January 28, 2008

Picture Fiction Challenge

Let me introduce a brand new idea to you all.

I've been thinking about doing this for a while, and today I will explain this new "challenge" to you, and get a feel for whether or not there is an interest to participate in my "Picture Fiction Challenge".

There is a poll on the right hand side of the screen, in which you can offer your opinions on this whole idea.

There are many forms of writing exercises a guy can do, and for anyone who has a desire to write fiction - writing exercises are a wonderful and fun way of rubbing those creative brain cells. Many writing exercises will simply offer a logline, such as "A former love interest interrupts a wedding ceremony". I enjoy those, and it immediately spurs a lot of creative thoughts on what could happen in the story.

But, I also have a weird fascination with randomness. And, while I initially thought of proramming an application which could generate strange and random loglines for us to work with, that project is somewhat time consuming. I may introduce that in the future.

Instead, I came up with this idea after the popular "Album Cover" meme. I found the Flickr website, and the random function for displaying pictures. That's when it hit me. Another popular writing exercise is to simply write a story based on a photo. I thought - what if we combine a number of pictures and make a fictional story based on those?

I decided to choose random pictures to represent Character, Objective, Setting, Item and Random. All of these things would have to be incorporated into the story you write.

Below you can see what the challenge would look like. If you click on each picture, you will be taken to the Flickr page it was found on. That is to honor the people who took the pictures I so blatantly borrow for this exercise.

Note: This is only an example. I will present the real challenge in a few days... hoping at least one or two of you want to give this a shot. I will guide you through the thought process below each picture, for those of you who are not familiar with the concepts of a writing exercise or of story structure. Or if you simply need a little help to get started.


I'm looking at this picture, and I see a couple of teenagers. These would be the main characters of the story to write. The boy is looking at the girl, and I get a feeling that he's longing for her - or maybe he's curious about her. The girl, on the other hand, we cannot fully see. She is mysterious, dressed in black and those bright red shoes. There is a sub-plot in that right there.

The way I see it. The boy will be my main character. The girl will be the quiet mysterious girl who has captured his interest. He is curiously drawn to her, but there is something very strange about her.

This picture would represent the direction of the story. This is where the journey is supposed to come to a conclusion. And, what do I see here? I see a rainbow. That means I will send the boy and the girl on a journey to reach that rainbow - that is their objective in the story. A field trip with the class-mates? Is the girl new in town? For what reason are they trying to find the rainbow?

This picture will tell you the setting - the place the story takes place in. We see a beautiful landscape, with a forest and mountains. Aaah - this works well with the rainbow objective. The boy and the girl are on a field trip through the woods and the mountains, and they are trying to reach the (magical?) rainbow.

See how the story has already formed here? The basics are done, all we need to do is write. But, I don't want to settle there. This is too easy. Lets throw in a couple more parameters that need to be taken into consideration.

While looking at this picture there is one item that stands out. It is a clock - a wall clock. Now - why would anyone bring a wall-clock on a field trip to the mountains?

Well, we could either do a little bit of cheating here, which is my initial idea. The clock would represent time - giving us a time-limit on the story. They need to reach the point from which they can see the magical rainbow before it is too late. That gives us some urgency to the story.

But, to honor the item involved, we should probably make someone actually carry a wall clock. We have a strange and mysterious girl... what if she carries the thing in her black bag? She could stop and pull the thing out every now and then to check on the time... maybe this is a magical clock? Maybe it has some significanct connection to the magical rainbow?

The final picture to take into account would be a completely random chosen picture. It could be an image of anything at all. What I got for the example here was this picture of a girl with a camera. Again - this made things pretty easy. The characters in my story are trying to reach that rainbow and they are going to take pictures of it.


That's pretty much how I propose this challenge to work.

The pictures I would choose will be completely random. I go about it like this - I click the random pics on Flickr, and the first pic I come across which could possibly represent the different categories is used - no selection going on. I have a fascination with all things random, so believe me, I will not be cheating on my selection of pics for this challenge. Sometimes it may be easy - other times it may be really hard to piece them together.

