Nothing that is not there, and nothing that is

Streetlight tree and snow
A blanket of new snow, soft and crisp and painted orange by street light. The engine rumbles beneath me as it idles, the heater only just starting to warm.

A young boy stands at the side of the road, hands by his sides and face to face with a snowman. A strange kind of creation, tall and thin, it narrows out towards the neck. No round head or friendly face, more a tower of tightly packed snow that tapers off into nothing.

I sit and watch through the fogged up windows. The road is quiet behind me, the snow untouched but for the tracks of my wheels. No footprints but those of the boy, whose small shadow stretches out behind him like silk. An echo of a question threatens to form before it drifts away again, out over the blanketed ground. This kind of snow swallows any sound at all.

As I sit there, watching the two of them, he begins to melt. It makes no sense at all; the temperature is still a few below zero. But he melts all the same, until the crooked, misshapen snowman is all that remains.

Photo by Flickr user Digital Sextant – used under Creative Commons

Visual Creative Writing Prompts #12 – Before Morning

This Visual Creative Writing Prompts post comes to you courtesy of me – of course! – and photographer Rob Evans, who, although primarily a portrait photographer, wanted to share these beautiful snowy nightscapes with you.

This is the first Visual Creative Writing Prompt post to be submitted rather than sought out but, once I saw the photos that Rob had taken, I was more than happy to include them.

There are a number of things that I love about these pictures, and that make them a rich hunting-ground for ideas. Firstly, the sense of anonymity – I don’t know where these pictures were taken and I deliberately didn’t ask. There are no people in the shots, no identifying marks, and nothing to distinguish these places from anywhere else.

The locations themselves evoke a sense of ephemerality – petrol pumps stand unused by the side of a dark road, footsteps lead off into the distance and train tracks stretch away to an unknown destination. There are signs of civilisation – cables, lights, buildings – but no actual life.

Could your character be on a journey, perhaps? Maybe it’s not your character who’s going somewhere – maybe everyone else has gone. Perhaps the places in the pictures represent a haven of safety, or perhaps these are not places for your character to stay.

The darkness against the soft snow in the images adds to the scene. Maybe the snow crept in before night fell, settling gently for days, piling up against the telephone booths and the railway sidings. Or perhaps the weather and the darkness arrived together – a storm that hit in the late afternoon. Does your character welcome the peace of nightfall, or is s/he counting the hours until – as we see in the final photograph – the sky starts to lighten once more? What will the next day bring? Will your character even be there to see it?

To me, these photos give off a certain unease – they represent a dangerous step on a long journey. I’d love to see what they inspire in you, and I’m hugely grateful to talented photographer Rob Evans for inviting me to share the images here for you creative creatures!

Visual Writing Prompts #8 – When white isn’t white at all

I spotted Wild Prairie Man, aka photographer James R. Page, on Flickr and wanted to share some of his beautiful shots with you to prove a very simple point: white isn’t white at all.

James captures the snowy landscapes in a way that adds a depth and colour to something that, to anyone with limited imagination, would just be a blank white canvas. The images aren’t even limited to a single palette: there are deep blues, touches of rich pink, pearly creams, burnt ochres and rich dove greys.

Not only do I like the images as visual creative writing prompts, I like them as a starting point for thinking about writing itself. As most writers know, being faced with a blank white page can be one of the most terrifying experiences. You could fill that page with literally anything, and the weight of the task ahead sometimes feels overwhelming.

And yet, look at what Wild Prairie Man has done with a blank white slate. All of the beautiful colours and textures in those images were there, waiting to be captured and enjoyed. Each of the pictures is filled with possibilities, even though none of them tells a whole story.

Even if you’ve only got a little something to say, and even if you don’t think you have anything to say right now, remember that white isn’t just white. A blank page isn’t blank; it’s filled with things that you just haven’t written down yet.

If you’ve been inspired by any of James’s beautiful photography, or any of my other visual creative writing prompts, why not send me what you’ve written and I’ll share it on the blog?