Tale of the Muddy Boots

This picture, from a website advertising hiking gear (http://www.healthyhikergear.com/), 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

About Susan Tuttle

Susan Tuttle is a professional freelance editor, writing instructor and multi-award winning author of 21 books—6 nonfiction on writing (Write It Right), 6 suspense novels and 7 collections of award-winning short stories. She also has stories in both volumes of "Deadlines", the new anthology from the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Tales from a Rocky Coast, and the SLO NightWriter anthology. Under the pen name Susan Grace O'Neill, she is the author of the Journey With Jesus series: Lord, Let Me Grow (Parables) vol. 1, and Lord, Let Me Walk (Lent). She is currently working on volume #2 of her Skylark P.I. series (a PI with paranormal abilities), as well as 2 YA fantasy series. And she teaches fiction writing in both the morning and afternoon every Wednesday. Email her if you're interested in joining her class. And follow her on Twitter and FaceBook.