June 10, 2014

Butterfly Effect Story Starter Writing Prompt

Science and art make a perfect marriage for illustrations, especially when you make narrative art.  My latest Story Starter writing prompt illustration, I was inspired by chaos theory.

Chaos theory is fascinating- we see it every day in life, whether we know it or not.  My latest illustration, The Butterfly Effect, has symbols and meaning directly related to this theory. It all started with a search for scientific symbols.

In searching scientific principles and symbols, I came across Sixty Symbols, a science site from the University of Nottingham with awesome video explanations of scientific phenomena. (If you have any interest in science- check it out!)

One of the symbols represented is the butterfly effect.  Wikipedia states it as…

“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependency on initial conditions in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.”

I think a simpler way to state this is that a seemingly minor change can have drastic affects to something else later in time. This concept can bee seen in fiction- as many stories have major twists and turns after an initial action that we thought was inconsequential.

It’s fascinating that a minor decision we make- taking a different way to work, not picking up a ringing phone, changing plans at the last minute- can so drastically change the rest of our lives.

In my latest drawing, The Butterfly Effect, I address the small details that can change the entire meaning of a story. In the image we see a young girl in what looks like a wizard’s costume, sitting on a staircase staring at a dog. She contemplates her environment and her materials.  Is she waiting for something to happen? Is she wondering what to do next? Is she distraught? upset? thrilled?


Butterfly Effect Story Starter

The Butterfly Effect Story Starter writing prompt has many details to help you make inferences from it.  It’s the perfect image to use in class to inspire inference making and critical thinking skills.

First, decide what is happening and defend your answer using details from the image. Then ask yourself, “What if I changed one detail in the image… How would that change the outcome of the story?”

Download and use the following questions to help your students make inferences and think critically about the image.

Butterfly Effect Transformation (PDF)


I also made a Story Starter video to inspire your students’ writing.

Seeing it in video form, with a quote and some written prompts, can change the viewer’s opinion of the work.  Use this in class and see the reaction.  It works well to generate a conversation where students analyze details and defend their opinions.

You can see it here- watch it in full screen so you can see all the details.

What do you think is going on?

You can see more of my illustrations here, and video story starter writing prompts here.



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