How To Use Image Prompts: Writing A Story From A Picture

Why image prompts work, tips for writing a story from an image, where to find picture prompts for creative writing, image prompt mood boards.

For example, if you are using an image of a beach, you could include pictures of people swimming, sunsets, waves crashing against the shore, etc.

if(typeof ez_ad_units!='undefined'){ez_ad_units.push([[300,250],'selfpublishedwhiz_com-large-mobile-banner-1','ezslot_5',112,'0','0'])};__ez_fad_position('div-gpt-ad-selfpublishedwhiz_com-large-mobile-banner-1-0'); Using Pinterest Boards As Prompts

Using images for fiction writing.

This is just one example of the many stories you could write from this single picture prompt.

What About Non-Fiction Writing? Can You Use Image Prompts, Too?

There's still so much more to learn 👇☺️, related posts, can you use ai to write a book the best ai novel writing software, pdf template for writing a book, can ai replace writers don’t worry just yet…, can ai write poetry this hack might help you write your first book of poems, about the author.

writing a story based on pictures

Arielle Phoenix

85+ Picture Writing Prompts For Kids (+ Free Printable)

A picture is worth a thousand words. So how many words can you write for these 85 picture writing prompts for kids and grow-ups alike! Pictures, whether something as simple as an apple or as complex as an action scene can spark the imagination in more ways than one.

Of course, when looking at pictures you can take the literal route, and describe whatever you see in front of you. Or you can explore your imagination, and think about the ‘What Ifs..’ of a picture. What if that person is actually upset? What if this picture is of a broken family? What if the world looked like this years ago? A picture can have so many hidden meanings and can hide so many secrets. The slightest detail could mean everything. Just imagine you’re a detective solving a crime from one picture alone. Examine every detail, write it down and think why? Only then can you fully understand a picture.

For more inspiration take part in our daily picture writing prompt challenge . Each day you will be given a new picture prompt to write about.

Picture Prompt Generator

In this post, we have included a mix of simple pictures, story picture prompts, photographs, fantasy images and even some action-packed images.

You can find the complete list of our picture writing prompts below. We’ve also created a smaller PDF version that includes 30 random picture prompts. Download the printable PDF here .

You might also be interested in the following posts:

150 Picture Prompts To Inspire

Over 85 picture prompts for creative writing, story-telling and descriptive writing assignments:

picture writing prompt 1

How to Use these Prompts

Picture prompts are the perfect writing stimulus especially when you hit writer’s block . Here are a number of ways you can use these picture writing prompts to spark your imagination:

These are just some ways to use images as writing prompts. You can also check our post on 8 fun story-telling games using image prompts for more ideas.  Did you find our picture writing prompts useful? Let us know in the comments below!

picture writing prompts

Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.

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writing a story based on pictures

An ESL Lesson: Writing a Story Using Picture Prompts and Correction Marks

To the teacher: I took the idea for this lesson from an ESL workbook that I used many years ago. Nothing remains of the book, but for this picture, which I now use as a prompt to get students to write a story together. My lesson is very different from the lesson that was in the workbook originally so there is no plagiarism here—all I can do is thank those forgotten authors from long ago. All good lessons get borrowed and become the lessons of others.

… Objective:

By working together students will write a story after making a list of words that they will need to write it.

Teacher talk and discussion Groups of three, individuals

Bilingual dictionaries Newsprint and markers Blue painter’s tape

High beginner to low intermediate but a good teacher can make a lesson accommodate any student level

PDF File: Picture Prompts and Correction Marks:

Pig Story, Picture Prompts and Correction Marks

… Progression: …

writing a story based on pictures

Looking and discussing. Place students in groups of three and hand out the pictures. Tell them that they are going to make a list of all the words they see when they look at the six pictures. They may use bi-lingual dictionaries to find the words they know in their own languages, but not in English. Tell them they are going to make a list of all the nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs that they see, especially the verbs. What’s happening? …

writing a story based on pictures

Making a list and discussing the words listed. Students may write their lists on newsprint or on the board. When the lists are finished, hang them up on the wall in different parts of the classroom. Now, the students in their groups should get up and go from newsprint to newsprint examining the words. Some students like to stay seated, but get them up and interacting. Everybody looks at all the words generated. Most words, of course, will be similar, but some will not. Focus on the differences, the spelling, and what part of speech each word is.

Note: for hanging up newsprint, by the way, I like to use blue painter’s tape because it doesn’t leave marks on the wall when the lesson is over and the newsprint is taken down. …

writing a story based on pictures

Writing a story. Using their new vocabulary, each group will write a story creating it together. Tell them to choose one tense to write in, either the simple past or the simple present. There can be one designated writer, or students can take turns writing, but all the students in the group must add words and ideas to the story. The teacher circulates to make sure that this is happening. All hands on deck! …

writing a story based on pictures

Reading and correcting the story. As each group finishes, the teacher can take the newsprint and hang it up. But before the groups get up to read the stories, the teacher should familiarize them with correction marks first because the students are going to need to know how to use them so that they can edit and rewrite later. I have provided a list of correction marks below that my students have used successfully.

Once the students have reviewed the correction marks, let them get up in their groups and look over every story. Give each group a marker to make their own corrections. When finished, every story should have correction marks from every group. The teacher, after the students have corrected, goes over every story one more time to point out any correction errors and make any final corrections.

… Correction Marks

writing a story based on pictures

To the teacher : I did the corrections in the story above. It was the first time the class worked together, so I modeled the correcting. Honestly, any correction mark, even a simple check, will do as long as it designates the spot where an error has occurred: knowing where the mistake is is what is important.

Using more specific correction marks allows teachers to indicate mistakes without correcting the work themselves. Letting students know what kind of correction is needed, alerts them to the kind of mistake they have made so they can more easily narrow in on what they need to do to correct it.

