The Seed of a Story: How I wrote a creepy little flash story using only a visual prompt…


Where did I get my idea for this story?

It’s usually me asking one of my favorite writers. Because, we all wonder, even favorite writers.

I think the truest answer is: Who knows?

Sure, we plumb newspapers, pore over magazine articles, and scroll the ultimate dreaded time suck: Facebook.

Oh look. A fireman was helping a poor helpless little kitten out of a stormdrain this morning. Oh, wait. What is this? He later told his buddy, in confidence, octopusthat when he was down there, when he was almost waist deep, upside down in that wet and smelly stormdrain, he SAW SOMETHING. He felt something wet graze his arm. And when he looked in that direction, it kinda looked like…you know, a tentacle, or something.

A tentacle or something?

…so is that the “idea”?

It may be the start of one. I like to call it the germ or the seed. The idea for a story, sparked by this seed, comes when the writer crouches down (at the keys), opens the rusted manhole cover, and bids it “Come.”



I’m a slow writer. I can go a long time without writing a single paragraph or sentence or even a line of dialogue. Then, like the door to the Asylum was flung wide, I might all of a sudden, in a mad rush for my Barnes & Noble, grab two journals, and fill them with paragraphs and sentences.

An overheard snippet of dialogue can be an encouraging seed: Recently, at a coffee shop, a group of old church ladies: #1: Well you know, Mr. J—- died last week. #2: Oh. Poor Millie. She needs our prayers, Liz. #1: Yes. Keep her in your prayers. #3: That was her seventh husband, you know. #1: The poor dear. #2: Sounds like a ‘black widow’ doesn’t she… #1, 2, &3: a burst of wicked laughter…

Lately, I have turned my thoughts to visual prompts. We are such a visual culture. My generation grew up with comics, TV, film, Atari, MTV, VH-1, VHS, DVD, and now, Blu-Ray.

So, I say, Time to tap that sucker.


I’m usually drowning in visuals. I’m a maniacal blogger. There are days I might post 100 photographs with not a word of text, except for the photo credit line.

So, I went looking for an image that could really spark a story idea.

I discovered the photo last night. I thought, This is the one. It’s monstrous. It’s frightening. You’ll find it below, where my story bite begins.

And there’s a vulnerability to the image…a suggestion of instability, a dangerous imbalance.

I put aside two hours to write. I closed my eyes first, a kind of ‘idea meditation’. Five minutes and a couple innocent peeks back at the image later…it started to speak. So, I wrote down what it said.

The idea grew out of the writing.

I think it worked. Because, this little flash piece is scary, and true to the image that inspired it. I’m just glad whatever it was down in that sewer stopped talking when it did…

Read my flash horror story “The Time Is Right for Reaping” here…

And leave me a Like or a comment. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!



2 responses to “The Seed of a Story: How I wrote a creepy little flash story using only a visual prompt…

  1. Pingback: My New Horror Flash Story: “The Time Is Ripe for Reaping” | The Sanguine Woods: Where the Heart Can Bleed More Freely...

  2. Pingback: My New #Flash #Horror Story: ‘The Time That’s Ripe for Reaping’ – The Starving Writers' Club

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