For the past year or so I have been collecting royalty-free stock photos that are clever, funny, or just look awesome. Stock images can be pricey, and collecting a library of free ones is a good (long-term) strategy for always being able to find what you need. There are several places you can get these (Death to the Stock Photo and Picjumbo, for example), and they are great for building websites, including images on your blog, using on social media, etc. Just remember to read their licensing agreement so you don't violate any copyright laws.
But there is another great reason for collecting these photos: ideas.
The whole concept of Pinterest is to allow people to collect ideas in a visual way in one place, and using visuals to inspire writing is a great strategy--but you can do this on your own so that you never have to wonder: "where did I see that awesome photo?" or not be able to access it when you lack the internet.
Stock photos offer images that you might never have considered, from angles you might never have seen from, of things you might not have thought to search for. Some days, I just scroll through my stock photos and look for an idea or a thought or a place or a person to help inspire whatever project I am working on.
Take this for example:
I don't know what it is about this image, but it always makes me want to write. It's something about the combination of colours, the docks in the background, the seagulls and swans...??? It's intriguing and interesting and I love it.
Or take this image:
That poor bench, sitting there all alone right next to the edge of the universe. But no seriously, what is happening? What is behind that mist? Or fog? Or wall of nothingness? Is it the ocean? A lake? A portal into another dimension?
THE LITERAL END OF THE UNIVERSE?
It seems fitting that there would be one lone bench on the edge of the universe.
Images like this make my brain spin with ideas and thoughts and questions. And the best place to start when you're writing something is with a question.
What kind of questions? you ask.
Here is an example of a question: what the heck is this? An alien? A dinosaur? A perfectly reasonable-looking skeleton of some kind of mammal? Is it a lizard? Is it a panda bear? Is it a fake? Is it a creature from the future?
Remember Primeval? The creature from the future? That's what this reminds me of. And it's amazing.
Plus, the hand-drawn sketch with the handwriting, the figure number, the science text-book look combined with the alien feel of this creature's skeleton... a perfect combination of visuals for a creative fiction idea.
I love stock images (obviously), and I frequently turn to my stock images folder when I am having trouble with a description or just need a little inspirational juice. I only have a few hundred photos so far, but one day... I will have THEM ALL.
In celebration of the wonder of stock photos, and to demonstrate the idea-power found within, I have decided to put together a stock photo sonnet, or more accurately, The Mac and Cheese Sonnet.
The Mac and Cheese Sonnet
The greatest food of all is mac and cheese
With scrumptious taste and shiny golden curls.
All day and night I'd eat it, if you please;
I'd rather have this dish than priceless pearls.
It's not that other food is not as good,
But mac and cheese is just so much finer.
Without my mac and cheese I'll eat oak wood--
Those who differ will earn a big shiner.
Oh how I love thee, mac and cheese, I do--
As without you my life would be the worst,
Eating things like pork and chickpea stew,
And liver, eyeballs, brains, and cold bratwurst.
Mac and cheese: it is the food of kings.
With mac and cheese, all else--I need nothing.