I’m one of those people that constantly change the wallpaper on my computer so it’s probably not surprising I find the phrase ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words’ to be true. Even less surprising, pictures can spawn some fantastic ideas, and since we’re inundated with images in modern times, there’s a simple exercise for when you need a little help inspiring a story or working out a mood.
I’ve seen them referred to as mood boards and story boards, but the idea is the same: collect pictures that match your story. These could be pictures of settings you want to include, or symbolic representations of themes. There are also a number of different ways to do this.
General Story: Grab images that inspire ideas for the story. These might be pictures of your characters, landscape and building shots. Collect them together and see what sort of mood they all incorporate. This can help expose underlying tones in the story elements.
Setting: If you have settings you want to include, search for pictures that give you clear details of what it looks like. Think of what kind of place you’re looking for like an abandoned building, a ballroom, a hiking trail and collect the ones you like the best for your story. This can help you describe that location later.
Character: Just as above, look for pictures that match your characters. If you want, you can take this a step further and make a collection for each character. Don’t just look for faces though, also look for things you can include for interests and personality quirks. This helps you get an overview of your character for development beyond just basic description.