A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End.
by Julie Gribble
In a recent post here on her blog, Tracey encouraged us to include videos in our marketing strategy. MONDAY MARKETING: YOUTUBE *VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR*
“What better concept to get your message across. Let’s face the facts. MOST PEOPLE ARE VISUAL LEARNERS. This means a picture is worth a thousand words (which makes me sad … I’m an author! I live on words). You can tell someone something (directions/recipes/variations of color/yadda yadda), but if you SHOW them…It clicks!”
As one of those visual learners, I can tell you her words ring true to me.
Like most kids, I had a vivid imagination (still do) and an active body that always seemed to be in motion (not so much anymore). You’d usually find me up a tree, on a bike, or in the municipal pool – I just didn’t want to sit still. However, I would sit still for a moment to read a book, if that book was filled with pictures. Illustrations sparked my imagination – I’d think up a story of my own that I wanted to tell, and then scribble this version of the story next to images in the book. Upon reflection, I realize now that pictures prompted my interest in writing.
Endings are hard
Working in television for many years, behind the scenes on comedy shows, gave me a rare perspective on the creative writing process as skits were drafted, rehearsed, rewritten, rehearsed again, revised, and then performed live. This perspective could best be described as a master class in comedy writing. And indeed, I learned that a good ending, although difficult to write, is a critical element in every good skit or story. I also learned that even the pros have trouble with endings because endings are hard.
Using visuals to write satisfying endings
One of the best writing prompts I’ve ever come across, was taught in a screenwriting course. Each student was given a different photograph then asked to place it on the table in front of him or her. The teacher asked us to imagine that the picture in front of us depicted the last scene in our film – it was the last image seen by the audience before the credits rolled. We were asked to describe what was happening at that very moment, in as much detail as we could imagine. Then we were asked to tell the story that ended with that scene.
This exercise made us focus on just the ending of the story – no need to think about how the story might end, because we were already there.
Since good endings are hard to write, why not start with them first? So let’s try doing that here on Summer Sparks!
Choose your favorite picture below then imagine that it’s the last image in your story – don’t think about how the subject(s) got there, just think about what they’re doing, thinking, or feeling at the very moment this picture was taken.
Let’s begin with this image:
**click picture for better viewing**©Specialist Stock/Barcroft Media
What’s happening here?
Is the whale happy to meet this skinny walrus?
Or perhaps the whale now believes mermaids are real?
Have the hunter and whale come to a truce?
Or did this diver wish to meet the last whale in the sea?
1 – Chose your ending.
2 – Ok, now that you have your ending, tell us how they got there – think about what happened to the characters before this scene. That is your story to tell.
So, let’s continue the exercise. Imagine the last image in your story is depicted below. How does your story end? Let your imagination run wild and let the Summer Sparks fly!
**click pictures for better viewing:
© Source Unknown
© Jay Malone
©Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
© Source Unknown
Here are a few resources to help get you off to a good
Sources for visually-inspiring writing prompts:
Articles on using visual writing prompts:
Articles on visual learning:
How Visual Learning Supports Writing | Thinkspiration™ The Inspiration® Software Blog
“Pre-writing is essential to producing quality writing. Research indicates that skilled writers spend significantly more time organizing and planning what they are going to write.
So, when teachers ask students to create a bubble diagram, a web or any other visual diagram in the pre-writing process, it’s utilizing visual learning to help students clarify their thinking and organize their writing.”
Sensory Learning Styles | Grapplearts
“Visual learners prefer to watch demonstrations and will often get a lot out of video taped instruction as well. You can sometimes tell you’re dealing with a visual learner when they ask, “Can I see that again?” Other types of learners would ask if you could do it again, or explain it again, but visual learners will often say they want to see it. It’s just a little sign that the person you’re coaching may be a visual learner.”
Articles on good endings:
How to Write Successful Endings | WritersDigest.com
“The most-asked question when someone describes a novel, movie or short story to a friend probably is, “How does it end?” Endings carry tremendous weight with readers; if they don’t like the ending, chances are they’ll say they didn’t like the work. Failed endings are also the most common problems editors have with submitted works.
Making your ending a success involves two things. The first is content; the events of the ending must satisfy everything that has gone before. There’s no easy way to tell anyone how to do this; it depends entirely on what the work has seemed to promise the reader. Whatever that was must be delivered.”
Teaching That Makes Sense!
“• Feel finished. A good ending has a certain feel to it, and that feeling is one of completeness: there’s nothing else the writer needs to say, the piece has been wrapped up, summed up, and tied up so completely that the reader feels completely satisfied.
• Give the reader something to think about or do. Readers like to ponder a bit at the end of a piece, they like to have something to consider, something to reflect on, something to take with them for the future. Ideally, your ideas will linger in their mind long after they’ve read your last sentence. That’s the test of truly effective writing.
• Meet your reader’s expectations. With the beginning and middle of your piece, you’ve set up certain expectations in the minds of your readers. Your ending has to live up to those expectations, it has to fulfill the promise of everything that has come before.
• Too often, readers feel let down by the ending. And that can ruin their entire experience of a piece. It’s not that readers are mean people with impossibly high standards. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Your readers want you to have a great ending so badly that they often can’t help but disappoint themselves. This is just another reason why endings are so important and why good endings are so hard to write.
• The ending is the last thing your audience will read. As we’ve talked about before, you have a lot of responsibility when it comes to ending your piece effectively. After all, the ending is the last thing your readers will read and that means they’re quite likely to remember it better than other parts of your piece. But this means you have an opportunity, too. You can use your ending to say something very important with the knowledge that your readers will be listening closely to your every word. There are only two places where you can count on having your reader’s full attention. One is at the beginning, the other is at the end.”
After 19 years and 2 Emmy nominations, Julie left a successful career at NBC Universal to launch New York Media Works. As an award winning children’s book author, screenwriter, and independent filmmaker, she provides narrative fiction and documentary content for NYMW projects. She enjoys collaborating with other artists and bringing creative people together.
Julie was the first picture book author accepted into the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Fellows program and has been mentored by Emma Walton Hamilton and Cindy Kane Trumbore. She’s a full-time writer and a member of BAFTA-NY Children’s Committee, SCBWI, ChLA, and is founder of KidLit TV an online visual resource for the greater kid lit community which launches in the Fall.
Julie is the author of:
Bubble Gum Princess
Julie is giving away one copy of BUBBLE GUM PRINÇESS. Go ”HERE” for your chance to win.
:::LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW:::
Let us know if you are more visual.
What other things can you do to get the juices going? Listening to music? Take a walk? Take a shower?
Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:
Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2: The Power of Doodling by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can! by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World? by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!