Monday, 2 June 2014

Recipe for Trouble

I've read a lot lately about the use of photographs to inspire settings or characters. While writing my last story, I used to occasionally whip out my camera and take a few photos of places that seemed like they belonged in my story. So I was intending to do the same thing this time, aided and abetted by a fancy phone (much more subtle than the camera).

As with so many good ideas, it hadn't happened, and then we were in the park this week, and I saw a lady who struck me as being similar to a character of mine in looks. I wondered whether to snap a photo of her, and use aspects of her dress, especially, as inspiration. Luckily for me, with kids in tow, it was relatively simple to take a snap of her in the background of the 5 year old hanging upside down from the monkey bars.

I haven't decided yet whether to edit him out...!

The thing is, I did feel guilty doing it. It felt wrong because she didn't know (even though I will delete the photo when I've finished with it). I feel faintly guilty too that I'm not 'just' using my imagination...even though far more accomplished writers than I am have admitted using real people, in part, as inspiration.

I had visions of the woman in question (who did cast me one suspicious glance) storming over and accusing me of photographing her; wouldn't look good in court, would it? Though I'm pretty sure no laws were broken...!

I wonder if anyone else has used visual aids to plotting/writing? And what you think of snapping photographs of inspiring-looking strangers? Is that any more morally dubious than noting down their conversation in a notebook?


  1. I don't think it's dubious at all, and I don't think it's cheating in any way. You had an idea of what your character looked like, and the woman happened to embody some of those ideas. I think some writers are super visual and can conjure up faces and bodies and outfits, and other writers (like me, too) need prompts or real life ideas as a jumping off point. Recently I used Pinterest to help me describe a character's house (!) because I needed serious help with her modern home. It really helped a lot!

  2. I've never used Pinterest yet, though I've browsed other people's collections. I'm exposing myself as a real snooper, aren't I? I'm pretty sure Scrivener has the facility to have a photo folder, but I've not explored that far yet!

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  4. I think it's a great idea, it's just the same as writing down an interesting conversation you've overheard. I sometimes see interesting people out & about & think they'd make great characters. Love the idea of using Pinterest for character research too!