There can be several drafts where teacher and student work together toward a perfect paper, but on each draft the teacher indicates where the correction is needed and the student makes the correct correction. The teacher should never rewrite the student’s paper. The student must do that. …

When students work in groups, they get to know each other better and that is dynamic for a class. And, after working together students are much more able to work alone. The skills students observe in others become their own. …

Share this:

… I saw Janet Hamill at Bowery Poetry on Sunday, February 10. Anton Yakovlev runs a Sunday afternoon reading there, and this was the first I …

… Scott Hightower’s newest book of poems, Tartessos, takes place in western Spain, recording landscapes and cities, the history of politicians and artists, people the poet …

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Hi Don. I love this lesson! Do you have the picture prompts available?

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I have added a downloadable PDF file.

Thank you, Don. I’m going to download the pictures when I get to school!

Please let me know if it works.

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Wow, that’s absolutely amazing, I’ll do it when i start teaching

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Quite sure it’s an effective method. Please, where can I get more

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Thanks for sharing this amazing post. It will be helpful to my daughter to read your article

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Genuine advice. Really helpful.

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Picture Prompts

Over 140 Picture Prompts to Inspire Student Writing

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By Natalie Proulx

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Updated: May 31, 2019

Think The New York Times is only for readers at a high-school reading level? Think again.

Besides written articles, The Times also offers a rich collection of visuals — photos, illustrations, graphics, GIFs and short videos — that are accessible to learners of all levels. Since 2016, we’ve been featuring these images in our daily Picture Prompts : short, image-driven posts that invite a variety of kinds of student writing.

Teachers tell us they use these prompts in all kinds of ways. Some use them to encourage students to develop a daily writing habit . Others as an exercise to practice inferences , spark discussion or support reading . This year, one elementary school music teacher told us how her class used the visuals as inspiration for writing short stories accompanied by music .

For more ideas, we have a lesson plan on how to teach with Picture Prompts and other Times images, as well as a free, on-demand webinar that explores how to use our thousands of writing prompts for everyday low-stakes writing practice across the curriculum.

Below, we’ve categorized the 140+ prompts we published during the 2018-19 school year based on the type of writing they primarily ask students to do — whether it’s penning short stories and poems, sharing experiences from their own lives, telling us their opinions, or interpreting an image’s message. All are still open for comment.

You can find even more images in our Picture Prompt roundups for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.

If you use this feature with your students, or if you have other ideas for how to use photos, illustrations and graphics to encourage writing, let us know in the comments section.

What story could this image tell? Use your imagination.

Three Dots Balloon Face Oars and S’mores Conversation Spaceship at the White House Around the Campfire Special Key Computer Screen 17-Foot Python Batman on a Couch Hanging With Friends Hole in the Ceiling In a Crowd Opossum Among Shoes Your Food Obsession Tech Gadgets Carrying a Letter Reaching Through the Wall Sledding in the Mountains Trees, River, Cottage and Sheep The Ride Headphones Leap In the Stands Shade Under the Table Security Line At Their Computers Tiny Stories Tarot Cards Haunted House? Driver and Bicyclist Red Ball Kneeling and Reaching A Letter in the Mail Campfire

Share experiences from your own life.

One Last Adventure Amusement Park Dog in a Backpack Generation Z Breakfast A New App Met Gala Tidying Up Take Your Child to Work Day New Homes Photos From Space Social Media Star Signs of Spring Literary Protagonists The Story of Your Name Dream Home Momo Gym Class Nostalgic Places Price Tags Night Owl or Early Bird Lunar New Year Rescue Pets Polar Vortex Facing Rejection Dreams Superstitions Holiday Season Astrology Favorite Books Journaling Caffeine Giving and Getting Candy Around the World Journeys Saying Thank You Nutrition ‘The Simpsons’ Man, Seal, Octopus Weddings The Night Sky Remembering 9/11 World’s Largest Prairie Dog

What do you think this image, chart or cartoon is saying?

Falling Bottles Focus Here Emojis Eagle and Gender Symbols Hand and Fist Jungle Gym Stacks of Money Magnifying Glass ‘Freedom From Want’ ‘The Writer’s Block’ Watching Walking Down the Street Gun Parts Globe and Books Head Full of Stuff Tight Rope Adventure New Faces Leaping Over Binoculars Brexit Floating Coins Giant Machine Blue Water Other People’s Burdens In a Maze Chalk Outline Hands on Their Shoulders Past and Future Pieces of a Flag From a Hole to a Balloon

What’s your opinion on this issue?

Spy Cams Jack-of-all-trades Gender Expectations Game Show Winner Royal Baby Movie Theaters Tiger Woods Wins ‘The Image of the Revolution’ Final Four Referees $430 Million Deal Student Climate Strikes Women’s History Month Legos and Battlebots Cash Reward Brushing Beagle Book Covers Super Bowl Commercials Math Fast-Food Buffet The ‘Bird Box’ Challenge Hands-On Parenting 2018 in Pictures The Outspoken N.B.A. Online Video Games Standout Steer California Wildfire Election Day Public Libraries Champions A Computer in Everything Snail Mail Fashion Trends Sleep Deprivation Household Chores Gymnastics on Horseback Song of Summer Giant Ice Disk

Want more writing prompts?

You can find our full collection of writing prompts, added as they publish, here . We also have a list of over 1,000 writing prompts for narrative and persuasive writing gathered from our daily Student Opinion questions . Plus, we have a collection of “ 40 Intriguing Images to Make Students Think ,” taken from four years of our weekly “ What’s Going On in This Picture? ” feature.

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Students can write stories to go along with these pictures. Each worksheet includes a fun cartoon picture, and a few sheets of lined writing paper.

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The Write Practice

5 Reasons to Use Pictures as Writing Prompts

by Sarah Gribble | 0 comments

Fall is here and for me that means nostalgia over back-to-school time. The idea of seeing friends, new clothes, and especially new school supplies always made me giddy. Oh, the notebooks and pens. I was in heaven.

5 Reasons to Use Pictures as Writing Prompts

One of my favorite assignments in elementary school was the picture writing prompts, normally in the form of a coloring book page. The goal was to think about what was happening in the scene while we were coloring. Who are these kids? What are they doing? Why are they doing it?

