How to Write a Picture Prompt Story

A picture prompt story is a piece of short fiction, anywhere from one hundred to ten thousand words in length, that is inspired by a picture. This picture may be a photograph, drawing or painting. The writer spends either an allotted period of time (such as ten minutes) or as much time as necessary looking at the picture and imagining what the story behind the picture is. Once the story is imagined, the writer composes the story. Picture prompt stories are an effective creative writing tool for writers of any age or skill level.

Step 1

Acquire a picture to inspire the picture prompt story. The picture can come from any source and be of anything or anyone. Magazines, coloring books, works of fine art and flicker pages are all good options. There are also several websites that provide picture prompt story pictures. The picture you choose is now the picture prompt.

Step 2

Spend some time studying the picture prompt. Ten minutes is usually plenty of time to gaze at the picture; however, if time allows, some authors prefer to spend more time with the picture prompt. While studying the picture, allow your imagination to take over. Ask questions such as: What is happening in the picture? Why does the subject express the emotion they are showing? What happened just before the scene depicted in the picture? Allow your mind to wander and daydream, just make sure the daydreaming is about the picture prompt.

Step 3

Once the story (whether it's the whole story or just a flash) is realized, write out the story in one sitting. Do not worry about mistakes or whether the story is perfect. What is important is that your mind is allowed to create whatever story has been inspired by the picture, and that this story is recorded. Feel free to continue to refer back to the picture as necessary.

Step 4

Once the story is finished, make sure it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Step 5

Let the story sit for a few days or a week so that the story can be returned to and rewritten with fresh eyes. Keep a copy of the picture prompt with the story in case the picture prompt needs to be referred to later.

Step 6

When it's time to return to the story, reread it once or twice and rewrite the story in whatever way makes it more desirable than the original draft. The story may need to be rewritten more than once to capture whatever you desire the story to be.

Step 7

Give the story a final read through and editing polish, correcting any grammatical mistakes and spelling errors.

Step 8

Share the story with a teacher, family or friends, either to entertain or to ask what they liked best about the story and what they would do to make the story better. You may wish to rewrite the story one more time if these ideas will make the story better, or just learn from these comments for future projects. Though it's not necessary, it can be fun for the readers if you include a copy of the picture prompt with the story.


Always strive to have fun when writing a picture prompt story.


Try writing different stories about the same picture.

If writing the story on a computer, save often so the story is not lost.

Things You'll Need

  • Picture
  • Pen or pencil and paper OR a computer
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