Last week on my blog I spent some time show you how I use pictures to improve my writing. Specifically, pictures can be used to help you flesh out concrete details in your story world, and consequently increase your manuscript word count. If you missed it, you can head over HERE to check it out.
In that post I mentioned that my writing group, Wwink, has been using pictures during our bi-weekly writing “homework”. We have been exploring the ideas of visual cues and physical space so that we can figure out how exactly we can make our readers feel like they are living and breathing right inside a story scene along with the characters. Below you will see an image and the story I wrote to go with it.
Before you read it, I’d like to give you a little background.
An author whose books I greatly enjoy is Susanna Kearsley. Like me, she loved reading and writing at a young age. Also like me, she did not choose authoring for her post high school education or first career path. But eventually, after being a museum curator, she found her way to full time writing. She says, “And more than twenty years later, I’m still feeling fortunate, doing the thing I love best...telling stories.”
Susanna’s stories are branded at paranormal romance, but really, they aren’t as intimidating as all that. The characters in Susanna’s book usually have some sort of psychic or time traveling power, that they use to navigate both the present and past worlds. There is usually a mystery and also a romance. No blushing is required when reading her books, trust me. (This coming from a woman who turns red at the thought of anything even slightly risqué.) I mostly listen to her books on Audible because writing has taken up most of my free time, and her stories are a lovely escape from exercising, folding the laundry or scrubbing the kitchen floor.
Anyway, the picture below reminded me of Susanna’s stories… the way objects of the past keep popping up into the present time. So, it was with her stories in mind, that I wrote the one below. I hope you enjoy it! I worked hard to include the physical details from the picture in the story. I also used the picture as the seedling form y story idea, the plot growing from a single image.
The Fireplace in the Meadow
Kiera stood in the open field and scanned the horizon. The clouds had been building all morning and now threatened to completely cover the spring blue sky with their mountainous forms. A light wind lifted her bangs from her forehead and blew them sideways across her face. She clamped a hand on top of her head and inwardly cursed the dinner plans that prevented her from wearing the hat that usually accompanied her on such expeditions. Did Roger really have to demand they go on a date tonight? Who eats dinner at 5:30 anyway?
She stopped this line of questioning immediately. She needed a clear mind. There would be no way she would accomplish this task with his influence bouncing around her brain. Kiera took a breath, closed her eyes and told herself, “Clear your mind, clear your mind, clear, clear, clear…”
After a minute’s mediation Kiera opened her eyes and turned slowly, counter clockwise. While she turned in concentration the years melted away. Seasons rewound, leaving her skin tingling in alternating flashes of warmth and coolness. Leaves fluttered up from the ground back up to the branches. They turned from gold and red back to green and then shrunk back into the twigs from which they originally sprang. The sun trekked across the sky in reverse, west to east and puddles froze into mounds of snow that broke into a million flakes and floated upward, eventually disappearing into the sky. The seasonal scenes repeated again and again until finally Kiera felt the time was right and paused her backwards traveling.
The world slowly came to a stop, a merry-go-round creeping to a halt. Kiera held her arms out to steady herself. Standing with her feet planted solidly in the past, Kiera looked around. And then she saw it... just a little way across the field. Her first few steps were tentative, but once she was sure she was staying here, now, in this time and space, she took off running. The thrill of her abilities pulsed through her veins, a rush like nothing else she had ever felt. She knew she was smiling like a fool, but she didn’t care. Besides, no one was here to see it anyway.
She cut through the tall grass, the occasional stalky wild flower brushing her knee and wrist. Kiera slowed to a stop when she reached the fireplace. It looked alien and foreign surrounded by the prairie. The brick walls of hearth did not connect to the walls of a cabin, nor did the chimney vent through a thatched roof. It stood completely alone, the last remnant of the home and family that had once lived there.
Kiera ran her hands over the charred brick, the burn marks still evident. A single tear rolled over Kiera’s freckled cheek. She knew what had happened. Several years prior. She had intentionally not gone back that far. Miraculously the single artifact she traveled to collect had survived.
The porcelain bowl was small. Kiera picked it up and cupped her hands around its shape, before turning it to the side and swiping away the evidence of the natural elements from its surface with her thumb. The absence of the dirt revealed a pattern of hand painted blue lace and Kiera sighed with contentment. It would still be difficult for her to prove to the historical society that the Duchess history assumed had vanished, had actually just run away. That in fact she had been concealed by covered wagons, and not the cloak and dagger kidnapping plots they all assumed to be true. This bowl was proof. No other pioneer could have afforded a piece of Copenhagen China, nor would anyone else be stubborn enough to demand it come along on the barley blazed trail of the uncharted American west.
Even if Kiera had traveled back to a time when the family was still alive, and managed to secure an invitation to dinner, she would not have found another piece of the China. An entire set of the dishes would have been far to heavy and much to fragile to travel the hundreds of miles that separated New York and Kansas. And it would have been even harder to manage their safety during a surreptitious sea voyage from Denmark to America. No, the Duchess brought just one piece, just one souvenir from her former life to her new one. At least, this is what Kiera believed and aimed to prove.
Yes, it would be quite difficult to convince them, and surely the other historians and ancestral experts would grumble and moan considerably, ultimately denying this new possible theory. But this single artifact went a long way in helping Kiera convince them otherwise. She wrapped the bowl in bubble wrap from her backpack and secured it firmly in place before walking back to her entry point in the field. With one last look at the lonesome fireplace in the middle of the meadow, she began to turn clockwise and return to her present day and awaiting dinner plans.
** Side note number one. There was no missing Duchess of Denmark, and also the dates of the Westward Expansion of the United States and the creation of the particular China pattern described in this story do not match up (they are about 50 years apart). If this were a story I were pursuing in novel length, I would not tolerate these inconsistencies… but for our experiment today… I chose not to care. **
** Side note number two: If I were really writing a novel length story like this one, I would most likely start with the historical event and work my way outward from there. **
If you are intrigued by the idea of picture prompts, I have a TON of great ones collected for you over on my Pinterest boards.
Click here for young writers, and here for adult writers.
What story would you create using this image? It sure was fun to hear the situations my fellow Wwink writers penned to paper, and I'd love to hear yours as well! If you write one, email it to me!
Until next time word nerds, happy writing!