They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it is up to the author to write those thousand words. (Richard Petracca)
The road winds gracefully amidst the trees. Is this all you see when you look at the picture? Or does your mind go wild thinking of what could be at either end of this road? If you look closely, you will notice a gate, one that apparently hasn’t been closed for a while. I know the gate is hard to see, but it is there. Why was that gate put up in the first place?
When I first took this picture, I thought of Little Red Riding Hood going through the woods to her grandma’s house. I know she didn’t have a road to travel on, but that is what came to my mind. What if there is a little girl traveling down this road, and there is a big bad wolf waiting for her at the other end? The big bad wolf could be a robber, a murderer, a molester. It could be someone whose intentions toward this little girl are not good.
What lurks in the woods on each side of the road? There are wild animals – chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, possibly even the occasional bear. Of course, there are bugs – mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, ticks, etc. But is that all? Could there be more? What if a new species of wild animal has been bred? It looks so innocent, but in reality, is extremely vicious and dangerous.
What could tempt someone to stray off the road? Maybe a cry for help coming from deep in the woods would get his or her attention. Any sane person would get someone else to take with him, but we don’t always want our characters to think too hard about what they are doing, nor do we always want them to be sane.
Picture this road in complete darkness, darkness so thick that it swallows any hope of light. A person could not see the road or the trees. He or she could not see any of the animals, any of the bugs, any person that might be approaching. What kind of noises would be heard? If there is another road close by, maybe headlights could be seen and cars zooming past could be heard. If all was quiet, you could hear frogs. Animals in the surrounding woods would crunch the leaves or make light sounds as they climbed trees or chased each other. If an animal was caught by a predator, possibly its screams of anguish would echo around the area. Are there any insects around that would make buzzing noises as they flew by you? The birds that live in these trees, do they make any noise at night?
What if there was a storm brewing? Streaks of lightning would flash across the sky and thunder would crash. The wind would start out slow, but gradually pick up speed until it became violent enough to possibly blow trees over. What if you happened to be in the path of one when it crashed to the ground? Would it break any of your bones? Would it whack you on the head and knock you unconscious? Or would it barely miss you, maybe tearing down your back so violently that it rips your skin open as it tears off part of your shirt?
What if a fox (or any other forest animal) jumps out in front of you while you are walking down the road? What if the fox stands up on just his two hind feet and begins talking excitedly? What if the fox is asking for help? His family is in trouble, and he knows that you will help them. Would you follow him to his home? If you did follow him, what would you find when you arrived? And is the fox telling you the truth?
Before you reach the part of the road where the fence ends, there are three apple trees. One day while walking down the road far beyond where the apple trees are, something drops out of a tree that is at least 40-feet tall. Curious to see what it was, you walk over to look. It is an apple! The apple trees are way up the road. How did an apple end up in the top of this tall tree? What kind of animal could have held onto an apple and climbed up the tree with it? Or is there a bird so large that it could hold the apple in its beak while it flies?
Now let’s take this another direction. What if you want to write a touching romance? What about an inspiring story that would bring tears to someone’s eyes? Your character could be thinking that something bad awaited him/her at the end of the road, but discover something great, something that was unexpected. A long lost relative could be found. Someone could live there who could make your character’s dream come true.
No matter what kind of story you wish to write, clues for it are hidden in this picture. It is up to you, the author, to look deep enough beneath what is visible and pull it out.
What ideas can you come up with?