A big mistake I see in manuscripts is that writers use imagery when it really isn’t necessary. A lot of writers believe that an image is necessary for every situation. My preference would be that you use imagery in books more sparingly. So that brings up the question of when to use imagery in description.Recently, I’ve walked a few full novel editing clients through the use of imagery in writing. I decided to write a post about it because there seems to be some confusion about what imagery in description is, when to use it, and why you’d want to in the first place. I have an MFA in Creative Writing, and as you can imagine, us Creative Writing MFAs spend a lot of time sitting around in coffee houses, thinking about the building blocks of the fiction craft. I’d argue that, here, there is no need for an image. ) Well, one of those important building blocks is imagery in description. An image is a description that is meant to evoke emotion. Because we all know that the number one thing a fiction writer must do is make the reader care. Imagery in writing serves to deepen the reader’s understanding of what’s going on and how to feel about it. Here’s a good example of imagery used incorrectly: to our understanding that he’s hungry? It’s restating the information and there’s no sense of depth or enhancement.Give the reader just enough information that they can form the image on their own, and be content with it.One of my favourite images is on pages 240-241 of In the middle of the window, dangling from a string, hung a crude circle made from a bent coat hanger. ‘It’s mine.’ Egan captures this poignant moment perfectly, using simple language and the imagery of the bent coat hanger and the sun to say something important about Sasha’s character and her situation.In a 1980 essay in Novels are more than imagery – they are thought, plot, style, tone, characterization, and a score of other things – but it is the imagery that makes the book 'stand out' somehow; to come alive; to glow with its own light.” Imagery is a technique that uses evocative language to create a sharp, mental picture for the reader.These images always tell us something vital about the story, whether it’s creating an atmosphere or a feeling, or telling us something about a scene or character.
In my creative writing class, we begin the semester-long class with an exercise that helps students find the right words to convey to their readers the sensory details that bring the story alive. First, it describes using sensory language, and second, it evokes strong feelings in the reader.The reader must only see that sun dip into the circle of wire, because that is where the heart of the image lies.In his essay King says: Leave in the details that impress you the most strongly; leave in the details you see the most clearly; leave everything else out...You need to create an impression without creating a whole picture (so to speak).The trick is being frugal with your description, so that you can let the image stand on its own without overloading it.A reasonable description of regret, per the example above, instantly becomes overkill in an instance like this: This might look like obvious redundancy to you, but it’s something I see all the time.Once a writer has decided that an occasional calls for imagery, they might decide that “more is more! Picking one specific and powerful image is going to focus your reader’s attention.Picking multiple related images to try and evoke the same emotional response will actually be counterproductive.Once you’ve identified an occasion that would benefit from imagery in description, pick one image and stick to it.This is an emotional moment, and the image spins it in a more visceral direction. But it’s a good example of where an image might be desirable, if you’re the type to add embellishments to your significant and emotional moments.The alternative would be: This has a lot of the same information, but it might be a little dry. Another thing to consider is how much imagery to use.