Then we’d write about it, normally in a timed session.

Years (I won’t say how many) after elementary school, picture writing prompts are still one of my favorite ways to get inspired and get the creative juices flowing. I use them for simple exercises, as the spark of a short story, and collect them for a general inspiration board .

5 Reasons to Dive in with Picture Writing Prompts

If you follow any kind of writing blog or social page, you’ve probably seen picture writing prompts before. People love them and there’s no end to sites that provide them. Not to mention the millions of pictures that are out there that aren’t “official” writing prompts. You’ve probably got a ton on your phone that could spark an idea .

If you haven’t taken the plunge and tried writing from picture writing prompts before, here are five reasons why you should:

1. A different take on creativity

There are a lot of reasons why teachers use pictures as prompts for their students. One is that it opens up the creative side of your brain in a different way than simply saying “Write about your summer” does. A person might write about where they went on vacation if given this verbal prompt, but if they’re looking at a picture of said vacation, they’re more likely to comment on the heat or the smell or how the sand felt between their toes.

2. Focus on details

Because the scene is already set, using pictures as prompts allows you to hone in on more sensory details than you may have done otherwise. You may look at a tree bright with crimson leaves and think of the crisp air that’s blowing down the sidewalk. Or children playing might spark the idea of sticky hands and the taste of Kool-Aid.

The placement of the picture’s actors is already set, allowing your brain to move on to the finer details of the scene, which will ultimately give your writing more authenticity and feeling.

3. Visual stimulation

Pictures are visually stimulating. You already see what is happening. You notice the colors, the action, the background. You don’t have to concentrate on imagining the scene. You simply put yourself in what’s already there and describe it.

4. Snapshots of life

Pictures convey a narrative on their own. They’re literally a snapshot of life, but just a snapshot. They don’t give context or background. They simply show you what is, and leave any interpretation up to you.

You get to decide how those people got where they are and where they’re going from there.

5. Sparks feeling/memory

Humans are very visual. We love taking pictures, looking through stranger’s pictures online, and sifting through old black-and-whites in our grandparents’ attics. Just one picture can strike a cord of feeling and memory. Look at a picture of a major event in your life and tell me you’re not transported back to that time. You know how you felt, what you did, possibly even how the room smelled or what that birthday cake tasted like.

The same can happen with pictures of other people or places you’ve never been. One good picture can capture melancholy or intense joy. By looking at someone else feeling it, you feel it. And then you can write about it.

Don’t let pictures limit you

When you’re writing based on a picture writing prompt, remember that you don’t have to conform to the picture in the literal sense. Whatever the image sparks, go with it. What comes out the other side might not have anything to do with the picture. And that’s fine! You’re using the picture as inspiration, not doing a journalistic piece on it. The sky’s the limit when using any prompt.

Want help with writing a story? Check out my complete guide to writing a short story here .

Do you do better with word or picture writing prompts? Let me know in the comments !

Go to a site like this one or  this one or this one and choose a picture. Don’t spend a ton of time choosing one. Just pick on and go with it. Take a good look at the picture, then spend fifteen minutes writing about it.

Don’t worry if it’s not a complete story. Just free write. If you can develop it into a full story later, great! If not, it was a nice exercise to get the juices flowing!

BONUS: If you want the full elementary school experience (and to give your creative mind a different outlet) print out and color one of these sheets from Crayola . Then write about it.

Don't forget to share your writing in the practice box and give your fellow writers some feedback!

Enter your practice here:

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Sarah Gribble

Sarah Gribble is the author of dozens of short stories that explore uncomfortable situations, basic fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She just released Surviving Death , her first novel, and is currently working on her next book.

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Story Writing Based On Picture

Displaying top 8 worksheets found for - Story Writing Based On Picture .

Some of the worksheets for this concept are Lesson 13 a, Elite writing skills picture composition, Teachers guide and classroom work, Native american pictograph stories, Whats next sequencing story, 101 picture prompts, Using short stories in the english classroom, The who where when what why and how of story writing.

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1. Lesson 13 (a)

2. elite writing skills picture composition, 3. teachers guide and classroom worksheets, 4. native american pictograph stories, 5. what's next sequencing story, 6. 101 picture prompts, 7. using short stories in the english classroom, 8. the who, where, when, what, why and how of story writing.

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Writing lesson: practice storytelling and writing using pictures.

writing a story based on pictures

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.3  Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequencing.

Develops creativity, communication skills, and critical thinking.

Photos from a book at the appropriate reading level. 

Warm-Up Suggestions

Activity Introduction

"Good morning, everyone. Today we are going to practice our storytelling skills. I have a book here (hold up the book and allow the class to see it). We will look at the photos in this book and see if we can write a story based on the pictures. Then, we'll see how it compares to the real story. First, I have a couple of questions for you, and then we will get right into it."

"What is a story?" (Allow a few students to answer).

Write down each answer as a potential definition of "story."

Activity Organization

Organize students into groups if you have a large class where discussion could be overwhelming. Alternatively, the entire class can work on one story together. In either case, both groups will have the same goal - to create captions for each photo to complete the story. 

For each picture, students will write a sentence or paragraph about what is going on in the picture. You'll write these options beneath each picture; the class will decide which to use, then you'll read the story to the class as they've written it.

This assignment can be a quick task or drawn out to be more than one lesson. It will depend on the age of your students, the unit you are currently in, and the end goal of the assignment (publication or simple graded assignment).

"Look at the picture in front of you. I'm going to set our timer for 5 minutes, and we will write as much as we can about this picture to tell our story. Think about the people in the photo, the background, and what's happening. Who are these people? What do you think they might be doing or saying?"

Concluding Questions to Ask and Tasks to Complete

These questions can be asked as a group or in a follow-up homework assignment.  

Turn Your Assignment Into a Personalized Book for Your Class

Even though you'll read the published book, this assignment presents an exciting opportunity for students. A neat option for future assignments like this one is to look at services that turn student work into books.

