I saw this image from Mars on my Twitter feed last week.
Now, I freely admit to being a fan of the planets. I admit to hoping that once the New Horizons mission reaches Pluto in July 2015… Pluto will be re-welcomed to its rightful place among the planets. I also admit to having written stories on all sorts of alien worlds which started from nothing but a word or two of description and some vague notions in my head.
But what this image does for me as a writer is inspire me. I look upon this ancient, yet unspoiled ground and I see story possibilities coming from everywhere.
Sure, if you look at this image without the context of knowing when and where it was actually taken, you could assume that it was simply taken in the middle of the desert somewhere in the southwestern United States or in the middle of Africa or… well, anywhere. In fact, if you take the mountain out of the background and put some metal grandstands in its place, you could be looking at the baseball field my son’s baseball team played on the other day.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. It can be a photo, or something you come across while walking the dog, or something you hear in the background chatter while sipping a latte at your favorite coffee shop. When I look at the image from Mars, I ask myself several things:
- What happened to the people who used to live on this alien world… their only remaining mark on the landscape a single, dark boulder among pebbles and so many grains of sand?
- My character is lost in the desert and sees a mountain in the distant haze. The dark area at the base of the mountain looks like an oasis… but is it merely a mirage?
- What we see here in the background is the result of a malfunction of the massive landscaping/terraforming machine in the foreground. (Or, flipping it around, the machine in the foreground is moving toward the background and replacing the dry/dusty/barren landscape with trees, grass and other awesomeness).
- The machine in the foreground is a giant, ancient espresso machine and it has been brought out on the beach for the Traditional Kickoff of the Summer Coffee Season, as has been done for many hundreds of years (following the Traditional Coffee Brewing Protocols (TCBPs), of course). But where are all the people who are supposed to be there enjoying it?
What do you imagine when you look at this image? What other images have you seen recently which have inspired creativity in you, whether you’ve written the stories down or not?