Imagery conveys more than describing a setting. Done right, it can enhance the emotion and pull the reader into your writing in a unique way to them. It’s not merely about “show don’t tell.” Imagery is a skill that embellishes your author voice. Below are my thoughts on imagery and what’s worked for me.
1.) No Description Dumps – Layer your imagery into the scene in delicious morsels. Entice with flashes for the senses. Don’t stop your story to overwhelm the reader with detailed description dumps that will slow the pace and stall the action.
Example: Excerpts below are from The Last Victim (Jordan Dane) – Spears of light filtered through green leaves and daylight dappled the ground in colors that reminded me of light shining through the stained glass of a church.
2.) Have the imagery enhance the intended emotion of the scene. Description shouldn’t sound like it came from a dictionary or research book.
Stilted Description (Example Only): Over the years, the floor of a forest became thick layers of pine needles that forced me to watch where I stepped.
Improved Version: The forest floor had a thick layer of decaying pine needles and fallen leaves that gave a pungent rich smell to the soil. The path buckled under my weight as if I were treading on a mattress.
3.) Choose action words or descriptive Words that convey/enhance the senses – Action Words like slash, shiver, jab, or pound, denote the action they describe. Words like skitter, slither, squeeze, or ripple “sound” like the action they describe. So by toiling over each word in a scene (in your draft revisions), you can layer in greater imagery for the reader to “hear” or “feel.”
Example: With half-lidded eyes I relaxed into the moment and dropped my gaze to Justine’s boots as she walked ahead. I listened to the hypnotic sounds of the forest and let the subtle noises close in. A light breeze jostled the treetops and birds flitted in the branches over my head. My boots made soft thuds on the decomposing sod under my feet. Nature had a palpable and soothing rhythm.
4.) Use vivid imagery from your own past experience or pick something relatable and universal to others. For example, we’ve all been scared. Share your own worst fear, but in the context of your scene.
5.) Now, break down that emotion into how the body reacts inch by savory inch. Don’t rush it. Put the reader front and center through their senses. Trigger their own experiences. That’s why it’s important not to overdo the description. Simply hint at imagery that will trigger your reader’s minds. Be selective and pare down the images to the most vital and effective pieces.
1.) In your comments, please share an example of imagery in your current WIP.
2.) And please share what works for you when it comes to writing imagery.