School Mate Publishing  and  Student Treasures  offer affordable options for turning your student's work into a published book. Students can purchase books, or you may choose to fundraise to buy a book for each student in your class. These books are a great way to showcase student work and progress from the year of learning.

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writing a story based on pictures

20 Picture-Based Writing Prompts and Ideas for Kids

female student using a picture writing prompt

A picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s certainly the case with visual writing prompts! 

Be it a simple object or a fantastical scene, a picture is all it takes to spark a child’s imagination. 

That’s why I love picture writing prompts for kids who are learning how to write. 

They help alleviate the burden of not knowing where to start while providing creative flexibility for students to pen their own stories.

I especially like to use picture prompts for teaching descriptive writing. They encourage children to focus, study, and evaluate an image with all its colors and scenery, which naturally sparks more descriptive text.  

Creative Writing Exercises

get this picture prompt printable for free!

What is picture prompt writing.

If you’re unfamiliar with picture prompts, they are a type of writing prompt that uses an image to start a story. 

Students then create a story, using the picture as either the setting or simply a jumping off point. 

The benefit of visual writing prompts is that it gives students a place to start. Not only that, it encourages them to use more adjectives and write in more detailed sentences.

Most students need some guidance beyond “write about this.” The again, too many details can be overwhelming. 

Picture prompts give kids just enough information to act as a stress-free starting point, and from there, they can tell their own stories.

They aren’t necessary for every writing activity, but they’re a fun and simple way to spark creativity—and they often prompt students to think (and write!) outside the box.  

How to Use Picture Writing Prompts

Students who struggle to write may naturally gravitate towards picture prompts. 

In fact, picture writing for kids is particularly helpful for reluctant writers who struggle with expressing themselves in words.

The prompts can be paired with any number of writing activities, from freewriting to journal writing to creative writing.

Choosing pictures for kids to write about will largely depend on the skill level and age of your student.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to use the most interesting pictures for writing prompts you can find.

As kids get older, their writing world expands, so their prompts can be more in-depth and structured.

You can even try using two unrelated prompts and have your students develop a story that incorporates both perspectives.

Here are a few more specific ways to use visual writing prompts:

1. Choose pictures that aren’t so clear-cut. Ambiguous images lead to more brainstorming, providing plenty of room for interpretation and creativity.

2. Give students ample time to look at and study the image. 

3. Give them 5-10 minutes to write everything they can think about when they look at the picture. 

4. Use the 5 Ws to start the conversation. This encourages young writers to look closely for clues about a possible storyline.

5. You can also give them a series of pictures for story writing . This is a great option for older elementary up to middle school students. 

As you can see, picture prompts are pretty open-ended. You can tweak and use them whichever way works best for your student. 

Want to try using picture prompts?

We’ve provided 20 creative, engaging visual prompts below.

Have fun! 

For more writing fun, try these fall-themed prompts , winter writing prompts , or one-sentence story starters .

20 Picture Writing Prompts for Kids

The icebreaker.

ice breaker picture prompt

The Gardener and the Magical Plant 

the magic plant picture prompt

Adventures Of The Dive Club

adventures in the ocean picture prompt

The Lion and the Lost Lambs

the lion and the lamb picture prompt

Runaway Cow

curious cow picture prompt

Sunset at the Meadow

writing a story based on pictures

A Kitty of a Different Kind

a special kitty picture prompt

The Missing Plane

the missing plane visual writing prompt

Best Friends in a Snowstorm

two birds in a snowstorm picture prompt

The Icky Sticky Ice Cream Cone

the icky sticky ice cream cone picture prompt

A Bug’s Life

bug's life picture prompt

The Secret Spy Frog

the secret spy frog picture prompt

The Surprise of a Lifetime

the surprise of a lifetime picture prompt

The Hidden House in the Woods

hidden house in the woods picture prompt

Beneath the Waves

beneath the waves picture prompt

The Boy and the Giant Roly-Poly Pumpkin

the giant mystery pumpkin picture prompt

The “Cat-tastrophe” Shower

the cat who didn't want to shower picture prompt

World-Famous PupStar

the world famous puppy picture prompt

The Sinking House

the sinking house picture prompt

The Dinosaurs and the Broccoli Forest

dinosaurs in a broccoli forest picture prompt

Download and Print FREE Picture Prompts (PDF)

No matter what grade your kids are in, they will love these fun (and often funny!) elementary picture writing prompts.  

The concepts are suitable for a wide age range and can be used by first graders all the way up to middle school students.

Now when you hear the dreaded, “ I have nothing to write about! ” just pull out these picture prompts, provide pencil and paper, and let your young writers create!

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Ideas: Journalism + Tech

Ideas: Journalism + Tech

Eman Shurbaji

Dec 17, 2014

Photo narratives

Defining picture stories, essays and packages.

Al Jazeera’s September photo essay of child amputees in Syria gave me a new perspective on the traumas caused by Syria’s ongoing war. I’d seen photos of unrest in the region before, but seeing a child with a missing leg gave me a new understanding of the suffering and plight of the 20 million people in the country.

Presenting a story through photography communicates a different — often deeper — understanding of person, place, event or narrative than can be expressed through written or spoken word. Photos, unlike text, video or maps, have the potential to show an exact representation of an exact moment, like: how a meal looks after it’s been prepared; what an officer is writing after an arrest; how much damage was done after an earthquake.

Photo storytelling is different from a picture portfolio or collection. It’s not a random collection of photos, or a display using albums from Flickr or Instagram. In a photo narrative, the storyteller is presenting a finite number of pictures around a theme or an event to communicate what happened define a situation or show details about characters. Photo-driven stories evoke a deeper understanding of scenes and details — the color of a person’s car; the scene of a crime; emotions written on a person’s face.

