Fiction Writers Need to Take Photographs

How fiction writers can utilise their own photographs to enhance their stories, and why they should photograph everything and anything.

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Public Domain

We usually find that, if we remember performing well in the subject of English at school, we could not grasp Mathematics, and vice-versa. People generally fall into one camp or the other, and it is somewhat similar with fiction writing and photography – yes, I’m sure there are people who class themselves as both fiction writers and photographers, but it’s unusual. I know of plenty of poets who use photos as inspiration and prompts for their work, but I barely know any fiction writers who use photography heavily as a tool to aid their creativity.

However, I strongly feel fiction writers should take a lot of photographs. These photographs need not be of a professional standard, but they need to be taken everywhere we go. When we are going to a place we visit often, we might consider it to be mundane and lacking in inspiration, because the scenery we pass on the way has become invisible to our perception due its familiarity. I recently joined Instagram and often see photographs of local places that I know well posted on there by people just visiting Thanet, and these places are surprisingly full of inspiration that I’ve neglected. I haven’t been fully utilising all of the inspiration in my locality. We’re used to going on holiday for inspiration, and taking hundreds of photos to record what we experience, but we really should also treat where we live as though we are on holiday and notice all the little details like a visitor would.

In the moment of taking a photo, you might not realise how important it could become later. But, looking back over the photos in a few months or even years could provide you with a spark of inspiration for your fiction writing, creating whole new elements and plot developments, or filling a gap in a tricky scene that you have been struggling to write.

Photos also capture thousands of details that we can’t possibly remember – well, I can’t put my particularly disappointing memory on to everyone, but I know I couldn’t possibly remember the intricate details that photos hold onto. I use photographs of everything and anything to help the description within my fiction writing have depth, richness and authenticity.

Another great reason for taking your own photographs for reference, is that, upon looking back through them later, a single image could trigger other memories for you, for more senses than your sight alone – you might find yourself looking at a costal photograph and recalling the nasty low-tide smell, or how you slipped on the nearby seaweed to get the shot, or the remains of a washed-up dead dogfish, the way certain things you touched felt, the feel of sea spray on your face, the taste of it on your lips, or the gentle lapping of the waves over those seaweed covered rocks. Or all of these memories, just from one photograph.

I write fictional stories and have discovered that many of my randomly taken photographs come in handy when I’m trying to get through a particularly tricky scene. I often use photos as part of moodboards for certain scenes, enabling me to harness all the details and intricacies that the photographs I’ve taken have preserved and retained, and providing plenty of inspiration to fill any inevitable gaps in my imagination.

Rebecca Delphine is a Young Adult author from Thanet.

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