I’ve often wondered if the way I come up with story ideas is at all similar to the method of other writers. Since reading C.S. Lewis’s essays in “Of Other Worlds,” I now know that at least one other writer has a similar process. In a very short essay — really a response to an editor’s question — Lewis writes how “It All Began With A Picture” (you can read the full text here).
One thing I am sure of. All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.’
For me, my Endan novels and the entire associated world began with a dream. I think I was about 7 or 8 when I had the dream, and it pestered me for years until I figured out how it might fit into a story and started writing it when I was 18. I dream in vivid color images, so I suppose it was similar to Lewis’ mental picture of a faun with an umbrella.
I wrote this dream once, for a web-based art project in college. The website is not live anymore, so I can’t link to it, but I can copy the text here:
I look out my window. The sky is growing darker. A shape flashes by the window – lithe, scaled, evil. I will not be safe in the house. They are coming for me. They will come in here, through the front door. I leave by the back door, running to the pond, slipping down the bank. The creatures surround Home, calling to each other in squeals and wails. Their dark eyes do not see me. I flee across the field to the woods. There is a path I follow. The woods are familiar, yet I have not seen them before. There is more light, more warmth, but I am sill scared. Someone is coming. I hide by the path, in a ditch. Those approaching are on horseback. A prince leads them. He looks kind, handsome. I feel relieved, safe. Suddenly, he sees me hiding. He does not rescue me. I am taken prisoner. He calls me a traitor.
Using Pictures Against Writer’s Block
Since pictures can be an inspiration for stories, it makes sense that photographs can be used to help combat writer’s block. I read a blog post about this just last week. Next time you’re suffering from writer’s block, try finding a picture that can inspire you. Pinterest is great for this. There’s one pinner I’ve found who has several boards devoted to writing inspiration (link in the photo).