In journalism, photo storytelling gives a visual complement to often mundane text; in entices a second look at a story. Take a look at any news website, whether it’s ABC News, Al Jazeera English or even Time, and you’ll likely see a picture with a story headline. Pick up a newspaper and the pages are peppered with pictures. Click on a news link and results are the same: a story with either video or photo.

According to Ohio University’s Terry Eiler , a pioneer in photojournalism and former photographer for National Geographic , there are three ways of telling stories online through pictures: a photo essay, photo package or photo story.

Photo essay

A photo essay is a collection of pictures with an overall topic or theme. The pictures need not be of the same person or event, but they should string together to form a “big picture”.

Photo essays are used to cover events like natural disasters, to show vastness or variety, or to compare and contrast photos.

In a photo essay, both narrative and pictures drive the story; the pictures support what’s in the text, but a person can understand the topic without having to read text or captions. Pictures are placed throughout text or together in a gallery, usually as a slideshow.

For example, Reporter Mark Stratton of the BBC used pictures between paragraphs in a story about Russia’s ethnic communities. Stratton wrote of his travels in Russia, while using photos to display the diversity in looks, dress and music of different people in the country.

Photo essays are often used to show how extensive an event is — how much damage was done, how much effort something takes, how people are coping.

For example, Time’s Gaza Digs Out essay shows what Gazans faced after Israel’s Summer 2014 offensive. The photos show post-war Gazans making sense of their changed lives in school, home and on the streets.

Online photo essays are reminiscent of print presentation in use of different types frame perspectives. For example, feature print stories use photos of different sizes and types of shots (wide, medium, tight) to explain how pictures are interrelated.

While most online essays disregard size, they can use a variety of shots to show detail. Such was the case of Oregonlive’s Oregon Zoo babies essay . The gallery includes wide, medium and tight shots of elephants and other animals at the zoo.

Print news, sports and feature articles, as in the case of Heartland Magazine’s Funky Chickens piece, often show hierarchy in importance by displaying a larger, wide picture and smaller, tight pictures as details.

Photo package

Photo packages are the sophisticated cousin of essays: they take photo storytelling to another by requiring supplementary text. A person needs more explanation to fully understand what the storyteller is trying to say.

Such is the case of Mother Jones’ reporting on the last abortion clinic in Mississippi . The article includes an audio slide show and paragraphs explaining why so many protesters are outside Jackson Women’s Health Organization. A person simply viewing the slideshow wouldn’t know an important detail: the clinic is the last in the state performing abortions, and state lawmakers are trying to close its doors.

Another example is The Guardian’s article about ex-pats who call Afghanistan home . A person viewing the pictures wouldn’t explicitly know the writer talking about a community of people who’ve fallen in love with the country.

Photos in a package can’t stand alone, since a viewer needs more details about their significance in a story.

Photo Story

A photo story is about one person, place or situation. It’s the most intimate of the aforementioned photo storytelling methods because it means the photographer is focusing on one character or scene, and letting viewers live through the photos.

Unlike essays, a story doesn’t usually include multiple places or characters. Typically, it will focus the edit on one place character that serves as the connective theme in the entire photo presentation.

Like essays or packages, they can be embedded in text or placed in a slideshow, but their intimacy allow them to stand alone, too.

For example, The Guardian did a simple photo story about an Elmo impersonator who performs in New York City’s Times Square. The pictures show how a man named Jorge makes a living by dressing as Elmo and taking pictures with tourists.

And, The Washington Post published an immersive story about the life of a rural Missouri farmer, with pictures detailing hard work and devotion to his small farm.

Some stories show a process. For example, in March 2013 the Chicago Tribune produced a picture explainer about the production process of how marshmallow peeps. This photo story has a beginning, middle and end, which are identifiable characteristics of pictures stories.

Meg Theno, senior photo editor at the Chicago Tribune, says building a photo story doesn’t mean you “treat it like a scrapbook.”

“If you’re going to put a picture gallery together, think about like you’re writing a story, you don’t write a paragraph four times,” she said.

In our Medill School Fall 2014 interactive innovation capstone course, my classmates and I designed and prototyped an idea for a photo storytelling tool. Through market and empathy-focused researched, we concluded that despite photo organization tools abound, tools to easily publish a series of photos to web has largely been focused on slideshows.

Slide shows, while entertaining, are not direct in what they present; you have to start clicking to see what picture is next. Slideshows also disregard the hierarchy seen in print photo essays, stories and packages, since all the pictures are the same size.

We wanted to create a tool that would allow people to view variety of insects or beautiful Caribbean scenes, as in an essay, or view the process of making carrot cake, as in a story. We wanted the story to be a part of a multimedia presentation and have caption options, too.

My classmates and I realized a photo storytelling tool should be both aesthetic and transparent. An ideal tool would allow pictures to be viewed at once while allow for scrolling, too.

So we set out to create Pitcha , a tool that gives journalists, bloggers and marketing gurus power to showcase and publish photos online. Photos are presented in sets of three, four or five. The responsive design allows users to see photos next to each other regardless of screensize and a viewer can click-to-enlarge to see details in individual images. Pitcha allows a storyteller to show hierarchy and importance. It’s another way of presenting a picture package, story or essay eloquently while stressing the importance of pictures in storytelling.

More about the Pitcha project:

These essays are part of Fall 2014 Interactive Innovation capstone course in Medill School ’s MSJ program. This class was taught by Zach Wise in collaboration with Knight Lab .

• Timeline: Evolution of visual storytelling by Abby Thorpe

• Defining photo narratives by Eman Shurbaji

• Photo editing for smaller screens by Farah Collette

• Understanding captions, credits and metadata by Megan Dawson

• What is photo editing? by Jade Kolker

• Introducing Pitcha: Learn about a tool we designed and prototyped to make it easier to create and publish photo stories by Luke Rague

Check out some of Northwestern University Knight Lab ’s free tools for journalists and digital storytellers: JuxtaposeJS , StoryMapJS and SnapMap , as well as SoundCiteJS and TimelineJS .

