Story with a picture

Gepubliceerd op 19 mei 2023 om 10:00

Reverse the order

So far I've been practicing generating images for a story I already have lying around. The downside to that is that during the writing I've already figured out what my main characters look like and the world looks like; Conjuring that out of an AI is quite a job and may not even be possible.

Recently, however, I generated images with the theme of "clown" and a style I'm considering. The atmosphere they evoked gave me the idea to try it the other way around: make up a story for the pictures.

Story with a picture

First of all, it's the atmosphere: a clown trying to cheer up a melancholy world with jokes and balloons. The clown is dressed as a mouse and does not look too cheerful himself, but the latter is a characteristic of almost every clown: the tear should be close to the smile.

The next clown is from the same series and shows a historic city, giving rise to the idea that the story takes place in a time without our technology; either the past or a dystopian future. The figures in the sky require a lot of imagination to become part of the story; but they can always be removed from the picture.

Then this little clown comes into conversation with a somewhat sinister figure. One sells the other a ticket for the hot air balloon? Has the little clown run away from home and is he making his way to Clown-land?


This is not yet a story but just the beginning of an idea. Many answers are still needed. Why is he running away? Or better yet: why is he already a clown as a child? Why does the world seem so melancholic? Will he reach Clown-land and benefit from it? (The clown can of course also be a 'she'.) Not hindered by limitations in length, here are some ideas:

The world

In a dystopian future, the world has been taken over by creatures from outer space: skyscraper-high four-legged waders who don't care about humans, but are worshiped as the new god-king. They have flattened some cities and guzzled all the electricity. They spend the day walking, basking in the sun and avoiding the rain.

As long as you don't end up under the legs of a stilt walker, life goes on. All work must again be done by hand and with horse and ox power.

The waders seem fond of rest. To detect troublemakers, they make changes to human DNA; for example, you can be born as a purple psychopath butcher, a heavy-brow leader, a golden-legs courier, an ash-gray pyromaniac chimney sweep, a striped orator-lawyer, and a better-to-ignore clown .

The heavy-brows take charge of the new society and walk on stilts as a sign of their power.

The little clown

The little clown is born as the youngest child of two hard-working, serious citizens. His red nose and spiky hair betray him from birth. In an attempt to make him a serious person, he is given a serious name: Herschel.

The clown has a sad childhood, in which he is always told not to exaggerate, not to pretend, not to joke and, above all, to be sensible. He tries his best, but just can't sit still for long.

After primary school, a life as a farm worker or lumberjack awaits him. But the clown is a thin person and dreams of an exciting future. He discovers a traveling clown, who makes everyone laugh, and who tells him to go to Clown land/ or his uncle was actually born a clown too and says that was his dream.

The little clown decides: his new name is Hi-hi-herschel.

The journey

The journey first goes to the country's border, where hot air balloons arrive on a ridge and depart for lands across the Forbidden Plain. A grizzled chimney sweep sells him a half-price ticket to Clown Country.

Midway through the flight, he is belted with balloons and propped over the side before floating down. He desperately realizes that this is not right, but comes to the ground reasonably unscathed. Lost, he walks around with his balloons until a cheerful tinkling catches his attention. He finds a group of clowns!

The Abandoned Plain (where a nuclear bomb was once dropped on the alien waders) is Clown-Land. He is apprenticed to the clowns and learns to exaggerate, act, make jokes, do magic, make balloon animals, and walk on stilts.

He also learns to reason like a lawyer, breathe fire like a pyromaniac, acrobatics, the secret history of the leaders, and whatever else he wants to learn. After a few years, he returns with hope to his hometown to cheer up the people there.

The climax

Jokingly, he finds his way back to his parental home and brings color to people's lives. He quickly learns to change clothes and powder his nose so as not to be arrested for disorderly conduct. He joins the underground clown network.

One day when he attracts an ever-increasing crowd, the human waders come to call him to account. The one on the highest stilts is the boss and towers over everyone. It must therefore use a loudspeaker to be heard, which only attracts a larger crowd.

It also attracts the nearest alien wader, which picks up the troublemaker and takes it away. Everyone is stunned to see it happen. The little clown falls to the ground in surprise and exclaims: They don't like imitators! While the audience laughs, the human waders decide that they should stand even closer to the ground.

Emotional development

A story like this only becomes interesting if the emotional development of the clown is reflected in every paragraph. For example, in the first part he will be insecure and sad, in the second part he will discover his true nature and learn to become himself. In the third part he challenges those in power with the accompanying mix of self-confidence and doubt. (A love story can always be added to this, but it can also be too distracting.)

I've now done the most fun part of writing (for me): making up the plot. The actual writing of the story is a time-consuming affair. I personally benefit greatly from Lisa Cron's method, which ensures that you don't lose the thread, don't get bogged down in unimportant details, and keep the focus on the inner transformation of the main character.

Story Genius

Lisa Cron is a writing coach and author of the book Story Genius, in which she explains a method for writing a story that captivates and surprises the reader. Her method consists of three steps:

1. Determine the inner transformation of your main character. What does he or she want to achieve and why? What's at stake? How does he or she change throughout the story?

2. Write the crucial scenes that enable the transformation. These are the scenes where your character faces a dilemma, makes a choice and suffers the consequences. These scenes are the backbone of your story.

3. Fill in the rest of the story with scenes that support and reinforce the crucial scenes. Make sure each scene has a goal and that your character learns or experiences something that takes them closer to or further away from the goal.

Speed up with AI?

This is a website about generative AI - why not use ChatGPT and associates to try and get this story on paper faster? I'm giving myself two weeks to experiment with this and see what comes of it. If you are curious, come back to the next blog.

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