Spice Up Your Writing

Want to spice up your writing? Add some imagery.

Although named for sight, imagery is a technique that uses words to appeal to any of the senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, & taste). Because memories and emotions are closely linked to our senses, imagery is especially good for arousing the reader’s emotions. It’s also helpful for offering the writer more ways to write the same information and inflaming the reader’s imagination (particularly if you want to leave a description open to interpretation).

Here are five common methods for writing imagery:

  1. Descriptive Language

Using strong adjectives and relevant details are one way to build imagery. Colors, textures, volume, flavors – there are words specific to each of these: clear, red, bright, soft, fuzzy, loud, biting, sour, etc. These all appeal to the senses.

  1. Similes

A simile is a comparison using “like” or “as.” The two things or ideas being compared only need to be similar in one way. Yesterday’s post, for example, said that writing is like running. That’s a simile. It gives you a link between the two ideas very quickly. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that we use similes all the time in regular speech.

  1. Metaphors

A metaphor is also a comparison of two things or ideas that aren’t really alike, but it uses “to be” verbs instead of “like” or “as.” “Writing is running” would be the same comparison as a metaphor instead of a simile. A more common example would be saying, “my boss is a bear.” Without further explanation, we know that the boss is irritable at best and nastily demanding at worst.

  1. Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia appeals to hearing. It is words that sound like sounds. Sometimes, they are real words, and sometimes they aren’t. Old-fashioned comic books tend to have good examples of this (pow! bang! smack!). So do kids’ books (meow, moo, quack, etc.).

  1. Personification

Personification is having plants, objects, or animals act like people. “The flowers danced in the wind” and “my alarm clock yelled in my ear” are both examples of personification. Basically, take anything a human can do, and have something non-human do it instead.

There are more methods, but these five are a good start. Depending on the scene, you may introduce 1 of them into a paragraph or all of them. Mix it up – treat imagery like herbs. If you cook without them, the food’s liable to be bland. If you throw in the right mix, it’s spicy and full of flavor.


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