More from Ideas: Journalism + Tech

Thoughts on the intersection of journalism and technology, written by Knight Lab fellows, staff and occasional contributors.

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Road less traveled of a journalism/jewelry/jojoba enthusiast

Text to speech

Picture to story

This activity provides speaking and writing practice and uses learners' imaginations to create a story based on a picture.

writing a story based on pictures

This learner-centred activity also practises question forms and encourages collaboration and teamwork. The idea was influenced greatly by Jacosta Von Achten of the British Council, Bangkok.


Prepare a picture that is likely to stimulate the interest and imagination of your students.

Who is the man?                       How old is the man?                Where does he live?

Who is he talking to?                 What is he talking about?        What is he saying?

How does he feel?                     Why is he looking worried?     What will happen to him?


Give each pair of students a different picture. They must write a story based on the picture. If you have recording equipment available students could record their completed stories. This could then be played to all students while they look at a copy of all the original pictures. Students could then match the pictures to the recorded stories. Alternatively they could read the stories and match them to the pictures. 

Complete success

I have just used this activity in my class. It's been great. My students loved it and they didn't stop talking in English during the actiity. They also helped each other and corrected each other's mistakes. in the final stage when I put the different stories on the wall they had a good laugh and also saw some mistakes. As a follo up we corrected these mistakes and commented about the stories. I felt really well doing this activity and I will definitely add it to my favourite activities list.

Thanks a lot for sharing it.

The perfect way to exploit all the pictures in the beautiful art books I rescued from the pile on paper rubbish collection day!

That's Great! I like it. It can help your students to think in a creative way and make up their own story. I use it and will use it!

Fabulous art of mind development

This is a wonderful activity n students will learn a lot from this activity. Not only will their creative thinking will develop but also their style of expressing n hesitation to write, speak publicly. Heartily thanks 4 this marvellous art of expression.

This is wonderful creative activity which helps us to find out our students' imagination skills. It is team work that involves all the students to the lesson. We can call it "English language through art". Not only students even teachers also like to do such kind of activities. I have  done a bit different one with teachers.  It is called "People". It helps review past tense, present tense, describing someone. You can do it with groups if 3 to 4 students. use photos of different people one photo per group.

Step1: Each group receives a photo and is asked to write a CV for the person in the picture. The students should mainli imagine the person's present inteests, and lifestyle.When they have finished with the first picture, photos are exchanged between groups. Each group works with 3 pictures.

Step2: the results of the group work are read out and discussed.Which lives were seen in asimilar way by the 3 groups? Which photos were interpreted differently?

if you use photos of people that you know, you could tell them how far off the mark they are.  

You can also use the pictures of different doors and use it as a practice activity for "IF clause". If I open this door there will be a paradise.

A very interesting activity, which stimulate the creativity of the pupils. I like it. Thnx.

It's really very useful and entertainig because they're learning and have fun in the same time.I liked it very much for the fact that it's a student centered activity.I think that when students learn from each other they learn better.also they learn to estimate their their friends.I'm going to use more pictures in the class and I'm taking the photos from some magazines.

I like it a lot. I could use

I like it a lot. I could use pictures taken from National Geographic. i think my students will love this..

Research and insight

We have hundreds of case studies, research papers, publications and resource books written by researchers and experts in ELT from around the world. 

See our publications, research and insight

writing a story based on pictures

Modern Heirloom Books

How to use photographs as prompts for writing life stories

“Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really wants to see.” —Paul Strand

If writing a life story book seems overwhelming, write shorter stories from your life using some favorite family photos to jog your memory.

If writing a life story book seems overwhelming, write shorter stories from your life using some favorite family photos to jog your memory.

My generation knows the pleasure, both tactile and emotional, of exploring a box of dusty old photographs: the sense of discovery, of time travel, the good fortune of glimpsing our parents as carefree teenagers, of seeing ourselves as Garanimals-clad kids.

But this is becoming a thing of the past. Do you even have a box of photos in your home?

It saddens me to think of our children inheriting a box of old devices (your iphone will be extinct one day, you know!) and wondering how they can access the digital trove of photos they know must be stored within. And they likely won’t be able to retrieve those images, as the technology will have changed by then.

Just as I wish my mother and grandmother had jotted names and dates on the back of their old photos, our kids will one day be wishing we left some clues about our own pictures (metadata, anyone?).

I urge you to go a few steps further, to not only record the details of important photographs, but to elucidate the stories associated with them. To leave a visual AND narrative history to your children, a gift from the past for the future.

How to Shape Your (Small) Life Stories

I’ve written about this before , but it’s worth reiterating: Shorter is often better, especially when it comes to autobiographical writing. That’s why using photos as jumping-off points for your stories can be such an effective method.

Don’t worry about length when you sit down to write. Just choose a photo, and begin sharing. A few initial ideas:

1 - Talk, don’t write.

Pick up a digital recorder (or use the function on your smart phone) and talk into it. Often spoken language is more direct. You won’t get hung up on sentence structure or finding the perfect words. Rather, your language will flow and have a natural rhythm. Your words will be honest and forthright. You can transcribe your recording later.

2 - Find a partner.

Having someone to listen to your story can be a powerful aid. Even if that person doesn’t engage you or ask questions, the very act of listening—an occasional nod, an understanding expression—let’s the speaker know that what they are saying matters. The more you converse with someone about your life stories, the easier it becomes to share them, shape them, and delve even deeper.

3 - Be specific.

Small details. Moments. A focus on life as it is truly lived. Did your mother enjoy a cup of room-temperature tea every night before bed? What did the hand-me-down pajamas you’re wearing in the Christmas-morning picture feel like? It wasn’t just a red car, it was a 1955 crimson Cadillac convertible that your dad referred to as “My Dorado.” This is not to say get lost in the details: Do not go overboard describing every object and movement in your story with multiple modifiers. This is to say that the specificity of the right details brings an era or a person to life in a most vibrant and revealing way. Choose wisely.

4 - Interview you.

