and all the human kids are back home waiting for their mothers to inspect their bags, the mice gather in the park to swap mini-size candies (everyone wants the Snickers, of course) and have tiny pumpkin-carving contests. They catch fireflies and put them inside to light up their jack-o-lanterns, and just before dawn they dig little holes and plant the pumpkins so the humans don't find them -- and more plants will grow for next year's Halloween for Mice. That would make a cute illustrated children's book. Only this year, one drowsy mouse forgets to plant his pumpkin, and the next morning it's found by . . . and more of that would make a fun young reader book. All of that came from just this one picture.

A camera can be a marvelous tool to create writing prompts for yourself. If you have one and you haven't used it in a while, take it out, dust it off and play with it for a week. Take a shot of anything and everything that catches your eye, then sort through the images and see what sparks your imagination.


  1. I love this post! I would love to read a book about mice trick or treating!!! :) My kids would adore it!

  2. How fun! And a brilliant idea. I need to dust off my camera.

  3. I wish I was a kid again, loved it!

    Gave me a heavy wave of nostalgia, thanks:)

  4. The digital camera I bought last year was the best investment I ever made. I went out walking this past week and took over 100 pictures in an hour and a half.

    I always hated my regular camera because I wasn't as good with it as my dad and other siblings. It took the immediacy (and delete ability) of digital to teach me the joy of pictures.

    I like being able to add visual content to my blog.

    P.S. Great Mouse story!!

  5. I too love taking inspiration from photos. I am actually asking for people to send me photos for inspiration for my NaNoWriMo project. (Details can be found on my website if anyone is interested in contributing!) Randomly browsing Flickr is a great way to cure writer's block.

    The trick or treating mice is absolute brilliance. You should write a kid's book about that!


  6. That's an incredible spider shot. In the small version, it looks like he's got a gem in his rear. And now I have something to look out for...almost half way through Frostfire and loving it.

  7. It's five years ago I got my digital camera as birthday present and it has been my faithful travel compagnon ever since. It went to the Hadrian's Wall and York with me, to Scotland and Wales, on a tour along the Rhine, to Trier and the Limes, and on more tours into the Harz mountains and the Weser valley than I can count. I got an archive of some 10K photos of Roman ruins, museum exhibits, beautiful cathedrals and picturesque castle ruins.

    I try to post an illustrated little essay at least one a week, but even with an average of 5-6 photos per post I have not exhausted that archive by far after these 5 years.

    And of course, plotbunnies are hiding in those castle ruins, Roman battlefields, and even behind some pillar in a cloister on occasion.

  8. I want a DSLR! *sigh* My poor little camera doesn't take great pictures. It takes good ones, but nothing like the spider. You do have the best shots though.

    And the pumpkins and mice! Love it. You need to write that because you're also good enough to illustrate it too. And who better to illustrate than the author? *hint*

  9. I usually get story ideas bounced of other people`s (professional or not) photos and not my own. my photos are stand-alones.

    as for spider photo-sessions, I have had a life long fear of them. until I saw one on the ceiling of my hotel room, fought the urge to scream and run, got my camera, turned on the macro option, climbed some furniture and took pictures.

    only after I saw how beautiful that spider is up-close seen through the lens, I stopped murdering the critters.
    (but I still get scared :D)

  10. I know what you mean. I am an avid photographer myself, and love the way photos can capture a particular moment in time forever. Each picture is worth a thousand words, and like you said, they're perfect for brainstorming story ideas and even scenes of a story.



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