Finding short stories among intriguing paintings and photos

This post has been written by me, Mike Staton.
This post has been written by me, Mike Staton.

Take a look at the first photograph, the one of the silhouette of a hooded girl looking through a window.

What congeals in your mind as you look at the photo? Do you think of a shivering girl out in the cold looking into a living room being warmed by a crackling fireplace, hoping you’ll invite her in for hot chocolate and a chance to unfreeze her bones? Or maybe she’s being stalked by a killer, saw your house ablaze with light and is now screaming for help?

For the last several years I’ve been writing short stories about photographs like this one and posting them mostly to my Facebook author’s page. One story – a Halloween piece – I even posted to Writing Wranglers and Warriors.

Look at the photos that are in my post. One is a steam-punk painting of a

So why is this girl looking through the window? When I come up with a reason, I'll be the beginning of a short story.
So why is this girl looking through the window? When I come up with a reason, I’ll be the beginning of a short story.

woman in a red gown waving goodbye to a lover who’s about to embark on a war cruise aboard a souped-up dirigible. Of course, this couple and other people are living in an alternate reality, maybe on a planet orbiting another star or on an alternate, might-have-been Earth that only can be reached through the mind and writing skill of a painter or writer.

The other is a painting as well, a slinky woman cradling a man’s head. I immediately thought of Salome and John the Baptist. Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee at the time of Christ, had imprisoned John because the prophet censured Herod for divorcing his wife and taking the wife of his brother. On Herod’s birthday, his stepdaughter Salome danced before the king, and when the drunken Herod – pleased with her sensual dancing – promised to give her anything she desired, she asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. We know the end of the tale… Herod executed John the Baptist.

I intend to create short stories to be woven around the dirigible and decapitated head paintings, just like the girl looking through the window. I find it’s a way to sharpen fiction-writing skills while sharing the stories on my Facebook author’s page. In time, I may indie-publish the stories in

There's a story in this painting that's screaming to be told... I just have to discover it.
There’s a story in this painting that’s screaming to be told… I just have to discover it.

an anthology. I’ve written science fiction and fantasy short stories, Halloween horror stories, and most recently stories composed around antique Christmas cards.

No doubt the stories would have to be published without the photos, since I’d be making money from the stories. Obtaining permission from the photographers and painters would be a logistical nightmare. But most fiction – unless comic book or graphic novels – are solely word-based except for the cover art. It would not be difficult to tweak the stories, removing references to the photos and

So is this John the Baptist's head?
So is this John the Baptist’s head?

paintings. I live with a graphic artist… maybe I could get on my knees and beg her to do the cover art for me. Hey, I’m kidding… well, maybe not.

In the meantime, I believe I’m improving my writing skills as I concoct tightly written tales, most no more than five hundred words. Interested? Here’s the link:

I’ve written a fantasy trilogy. The first two books are published, the third book, Assassins’ Lair, is being editing.

Book 1 in my trilogy is The Emperor’s Mistress; book 2, Thief’s Coin. Check out my publisher’s website. The novels are also available on the websites of Amazon and Barnes & Noble.