If you hadn’t taken the picture, what would you want to know? Make believe you’re interviewing yourself. This is a helpful exercise in making sure the most essential (often obvious to you but not others) elements do not get left out of your story. And then, like HONY’s Stanton, edit, edit, edit: whittle your interview down to the bone, keeping in those details that surprise, delight, enlighten. I suggest waiting at least a day, longer if you have the luxury of time, to do the editing; it’s amazing how such distance enables us to better self-edit.

Let’s get started: Choose a picture, and use it as a prompt to write a life story vignette

Here are a few ways to determine if your chosen family photo is good to write about.

Step 1: Look at your chosen photo.

Study it; ignore it. Eat some lunch and let the memories the picture elicits percolate. Now sit down at your computer to free write: Don’t worry about story structure or creating something for an audience, just write from your heart. If you are more comfortable with pen and paper, you might forego sentences altogether and jot down phrases, recollections, adjectives. The key to both approaches, whether stream-of-consciousness writing or brainstorming, is to go fast and to not worry about anything. Just do it.

You may find that this one photo has stirred a wealth of memories for you to mine. Perhaps it recalls one vibrant scene from your childhood. Consider yourself lucky if either of these is the case! You’ve got the makings of a life story vignette at your fingertips.

thumbs down?

If the photo you’ve chosen reveals nothing more than a string of boring observations, don’t fret. First, go through this list to see if you get anywhere:

What is your personal connection to the photo?

What would you caption the photo (include as much basic factual information as possible, answering Who, What, Why, When?)

Write a question the photo brings to mind.

Write a detailed observation about the photo.

Still boring…? Don’t worry, just move on to the helpful exercise below to get the story behind your photo!

Step 2: Go beyond the frame.

Next, try this exercise from author Beth Kephart , an early assignment she would give to her creative nonfiction students at the University of Pennsylvania, as detailed in her book Handling the Truth :

Study the background of any chosen photograph. Not the foreground, the background. What’s in the picture that you didn’t see when you were snapping? What lies beyond the chosen subject—just to the right or the left? … What does the startle of the once-unnoticed detail suggest to you? What would happen if this small thing—and not the obvious thing, the central thing, the thing easily seized and snatched—was the start of your story?

Still nothing of interest?

Step 3: enlist help..

If you are convinced there is a worthy story attached to the photo, show it to a sibling or other relative to see what memories they may have. If you have other pictures from the same period, gaze at those for clues. Maybe it means something to you not for the story it tells, but for the one it does not tell: Who is the subject gazing at? What happened right before the camera was snapped? Who was left out of the moment—was it you? Or was the picture in a frame at your grandparents’ home, and your memory of that is what’s important?

If nothing more reveals itself and yet you are still compelled to include the photograph in your life story, ask yourself, why ? Draft a caption that at least puts the image in context, reveals a mystery, or taps an emotion. Then leave it at that, and turn to your next photo. It is likely that after taking this approach with more of your family snapshots, this one will eventually find its way into your narrative or, rightfully, be edited out in favor of others that weave a more textured and colorful tapestry.


FREE Printable Guide

Download our FREE GUIDE, “How to Use Photographs as Prompts for Writing Life Stories” and get started asap on your journey of preserving your memories!

Next steps, and advice for non-writers

If all of this appeals to you but you’re not a DIYer, that’s what we are here for.

You may want to begin the journey of remembering and selecting photos on your own, using much of the advice provided on the blog—and then hand it over for refining and shaping; our expert editors and designers will transform your memories into a beautiful heirloom that reveals even more than you had imagined .

If you only get as far as piling up those boxes, no worries: We’ll walk you through the whole process! Set up a free consultation to learn how we can work together.

Related reading:

How to choose the best pictures to use as writing prompts

How to use your smaller life vignettes to create a mosaic of your life

Why you should share your photos with loved ones

Four easy ways to find your way into life story writing

#LifeStories    #SaveFamilyPhotos    #PhotoStories    #storytelling #FamilyLegacy    #MemoriesMatter   #memoirish

Updated June 2020.

How to Write a Short Story

Last Updated: January 31, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Lucy V. Hay . Lucy V. Hay is an author, script editor and blogger who helps other writers through writing workshops, courses, and her blog Bang2Write. Lucy is the producer of two British thrillers and her debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is currently being adapted for the screen by [email protected] TV, makers of the Emmy-nominated Agatha Raisin. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 40 testimonials and 81% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 4,643,516 times.

For many writers, the short story is the perfect medium. It is a refreshing activity. For many, it is as natural as breathing is to lungs. While writing a novel can be a Herculean task, just about anybody can craft—and, most importantly, finish —a short story. Writing a novel can be a tiresome task, but writing a short story, it's not the same. A short story includes setting, plot, character and message. Like a novel, a good short story will thrill and entertain your reader. With some brainstorming, drafting, and polishing, you can learn how to write a successful short story in no time. And the greatest benefit is that you can edit it frequently until you are satisfied.

Sample Short Stories

writing a story based on pictures

Brainstorming Ideas

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Making Characters that Pop: Finding Inspiration: Characters are all around you. Spend some time people-watching in a public place, like a mall or busy pedestrian street. Make notes about interesting people you see and think about how you could incorporate them into your story. You can also borrow traits from people you know. Crafting a Backstory: Delve into your main character’s past experiences to figure out what makes them tick. What was the lonely old man like as a child? Where did he get that scar on his hand? Even if you don’t include these details in the story, knowing your character deeply will help them ring true. Characters Make the Plot: Create a character who makes your plot more interesting and complicated. For example, if your character is a teenage girl who really cares about her family, you might expect her to protect her brother from school bullies. If she hates her brother, though, and is friends with his bullies, she’s conflicted in a way that makes your plot even more interesting.