You would, of course, be free to interpret the pictures on your own (without my suggestions). The way I did it here was just to show you the thought process one could use.

The story, itself, can be as long or short as you want to write it. The only thing is that you need to incorporate each element into the story.

For each challenge, I would list all participants right here on this blog - so one could go around and read all stories that came from the same set of pictures, and we could all marvel in how different they would all turn out. And, believe me - we will interpret the pictures very differently indeed.

While this would be a rather time consuming challenge for us all, I do not feel it should be done on a weekly basis. I'm thinking bi-weekly or even monthly. You can tell me what you think in the poll to the right.

Hold it!

I'm looking at this, and I'm thinking many would be intimidated by the whole thing. Thinking this is going to be the longest story ever!

Well... while we already have enough material to write a full length novel based on those pictures... let me just give you an example on how this story could be very short indeed.



I will never forget her.

It was during my teenage years that she came into my life, and disappeared from it in just a matter of days. Yet I will never forget about her.

I cannot remember her face. I'm not even sure I ever saw what she really looked like, but what I do remember was a powerful attraction that drew me to her.

We went on a field trip with my class. It was a beautfiful day and it was said that a magical rainbow would appear if we stood at the top of the mountain at the right time of day. I could almost feel her excitement when we set off on that trip. She somehow seemed destined for this trip, and I recall following close in her footsteps as we walked through the damp growth of the vast forest, headed for that mountain.

She would stop every now and then, and look at a strange wall clock she produced from her black bag, which she carried everywhere she went. I had the feeling she knew something about this place that the rest of us didn't know.

I had my camera with me, and I took pictures of her when no one would notice. I don't know why I was so fascinated with this girl, but she was all that was on my mind. And, what happened as we reached to top of the mountain was something I will never forget.

The rainbow was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. She stood in front of me, and I took pictures of her and the rainbow together - both of them so beautiful, mysterious and magical. Then she reached out with her hands. She touched the rainbow. I swear, she touched the rainbow as if it were a solid object. I snapped pictures in fascination.

Then she started to fade away. I couldn't believe my eyes, but she seemed to become one with the rainbow. Her hands at first, then her arm was drawn into the rainbow. The dark black clothes she wore became vibrant with colors - and then she was no longer there.

I ran up to where she stood. I reached out. Tried to touch the rainbow. I wanted to follow her to wherever she went. But, my hands could only grasp for thin air.

"Did you all see that?", I said to the others.

"See what?"

"The girl! She became one with the rainbow!"

"What girl?"

"The new girl. The one in black. She disappeared into the rainbow."

"You're trippin', dude"

I stood there in disbelief. Why didn't they know the girl? Why hadn't they seen what I had seen?

I had my pictures. I would show them.

But, when I had my pictures developed there was no sign of the girl. Was she really ever there at all?


tt said...

You, my dear one, have a great talent! I could not even begin to write something that would immediately capture readers as you do. Seriously. As i am not very talented in the technology aspect of blogging I think I will sit this challenge out. But, I will be holding my breath for other stories to follow.
Ya know, in my most humble opinion, and take this for what's it worth, You don't belong in a furniture store. You are allowing you talents to go unnoticed by the masses. What a shame that is. Surely there is a venue out there, somewhere, where you could showcase your talents and possibly become more enchanted with your own life in the process. Dude...what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation from whom?
I just had to say that. I sincerely hope you read that with a lot of loving inflection in your minds voice. That's the way it was intended.
Keep on keeping on....

Leighann said...

I think that this is a fantastic idea! You are entirely too creative for your own good!

I love to write and to make things up, I'm just not very good at sharing my ideas with others....

You might get me to change my mind.

Farmer*swife said...

This is a really, REALLY good idea. I say, definately, start it on a monthly basis, though. Because it is a new concept for people to "ramble" in their minds and let their thoughts swirl around the pictures. Plus, we all have other things in our lives that take up our time.

Once everyone really gets into it and gets their thinking and creativity into a rythm; you could think about bi-weekly or something.

I really enjoy writing and this type of expression.

So, I say, count me in.

Karen said...

