WiHM 2023: How to Find a Thousand Words in a Picture

A picture’s worth a thousand words.

So the centuries-old idiom goes, implying that a picture is more valuable, more eloquent than words could ever be.

No wonder, then, that so many writers feel intimidated by picture prompts. What on earth should we do with them? What if we choose the wrong approach? Who decides what the right approach is anyway?

Three years ago I felt the same – any writing challenge involving picture prompts reduced me to a state of dread-tinged bewilderment.

The turning point for me was joining the Ladies of Horror Flash Project in May 2020. I was a regular reader and was desperate to join as a writer – the prompts were beautiful, the writing so well-crafted and the ladies themselves seemed so cool. But joining them would mean facing up to picture prompts, as each writer is assigned one of four different prompts every month with a 10-day deadline to produce a flash piece – prose or poetry – up to 750 words.

I was absolutely terrified the first month that I took part. I was daunted by the prompt and overawed by the talent of the other women taking part. But as time progressed, discomfort turned to confidence. I now look forward to the new prompt arriving in my inbox – it kick-starts my writing and shakes off any lingering inertia as I tackle the rest of my writing goals for that month.

I am not a plotter, but I am a thinker. Behind every piece I write is a subconscious process driven by bits of information that I’ve gathered on my writing journey along with a solid foundation of trial and error…lots of errors.

This article brings that subconscious process into the light and explores some of the questions you may want to ask yourself when faced with a picture prompt. But remember, be kind to your brain – this series of questions is not an interrogation – have fun and allow your imagination to free the words locked in the image.