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We’ve all heard the saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

It’s true!

One picture can spark an idea that can lead to an entire picture book manuscript. Don’t believe me? Try it!

I often get ideas for stories by looking at pictures.

Pictures serve as inspiration. And lucky for picture book writers, pictures are everywhere. But there are some places I peruse regularly to get inspiration.

Have you heard of Storybird? Here you will find art samples from talented illustrators worldwide. In other words, there is a goldmine of art at this site. Anyone wanting to delve into storytelling can use the images for inspiration for a story. It’s a great writing tool for kids and adults.

Where else can you find images?

How about clipart? Free clipart sites are another treasure trove for writers. Just select a category. Science. School. People. Pets. Surely an image or two will spark a story idea in your brain.

Are you doing any shopping today? Make a pit stop in the greeting card aisle at the grocery store and look at the pictures on the covers of the cards. Do you see animals singing in the snow? A hedgehog holding a balloon? A crocodile on a skateboard? Any ideas jumping out at you?

While you’re at the store, take a glance at the magazines. Kid magazines and family-centered magazines are chock-full of kid-friendly images.

Maybe you’re driving or riding in a car. Pay extra attention to street signs. I once saw a street sign with a stick figure and a circle around its waist. Say what? Hula hoop crossing? Why? Is there a story nugget there? What if instead of a person, it was a bear? Or an armadillo? And why is it crossing the road with a hula hoop?

There is a board game called Awkward Family Photos. For the game, players are presented with a picture and a thought-provoking question about the photo. For example, players may have to think of the last thing the person said before the picture was taken. Or, they may have to write a caption for the picture. This game is a perfect example of using pictures to dig a bit deeper and see what story lies beyond it.

Wherever you are right now—at home, at work, in your car, at a store—at least one of these sources of images is available at your fingertips. You can even use Google to search for images.

Pictures will speak to you, but you need to do three things for that to happen:

Stop, look, and listen.

  1. Stop:
    Take a few minutes each day during this month-long challenge to find a source of pictures. Use the ones I listed above or find another source. The few minutes you spend will be worth it.
  2. Look:
    Take a close look at the picture. Take it all in: the character(s), the expressions, the details, the background, etc.
  3. Listen:
    Are there questions popping up in your brain? If not, you want to train your brain to ask questions, such as:
  • What is the character in the picture doing?
  • What does he/she want?
  • Look at that mischievous grin. What is behind it?
  • Why is the dragon sitting alone on a rock?  Is he scared, embarrassed, sad, sleepy?
  • Why is the dog wearing roller skates? Where is he going?
  • What are those strange footprints in the sand? Who do they belong to? Where do they lead?

If you follow these three steps, I guarantee ideas will start flowing in no time at all.

So, a picture is worth a thousand words. Better yet, in the case of picture book writers, maybe a picture leads to a 500 word story, or even one that is only 250 words. Whatever the final word count, a picture can be the starting point. Just like what happened in 2014, when I saw a picture of a caveboy and a cavegirl on a clipart image during the Storystorm Challenge (which was then called PiBoIdMo). That ultimately led to CAVEKID BIRTHDAY, which launches in March 2019. And, my fingers are crossed that a picture you look at today will be the inspiration for a book that will be in kids’ hands in a few years.

Good luck!

CAVEKID BIRTHDAY was Cathy Breisacher’s 2014 PiBoIdMo idea for Day 10 and it will be a book in March 2019! CAVEKID BIRTHDAY, illustrated by Roland Garrigue, is a prehistoric twist on the Gift of the Magi. Cathy’s second book, CHIP AND CURLY: THE GREAT POTATO RACE, illustrated by Joshua Heinsz, will hop into stores in May 2019. Cathy looked at loads of potato pictures for inspiration, and she whipped a ton of puns into this tale.

You can follow her on Twitter @CathyBreisacher, Facebook, YouTube or


Cathy is giving away autographed copies of CAVEKID BIRTHDAY and CHIP AND CURLY: THE GREAT POTATO RACE when they are published. There will be one winner for each book.

Simply leave ONE COMMENT below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!


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