I don't have the talent that you have, but I would be willing to give it a shot. Looks like fun.

Jay said...

First of all dude you have mad talent!

I think this would be a lot of fun because there are some really smart and clever writers on the blogosphere. I'm not really one of them, but I'd give it a try too. I think we would need two weeks at least to give those of us who need more time to put things together a better chance at putting something decent up.

Anonymous said...

Monthly for sure. And I would participate. It would be fun.


liv said...

You, my new pal, are totally groovy. And since I'm lazy, and keep it real, I'll let you know that I will be watching this exercise with great interest in between brewing the perfect shot of espresso and gazing at my navel. :)

Maggie said...

I'm here by recommend of Ms. Liv, just above there and I think this is a fabulous idea. I would love to participate and look forward to your first official challenge.

Samantha_K said...

If I had time, I'd be in.

Oh, you just wait until I can blog at home....then I'll take all of your little challenges, oh Puppet Master.

Sparkling Red said...

There wasn't a button for:
Awesome! Might participate. Depends on... stuff.

Monthly is a good interval.

So far I haven't posted any fiction at my place, unless you count exaggeration. This would be an adventure. :-)

R.E.H. said...

TT: Wow! ... WOW! I'm lost for words.

Thank you very much for those encouraging comments. It means a lot to me, and its been a very long time since anyone heaped praise on my writing like that... might have something to do with me not having written much for a long time ;)

I know I don't belong in a furniture store... but, competition in the field of any form of entertainment is so big it's virtually impossible to get a break... I need to step up my game however. I need to fight for my rights to earn a spot in the limelight!

Thank you. I really appreciate and take your praise to heart.

Leighann: Yeah, I read about your writing of Children's books - sure hope you take part in this thing. Would be very interesting to see what you come up with.

Farmer's Wife: Nice. That's all I needed - one or two to join me, because I'd feel kinda dumb doing it on my own ;)

Monthly... yeah - I was thinking bi-weekly - but you make a strong point there... keeping my eye on the poll ;)

Karen: I'll be looking forward to reading what you come up with. Talent is something one has to work on, I believe.

Jay: Yeah, two weeks is a minimum I believe. It does take some time to concoct the perfect story + we have other commitments in life...

...I will certainly be looking forward to your contribution ;)

And, mad talent! Thanks!

g-man said...

Most interesting concept. it seems rather involved with all the pictures. I am certainly willing to give it a go.

R.E.H. said...

Emmeline: Yeah, I think it would be a LOT of fun, actually. Can't wait to compare stories and see how everyone put the pieces together.

Liv: Thank You. The espresso is a good idea, but maybe you should focus your eyes on the reading - not your navel ;)

Maggie: Welcome! Good to hear there are people interested in giving this a shot. I thought no one would want to do this ;)

Samantha K: It's about time you get yourself a home computer. And, now you have yet another reason! ;)

Sparkling Red: Well... just imagine the "will play" button really reads "will play... if and this and that" ;)

I think it will be a fun adventure!

R.E.H. said...

G-Man: I liked the idea of using many pictures to make it a little difficult... actually had to bring myself to a stop at five ;)

Will be checking out what you write with interest!

R.E.H. said...

BTW... come to think of this when responding to G-Man...

I initially meant to have a picture which would represent Resolve (meaning what brings the story to a close, the climax - in which way the objective is reached).

Still keep wondering if that wouldn't be a good thing to have in there. Whaddya think?

Jay Cam said...

wow that was a great idea! i'm sure it will spread like crazy.

the best part was the "item" lol

i look forward to more of these!

fiwa said...

I would do it - I might not do the first one, depending on when you start these and when it's due. Mid February I should have a lot more free time though, and I will definitely play then.

I would vote for monthly myself.
You are so creative, I'm excited about this!


Jo said...

What a clever idea! Your example was fantastic, and I thought you did a fine job of explaining the process--after you write a few hit movies, you should pop into a writing class & give the young hopefuls some of your pointers!

Of course I'll play along; I vote monthly---maybe you can time it with my PMS when I'm most likely to write a psychotic thriller LOL!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a neato idea!

