A Beginner’s Guide to Imagery
This article was a specific request by my sister, Morgan, and I am hoping that it will help out many beginning authors who need a little extra help when it comes to thinking about imagery. I do not claim to be an expert on the subject; in fact, I think incorporating imagery is something that takes a lot of dedication and practice to get it just right. But nevertheless, I would like to share some thoughts on the subject that I believe would help get you in the right mindset.
One of the most important places to incorporate imagery is when describing setting. You want to be as descriptive as possible. Half of the battle in writing good fantasy stories is making your readers feel fully immersed in your universe. The easiest thing to do is start by incorporating the five senses. I know it sounds incredibly simplistic, but the following questions should showcase why this works so well.
What does your character see from where they are standing? What does the scenery look like? Do they notice the colors and the hues of locations or objects? What people are visible, if any? What are they doing?
What can your character hear? Do they hear people speaking, the bustle of daily life around them? Are they listening to music echo through the streets? If they interact with a certain character, how does their voice change the tone of what is being said?
What smells are lingering? Does the air have a certain scent to it? Is there food or flowers nearby that can waft through your character’s nose?
Don’t forget; the air can have a certain taste too, especially when other scents are involved. Taste should be used sparingly except in cases where you really want to emphasize the environment or if your character is eating (but also should be used sparingly in that case).
What is your character around that is tangible? Do their clothes feel tight and restrictive, or loose and light with fabric that easily slides across their skin? What are they holding? Is it significant enough to be worth mentioning?
Now: something important to remember. Just because you have a lot of information to use doesn’t mean you should use it all. Imagery has to be used appropriately; you don’t want to overload your reader with too much detail. The story becomes too muddled and cluttered. You want to incorporate just enough to shape the world you’re trying to convey: no more, no less.
When it comes to characters, the best way to incorporate imagery is to capture personality through visual cues.
How does your character walk? Do they carry themselves with confidence, or do they hide with slumped shoulders and a closed off stance? Body language communicates emotion. It is a great way to comply by the “showing not telling” mantra.
Describing communication is also important. Does your character have an accent? Do they emphasize certain syllables on words that is unique? When they are happy, how does their face change when they’re speaking? When they’re listening, what is their neutral face? What happens if someone shocks them?
Again, as with the above section on setting, make sure you keep things clear, but also simple. Clogging characters with physical descriptions or other imagery also detracts from what you are attempting to accomplish in terms of description.
So, there you have it! A simple guide to basic imagery work. I hope to expand on this as the blog expands and as I improve my imagery skills myself.