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Tips on Crafting a Setting: Brainstorming descriptions: Write the down names of your settings, such as “small colony on Mars” or “the high school baseball field.” Visualize each place as vividly as you can and jot down whatever details come into your head. Set your characters down there and picture what they might do in this place. Thinking about your plot: Based on your characters and the arc of your plot, where does your story need to take place? Make your setting a crucial part of your story, so that your readers couldn’t imagine it anywhere else. For example, if your main character is a man who gets into a car crash, setting the story in a small town in the winter creates a plausible reason for the crash (black ice), plus an added complication (now he’s stranded in the cold with a broken car). Don’t overload the story. Using too many settings might confuse your reader or make it hard for them to get into the story. Using 1-2 settings is usually perfect for a short story.

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Creating a Satisfying Ending: Try out a few different endings. Outline a few different endings you could use. Visualize each option and see which ones feel more natural, surprising, or fulfilling. It’s okay if you don’t find the right ending right away—it’s one of the hardest parts of the story to write! How do you want your readers to feel when they finish? Your ending is the last impression you’ll leave on your reader. How will they feel if your characters succeed, fail, or land somewhere in the middle? For example, if your main character decides to stand up to her brother’s bullies but gets scared at the last second, the readers will leave feeling like she still has a lot of soul-searching to do. Stay away from cliches. Make sure you avoid gimmick endings, where you rely on familiar plot twists to surprise your reader. If your ending feels familiar or even boring, challenge yourself to make it more difficult for your characters.

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Creating a First Draft

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Quick Dialogue Tips: Develop a voice for each character. Your characters are all unique, so all of their dialogue will sound a little different. Experiment to see what voice sounds right for each character. For example, one character might greet a friend by saying, “Hey girl, what’s up?”, while another might say, “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in ages.” Use different dialogue tags—but not too many. Sprinkle descriptive dialogue tags, like “stammered” or “shouted,” throughout your story, but don’t make them overwhelming. You can continue to use “said,” in some situations, choosing a more descriptive tag when the scene really needs it.

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Polishing the Draft

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Parts to Delete: Unnecessary description: Include just enough description to show the readers the most important characteristics of a place, a character, or an object while contributing to the story’s overall tone. If you have to clip out a particularly beautiful description, write it down and save it—you may be able to use in another story! Scenes that don’t move the plot forward: If you think a scene might not be necessary to the plot, try crossing it out and reading through the scenes before and after it. If the story still flows well and makes sense, you can probably delete the scene. Characters that don’t serve a purpose: You might have created a character to make a story seem realistic or to give your main character someone to talk to, but if that character isn’t important to the plot, they can probably be cut or merged into another character. Look carefully at a character’s extra friends, for example, or siblings who don’t have much dialogue.

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Community Q&A

Community Answer

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About This Article

Lucy V. Hay

If you want to write a short story, first decide on the central conflict for your story, then create a main character who deals with that problem, and decide whether they will interact with anyone else. Next, decide when and where your story will take place. Next, make a plot outline, with a climax and a resolution, and use that outline to create your first draft, telling the whole story without worrying about making it perfect. Read the short story out loud to yourself to help with proofreading and revision. To learn more about how to add details to your story and come up with an interesting title, keep reading the article! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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    Some of the worksheets for this concept are Lesson 13 a, Elite writing skills picture composition, Teachers guide and classroom work, Native american pictograph stories, Whats next sequencing story, 101 picture prompts, Using short stories in the english classroom, The who where when what why and how of story writing.

  14. 76 Picture story English ESL worksheets pdf & doc

    picture story. use the pictures and words to write a story. 10369 uses. nindy. Going to the zoo - Fill in the text with the help of pictures. In this ESL printable students complete the story about going to the zoo by means of the pictures next to the blanks in the text. This activity can serve as a vocabulary boos...

  15. Picture story worksheets

    Developing writing- picture story Level: intermediate Age: 13-15 Downloads: 90 Picture story Level: elementary Age: 17-100 Downloads: 84 story picture 2 parts Level: advanced Age: 12-17 Downloads: 83 Picture Story: Father and Son - The first day of the holidays Level: elementary Age: 9-17 Downloads: 69

  16. Writing Lesson: Practice Storytelling and Writing Using Pictures

    For each picture, students will write a sentence or paragraph about what is going on in the picture. You'll write these options beneath each picture; the class will decide which to use, then you'll read the story to the class as they've written it. This assignment can be a quick task or drawn out to be more than one lesson.

  17. How to Write a Professional Story: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

    You want to paint a mental picture for your readers so they know what's going on. 3. Make the first few sentences/paragraphs exciting and detailed to catch your reader's attention. This will make them want to read further. [2] 4. As you write, use a lot of adjectives and elaborate your words.

  18. 20 Picture Writing Prompts for Kids

    If you're unfamiliar with picture prompts, they are a type of writing prompt that uses an image to start a story. Students then create a story, using the picture as either the setting or simply a jumping off point. The benefit of visual writing prompts is that it gives students a place to start.

  19. Photo narratives. Defining picture stories, essays and…

    Photos, unlike text, video or maps, have the potential to show an exact representation of an exact moment, like: how a meal looks after it's been prepared; what an officer is writing after an ...

  20. Picture to story

    Give each pair of students a different picture. They must write a story based on the picture. If you have recording equipment available students could record their completed stories. This could then be played to all students while they look at a copy of all the original pictures. Students could then match the pictures to the recorded stories.

  21. How to Use Family Photos as Prompts for Writing Life Stories

    If writing a life story book seems overwhelming, write shorter stories from your life using some favorite family photos to jog your memory. My generation knows the pleasure, both tactile and emotional, of exploring a box of dusty old photographs: the sense of discovery, of time travel, the good fortune of glimpsing our parents as carefree ...

  22. How to write a picture story

    #picturestory #englischlesson #writing6 steps how to write a really good picture story🛑 Websites: |🛑 Fac...

  23. How to Write a Short Story (with Pictures)

    Creating a First Draft. 1. Make a plot outline. Organize your short story into a plot outline with five parts: exposition, an inciting incident, rising action, a climax, falling action, and a resolution. Use the outline as a reference guide as you write the story to ensure it has a clear beginning, middle, and end.