The inspiration for a story can come from almost anywhere. I learned this first-hand a few years ago when I was inspired by some evocative old snapshots I found at a flea market. I wanted to know more about the people in them, but the photos were anonymous—long-disconnected from whomever had taken and discarded them—so instead I created their stories myself. The result was my first novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It’s enjoyed some remarkable success, especially for a book from a debut novelist—there’s even a movie in the works! None of which would be happening if I hadn’t let a handful of musty pictures tell me a story. Stories are everywhere; it’s just a matter of tuning our ears to listen for them.
Given the way Miss Peregrine is told, with the photos I found woven through the narrative, it’s proven to be a fascinating conversation-starter for students and teachers of creative writing. Students can easily find photos of their own to use as writing prompts, either on the Internet or, better yet, in the attics and closets of parents and grandparents. (I discovered that it’s nearly impossible to write about old photographs without becoming interested in their history. There’s something fascinating about the immediacy of a photograph, no matter how old it is; though a picture might have been taken a hundred years ago, it is always, in some sense, now.) (more…)