The Mourning Bird Story

This photo is one of series I discovered on from The photographer caught a pair of birds in the street, where one lay dying. I chose this photo for its amazing poignancy that lends itself so well to a story.

The easiest choice is to write the story behind the picture. Why is one bird dead? Why does the other mourn for it? Where are the birds, and why has this happened to them? What will happen to the survivor? Were humans involved in this death? Do the people on the street stop to help, to watch? Or do they simply walk by, unheeding? What about other birds? Do they try to help the survivor? This alone would be a wonderful, heart-tugging story of love and loyalty in nature.

But look closer. See beyond the obvious. What if these birds were human? Who would they be? Male, female, young, old? Why are they alone, isolated from other people? What is the live person saying? Is she crying, screaming, mourning? Is she angry, frightened, defiant? Is she the killer? Was it done in self-defense or in malice? Is this a ritual of some kind?

As you can see, there are many ways to interpret a photo to find a unique story. What we see does not have to be taken literally. We can use the images to free-associate to places and situations we might never think of on our own. And thereby find an authentic story to write.

Where will your story go?

Susan Tuttle

Comments? Your ideas from this photo…

Word of the Week: Ineluctable (Adj. Lat. in, not + eluctare, to struggle)

Definition: not to be avoided, resisted, changed

Synonyms: Inevitable, necessary, unavoidable, certain

Usage: Faced with ineluctable doom, he still chose to fight on.

Tale of the Muddy Boots

This picture, from a website advertising hiking gear (, immediately caught my eye. Most people would pass it by as a somewhat interesting snapshot of muddy boots and not pay much attention—unless they were into proper footwear for hiking. But my mind immediately started spinning with story ideas.

Because I mainly write mystery and suspense, my imagination went directly to that genre. Has this person just finished digging a grave out in a remote forest? Was he burying someone, or digging up a body? Is he the villain of the story, or the hero? Or an innocent bystander about to become a victim? Is he a kidnapper standing looking at his quarry just before taking her, or after securing her in a remote location?

I know. Not everyone writes murder stories. So, where’s the non-murder story in this picture? Well, he could be an archaeologist standing at the site of a recently excavated ancient village in the middle of a farmer’s field. Or maybe he’s homeless, standing at the edge of a cliff, contemplating ending it all. Perhaps he is merely a hiker who has reached his destination, only to find it altered in some way. He could be a guide for a group of hikers taking stock of their direction, or searching for an alternate route. Or someone who is hunting for gold or buried treasure, searching for a lost child, rescuing a kidnap victim (there’s that mystery, again!), or hunting in the woods after a rain storm.

From one average photograph, you can find a multitude of ideas for stories. With a twist here and a turn there, you could probably come up with a dozen or more basic plots with which to work. Make your own list (feel free to include any of mine that you like), choose the one that speaks most clearly to you, and start writing. You’ll be amazed at what you discover lurking in your subconscious.

(Hint from my Write It Right e-book series: Study the picture then set a timer for 20 minutes and start writing. Don’t stop to think or correct, just keep going. If you get stuck, write about getting stuck until you’re not anymore. Timed writing is a great way to step out of your own way and set your subconscious free. Amazing stories happen when you do that!)

Come back next Thursday for another picture-idea sparker!

Susan Tuttle

Comments? Your ideas from this photo…


On Writing: “I began to write short pieces when I was living in a room too small to write a novel in.” ~Angela Cartwright

Of Stories, Writing and Life

I’m starting over, in more ways than one.

First: I’m redoing my blog. I called it “Woman of 1,000 Words” because that’s my nickname in my family. I’d originally intended to write exactly 1,000 words a week, every week, only to find that my reach fell far short of my grasp. It got away from me. I lost ground, lost time, lost words. Bye-bye original idea.

Now I’ve revamped, reinvented and rewrote. I’m keeping the name, but not the 1,000-words-a-week goal. I’ll simply talk here about writing and stories and books and life—about the things that rev my writing motor, so to speak, no matter how many words end up in each post. Hopefully, these things will rev your writing motor, too.

I’m starting with photography. After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words, right? So I’m already ahead there. And photos are everywhere, not just in our own cameras. They’re so prevalent that we don’t pay much attention to them these days unless they’re really unusual or spectacular.

But even ordinary snapshots can ignite a meaningful story, form a fascinating character idea or produce an irresistible setting. I’ll show you how. In addition, I’ll throw in a hint or two from my eBook series, Write It Right: Exercises to Unlock the Writer in Everyone. Or I might challenge you with something on words and their usage, give you a great quote on writing, or recommend a book I’ve enjoyed reading.

And I’m going to post each Thursday, to give you time to read the post, absorb it and have your ideas fresh for exploring over the weekend—two days without work to start plotting and/or writing whatever story you see in the pictures. Ahhh, heaven!

Second: I’m entering that “golden” stage of life where things are supposed to get easier: retirement, social security, Medicare, more free time—though with today’s economy, I’m learning that “easier” is a relative term. Still, it’s supposed to be “golden,” so I’m choosing to take that to heart. Which has led me to…

Third: I quit my job so I can write and edit full time. Life is short (scary-short when you reach this age! I won’t tell, but it’s more than a few years past “gold”). We should fill it with the things we love and I love to write and edit. I want to get up in the morning, turn on the computer and spend a few hours doing dastardly things in my story worlds. I want to drive around searching for the perfect setting to mold into literary shape—and where I can dump bodies. I want to stay up late and commune with my compelling characters—and think up yet another way to kill someone. (You can tell I write mystery and suspense.) This literary world is often more real and exciting to me than the so-called “real” world, anyway, so why not spend more time there?

By the way, that’s me in the middle, flanked by my mom and my son (he designs my book covers when he’s not filming movies). There’s a story in there. Can you find it?

Susan Tuttle, Author

Once More Unto the Techno-Breach…

Here I am again, reinventing my (writing) self online. And enjoying it, much to my amazement. I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into this technological world, but somehow I seem to be surviving. So far.

Things surely have changed since I first started out, with no real idea of what I wanted to do. The technology makes it easier for techno-phobes like me not to drown in an ocean of bits and bytes. And now I have a better idea of what I want to do with my site.

To that end, I have basically scrapped my old sites. None had my name on them, which at the time I didn’t know was important (the Blog Roll on the right has two of them, Original Blog and Susan T. Creations, in case you’re curious or want to see my old stuff). But I do love the title of my original blog, so I kept it: Woman of 1,000 Words. That’s my nickname in my family – guess I talk a lot! – and I’m no Hemingway in my writing, either. So, I’m keeping that name, just revamping the subject matter of the blog.

So, you’ll find a page here called “Woman of 1,000 Words” that will contain my story-idea blog postings only. They’re great fun, oodles of ideas complete with pictures. I’m hoping they’ll get your writing juices flowing. I’ll post one of those every Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Pacific time. All other info will go down the center of my home page: what I’m writing, conundrums I’m trying to solve, book signings, good books I’m reading, poetry, rants, etc. – whatever strikes my fancy. No rhyme or reason to subjects or post dates for home page stuff. Just whatever, whenever. But a definite weekly schedule for “Woman of 1,000 Words.”

Time now to go back to my YA novel, a new genre for me. Quite a learning experience. I somehow have to get my male protagonist across a very dangerous meadow and into an even more dangerous hut. With magicks involved…

See you soon!

Susan Tuttle