I'd give it a try.Just not too sure how good I'd be at it.

Kell said...

Sounds like a great idea and a lot of fun. I vote for monthly, too. And I'll try not to be intimidated by the talent represented in this post.

Newt said...

What I lack in talent I will make up for with enthusiasm.

Dana said...

Hmmmm ... very interesting idea! Fiction has always been a STRETCH for me, but I think I'd like to give this a shot *because* it is such a stretch for me!

flutter said...

I love this

Anonymous said...

I'm in! I'll post mine on this Thursday :-)

Farmer*swife said...

Oh, are we already starting? With the pics provided in the example? I thought you were polling, and then we were starting.

Unless, joel [previous post above] is just an over-acheiver...Thursday joel? But some of us need time ;)

R.E.H. said...

Jay Cam: It would be a lot of fun if it did.

Fiwa: Looking at the poll results so far it looks like monthly is the way to go. So, you should be good come mid February.

Jo: I would love to teach story structure. I've studied a lot myself, and its a wonderful thing really, once you understand it.

Keep me updated on your PMS - I like me a good psychotic thriller ;)

Preposterous Ponderings: I'm sure you will blow me away with your strong wit and sense of humor.

Kell: Nothing to be intimidated about... we're doing this for FUN! ;)

R.E.H. said...

Newt: Now, that's the spirit!

Dana: It is always good to push ones boundaries...

Flutter: Welcome! And Thank You!

Joel: Nice to hear... but the challenge is not yet on - this was only an example of how it would work.

Of course, you can still write a story based on this just for fun, though.

Farmer's Wife: No... you got it right the first time - this is just to test the waters. Joel just got a little excited is all ;)

Dianne said...

I too am fascinated by all things random. I think this is an incredible idea and would love to be included. I think some upfront time is a good idea - I'm a new blogger and technically challenged as well. For a while I thought html was short for hotmail - Oy!

But to combine photography and writing is a dream come true.

I am not worthy of your brillance :)

I came over from "cynical bastard's" place - Oh how I love that name.

R.E.H. said...

Dianne: Nice to see you here, Dianne. And, I'm glad you are interested in this little challenge. I was worried no one would want to play, but it certainly is a go now with all the positive responses.

Randomness rules! ;)

Melissa said...

Oh, this is a great idea! You're bookmarked, babe, and I'll be waiting on the starter's gun.

R.E.H. said...

Melissa: Thank You - and Welcome! I gotta get this thing started soon - now I'm really excited ;)

HoosierGirl5 said...

I'm here from Cynical Bastard's. Great idea. I'll play!


R.E.H. said...

HoosierGirl5: Welcome!

We're all gonna have so much fun playing this!

Real Live Lesbian said...

What a kick ass idea! I can't wait to read the stories! I'm not a writer, but I LOVE to read!

Seriously cool idea! Love the pictures that came up, too!

R.E.H. said...

Real Live Lesbian: Whaddya mean you're no writer? I was reading your suicide story, and it was very well written indeed. Fiction is a little different, I agree, but you certainly have the gift of the written word.

Nanette said...

Very creative! I love it. (came over via Melissa at Grossly Unimaginative)

R.E.H. said...

Nanette: Welcome! The challenge is now on (see latest post) - hope you want to play ;)

The Mama Bear said...

Leighann drew me over. Are the above pics the first batch in the challenge or just an example?
I am game.

R.E.H. said...

The Mama Bear: The pics shown in this particular post (which you replied to) are just an example. The first OFFICIAL challenge can be found on the sidebar.

Just click the PFC image.

Glad you're interested in playing.

D said...

The first image, 'character(s)' is mine. I really enjoy that others get to see my material but I'd have been more comfy with a simple question put initially, Can I use this image? - that said, I don't mind that you do.

Good idea for creating awareness while snapping pics too. I find it so hard to verbalize stuff like that that I often bring a friend on a photowalk. Together we can make the other aware of what mechanics to look out for when depicting something.

If sort of reversed, it'd mean first creating a story and then actively looking for the images to fit into it.