Tag Archives: creativity

Creativity prompt: What do you see?

What do you see in this picture? What does it make you think or feel? Is it calming or unsettling?


When I look at this, it isn’t entirely clear what it is. Is it a snowy field, illuminated by the setting sun? A body of water in the early morning or late evening? A moonscape? Ripples of cloth-of-gold fabric? Maybe all of the above? Maybe none of the above?

Regardless, it’s calming, on the one hand. The scene is serene; there are no rough edges, no disturbances, nothing that doesn’t fit, that isn’t out of the ordinary.

But on the other hand, that same evenness could be disturbing, depending on circumstances. Think about Andy Weir’s The Martian: what if you were lost somewhere or abandoned, and this was all you saw. Would you find it comforting or unsettling?

Now, I took this picture so it’s a little unfair of me to ask you all these questions. But I raise them because it can be helpful to us as writers and even readers to think about what the characters in a book see and feel to the very same things. What’s soothing to one may be deeply troubling to another. (I’ve just tweaked a scene, in fact, to emphasize this difference in point of view.)

And here’s a photo of exactly the same scene, but taken from a different focal length. Does this change your opinion at all?


Because what you see in the first photo is simply a zoom of the rising sun reflected off the ocean (which you can see in the middle of this photo).

Point of view and perspective are everything. They reveal and hide so much, both in fiction and in real life.

Which photo do you like better?



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Filed under creativity, On Writing, Writing prompts

Creativity prompt: What do you feel?

For the creativity prompt this week, complete this sentence:

When I look at this, I feel…


ferris wheel


When I look at this, I feel both nostalgic and wistful. Nostalgic, because the ferris wheel reminds me of the county fairs of my childhood, when my friends and I would wander around the fairground, marveling at the sights, gorging ourselves on food, and riding every ride we could.

But it also makes me feel wistful. Wistful, because it’s overgrown, covered with vines and kudzu, forgotten by all, no longer remembered by the children it once delighted.

Is this the story of our past, of all our histories? The times of great joys, of childish delights, of magical experiences, intense and concentrated while they lasted but now as ephemeral as the fog that floats among the trees in this photo. What would it be like, I wonder, to be transported back in time to a moment when this ferris wheel was turning, its buckets full of laughing children, music playing in the background? To a time when all was alive again?


Filed under On Writing, Writing prompts

Of death, dolls, and inspiration

Got your attention with that title, I’ll bet!

I had a truly wonderful experience this past weekend. On Saturday, my critique group partners and I joined about 40 other mystery/thriller writers from our Sisters in Crime chapter for a presentation and tour of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, MD.

This trip was billed as a chance to see the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, 18 miniature dioramas of crime scenes from the 1940s that were the brainchild of Frances Glessner Lee, a millionaire heiress with a passion for crime investigation.


What I didn’t know was that our visit also would include a great presentation by Bruce Goldfarb, the special assistant to Chief Medical Examiner himself. Continue reading

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Filed under CSI, On Writing