Last month, my publisher held a talk show and photo exhibition for another omnibus, JIKA (my story is on the 69th page!). In this omnibus, 13 female writers & photographers worked on a short story with the premise “what-if”, combining their words with a series of photographs they had taken to paint the story. During the talk show, a girl asked me about how to work (write) with pictures. You can find my answer below.

I love working (read: writing) with pictures. They provide me the opportunity to look deeper into details, textures, and colors. These are some of the approaches I use to paint pictures with words:

1. Descriptive Details.

Look at the pictures/photographs/objects and record as many details as possible—throwing everything into your writing journal. Red door. Rustic red door. Blue walls. Aqua blue. Sky blue. Bright blue. Chipped paints. Exposed bricks. Wooden window. Red window frame. Wild plants. Locks on the door. These will become the word-pool from which you can develop your sentences to describe the photograph later on.

2. Magnifying Memories.

Our memories are such a wonderful source for stories! Look at the pictures/ photographs/objects and try to remember something from your past that reminds you of this particular scene. I looked at the chipped blue paints of the wall and remembered one time when you scolded me in front of my friends because of my chipped nail polish. Came to think about it now, I should have known by then that you were such a jerk.

3. Familiar Feelings.

Look at the pictures/ photographs/objects closely, then try to recognize the feeling that is rising up inside of you. Desperation? Loneliness? Pity? The feeling of missing someone? Fear? It seemed like a long time ago since anybody walked in through that red rustic door, and a tinge of sadness ran through me—because I knew how people could get lonely at times. I meant, really lonely.

4. Intensifying Imagination.

Think about the things you can create; things that are non-existent in the pictures/ photographs/objects, and play with your imagination. You can do this by asking random questions. Are you going to tell a story about the guy who painted that door red? What kind of people live behind that kind of door? Is this a picture from that part of the town where a little girl got murdered last week? Why do they paint the walls blue?

5. Raining Romance.

If you’re writing a lot about love, romance, or relationships (like me), this will help. Look at the pictures/ photographs/objects, and think of a scene that is taking place/had taken place right there and then–for one or more of your characters. How do they end up at that particular scene in the photograph, and how does this particular place/object affect their relationship? Are the things/objects in the photographs represent something the character tries to repress?

Have fun with pictures, and have fun with words! Keep writing! 🙂

photo credit: Ava Babili via photopincc


17 Responses

  1. Kereeenn, sangat membantu karna gw tipe yg gak mati otak kalo gak ada gambar kayanya, ehehehehheeh…*biasa mendeskripsi*
    nice sharing mba, it’s been so long since your last post 😀

  2. Couldn’t agree more! And I love the way you explain how it works 🙂 I love both photos and writings. And my book debut is combining the two :D. And hey, how bout sending one to you? i’d be very happy if you let me know what you think about it.

    1. Can’t be happier!!! Just drop me an email at beradadisini[at]gmail[dot]com for details! 😛 Congrats on the book debut!!! I believe there will be many more to come! 😀

  3. the door. as uneasiness crept right through me, i wanted so much to break it down. everything else seemed a bit too tame. or gloomy for that fact. making the red painted door standing in glory. i wanted to break it down into the darkness that peeped through behind the ageing creak of wooden window panel. what was the grill for. which decaying souls that needed such protection from this bright world i am living in. this spot where i stood straight basking for attention. i was competing one against the red door. the blue walls pretentiously ignoring my intensifying need to break it down and let my big headedness finds its match inside.

    all else were silent. the dirty blue walls. the shy tiny shrubs against the hardened steps. or was it my heart. restless. building up perfect storm of anger inside.

    i know this door. and it has been there for far too long.
    the only thing that stood between me and my ruptured heart.
    and my ugly struggle to stay sane.

    1. Beautiful :’) I think you need to do a guest post here!!! :’) Those things you wrote are way too precious to be hidden under comment section 😀 Would you? Would you? :’D

      1. every time you made nice remarks on my writings, i simply blanked. mostly because i do not think i write well enough to deserve it. but i really appreciate that you liked them. thank you. it was fun for me too.

          1. now i am listening. 😀 that is very gracious of you. i always envy writers. they are boundless and free to do what they love and got paid for it on top of that. I got my first taste of royalty at the age of 12. After that i write only as labour of love. But i’ll keep your offer. Who knows one day when i have got nothing else to fall back to. thank you. you have just made my day.. 🙂

If you made it this, far, please say 'hi'. It really means a lot to me! :)

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Legs and Apples
Do it because it’s fun. Because it brings you joy; because it’s meaningful to you. Do it because it gives you simple tiny pleasures. Do it because it makes you smile.
The view from De Klok
I took another digital detox this weekend—I limited myself to a 5-minute screen time on Saturday and Sunday to quickly check my business account. I closed my social media account for the rest of the days.
Hanny illustrator
I am an Indonesian writer/artist/illustrator and stationery web shop owner (Cafe Analog) based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I love facilitating writing/creative workshops and retreats, especially when they are tied to self-exploration and self-expression. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.