Creative Writing Prompts for Crafting Compelling Imagery

creative writing prompts

Creative writing prompts for crafting stunning imagery.

In writing, imagery is the key that can unlock a reader’s imagination. When an image is rendered with the right combination of words, it magically appears in the reader’s mind like a photograph or film clip.

Here’s an example:

A woman wearing a black dress is lying on the floor in a disheveled room.

Now look at the image on the left. Note the details that are missing from the sentence above: the tilting couch and mirror, the shiny hardwood floor, and the brightly colored plastic flower in the foreground. These details were left out of the example sentence to create a white space, which the readers can fill in for themselves.

One reader might imagine clothing scattered across a carpet, a broken lamp, and a woman who has been injured lying on the floor, waiting for help. Another reader might picture the aftermath of a party: dirty dishes, empty bottles, and a woman passed out from drinking too much wine. One reader will imagine a wild and beautiful young woman, another will picture an older, more refined woman.

The perfect balance of description and white space provides just enough detail to make the image manifest, but not so much that the reader’s own imagination fails to be engaged. As a writer, it’s your job to know how much detail you need to include in your writing in order to bring out the most important elements of any image.

Creative Writing Prompts

Today’s creative writing prompts deal with creating imagery in writing. Each prompt consists of an item, which functions as the inspiration for a larger image. You’ll need to paint in the final strokes so the image and its emotional implications become clear.

As you work through these creative writing prompts, try asking questions about the item you’ve chosen from the list. Where is it? Who put it there? Why? When you determine the background of the item you’ve chosen, the image will slowly come into focus. Then, all you have to do is use your words to paint the picture.

You can use these writing prompts to create an essay, short story, or a quick freewrite. You can write a few paragraphs or a few pages. Let the prompt provide the image, and then let a story about that image unfold. Use your words to follow wherever the image takes you. Does it evolve into a scene from a film? A poem? Ride it to its conclusion.

  • A pair of baby shoes
  • A torn photograph
  • A broken bottle
  • A guitar pick
  • A rusty hand saw
  • A “no smoking” sign
  • A pair of fishnet stockings
  • An oxygen tank
  • A partially deflated basketball
  • A fishing rod

Once you’re done, come back and tell us how these creative writing prompts worked for you. And keep writing.

Creative Writing Prompts

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


10 Responses to “Creative Writing Prompts for Crafting Compelling Imagery”

  1. Ooh, great prompts! Thanks for sharing those!

  2. James Thayer says:

    Your comments on imagery are spot on. In my teaching and editing, I see a lot of default settings, where the writer has a good scene going, with tense dialogue and action, but hasn’t given any thought to the background, the setting. And so the setting will be bland, and contributes nothing to the story. The writer has put nothing in the setting for the reader to wonder about. A rusty handsaw or a pair of fishnet stockings or a torn photo would arrest the reader’s eye. If a scene is in an otherwise dull elementary school classroom, put on a counter a terrarium where two tarantulas are fighting. In a living room, put an antique Apache war club on the wall. It’s so important to give the reader something to look at.

    • I agree, James. I see a lot of work in which meaningful imagery is completely absent. Occasionally, I see the reverse, but this happens more with published works. I find long passages of description tedious. Also, too much imagery in writing disengages the imagination. There needs to be a delicate balance!

  3. Hannah says:

    I love writing prompts! Thank you so much. I will definitely write these down. I collect prompts and shuffle them. They’re fantastic for stirring up creative thoughts. Thanks again!

  4. Trisha says:

    I both agree and disagree with you on this. It strongly depends on the depth of the setting that needs be expressed, is there foreshadowing or even revelations of the setting that will make pieces of the Bigger picture snap in place.

    If that is the case, then more depth of setting needs to be given, so, your picture example, it may be important to state the mirror was tilted on an angle, or even the couch was propped on the wall like that. The Genre of the novel/written work is also a factor in this balancing act. If your doing a romance then setting may NOT be as important as per-say a Crime novel– or even a fantasy novel.

    I agree that it’s a precarious balance that is so hard to find at times you don’t know which side your one– and I also agree that at times more white space is needed to be surrounding the imagery used. I also agree reading paragraph after paragraph of text describing the scene can become tedious and even migraine inducing.

    To me, the hardest part of the balance is to know how to keep the flow of settings from ‘depth’ to ‘shallow’ with out compromising the story.

    Great article none the less!

  5. Ray Shoop says:

    • A pair of bronzed baby shoes bookended his name.
    • A torn photograph on him lay on top of clutter of papers on his desk.
    • A broken bottle lay in the corner, its shards littered the plush carpet, and the fragrance of liquor lingered in the chilly library.
    • A guitar pick shined from under the legal document he received earlier that day.
    • A rusty hand saw, preserved as his father had left it, haloed in its showcase brought warm memories.
    • A “no smoking” sign with a large red X over it screamed out a too late warning.
    • A pair of fishnet stockings picture framed and incased under glass as though they covered her shapely legs.
    • An oxygen tank, its needle registered well into the red zone, hung on the left side of his wheelchair.
    • A fishing rod cradled on the wall by wood pegs. Layers of dust now conceals its once shinny surfaces.
    • A partially deflated basketball bracketed between two high school pictures began to fade into nothingness soon after his shaking hand turned the cold valve to off.