Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge: I is for...


For my entries in the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I will be focusing on writing elements that I find important and that I want to incorporate into my work.

Today, the topic is IMAGERY

Fiction transports a reader to a world which exists only in the author's mind.  But when it works best, fiction actually goes beyond that and allows the reader to create their OWN world and connect to it in an emotionally meaningful way.

To have that level of impact, the reader has to be able to immerse themselves into the world.  It is up to the writer to give the reader the ability to do that.  This is where imagery comes in. 

Imagery is much more than simply dry description.  If I'm setting a scene in a room, I might be tempted to say, "The room was 19 feet, 6 inches by 15 feet.  The walls were painted in a pale beige color.  The room had two windows.  The one on the north wall was 24 inches above the floor and measured 36 inches by 72 inches.  Blah, blah, blah..."

This boring description might accurately describe the room, but what emotional impact does it have?

Zilch.  Nada.  None. 

There is nothing that pulls the reader into the room and makes them connect to it. To do this, I need to do more than simply describe the room -- I need to appeal to the senses. I need to provide mental images that really allow the reader to "see" the room at a deeper level.  So I also might want to mention smells, sounds, the room temperature, and other aspects that elicit an emotional response.

Not only do I need to describe things in an emotionally-compelling way that appeals to all the senses, I also have to be selective in choosing what to describe.  This is where we begin to shift from description to imagery.  Take that window in my earlier example.  Why even mention it if it adds nothing to the story?  In most cases, it makes more sense to leave it out. 

But what if the character in the room is someone who feels lonely -- distant and separated from people?  Then I may actually want to include the window to highlight that sense of him 'looking out' on the rest of the world.  But I'm sure not going to mention the dimensions.  Instead I might describe the window as "painted shut," "grimy," "airtight," mention how it muffles the sounds from the street below, or use other images that echo the character's isolation. 

If I do it right, that simple window then becomes much more than just a random item in the room -- it becomes an image which reveals a deeper understanding of the character. 

This is the type of imagery I need to use to transport my reader into that fictional world I'm trying to create.  

Huh--- Maybe there's a reason that "imagery" and "imagination" are related words...  ;^)

Thanks for visiting -- see you the rest of this month for more alphabetical fun!

Don't forget to visit HERE to see all the bloggers taking part in this A-to-Z challenge, and try to drop in on as many of them as you can!


Gina said...

Imagery is so important! You are right, finding the right words to paint the images we have in our heads is difficult, fun, and hard work.

Great post!
Thanks for visiting me.
From Diary of a Writer in Progress

Misha Gericke said...

Nice post! I'm planning something similar for U-day, I believe. :-)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

A writer has truly achieved an imagery pinnacle when his readers so believe in the places he's created, they actually go looking for them in the physical world. Great post.

Donna Martin said...

Hi...I'm hopping over from the A to Z challenge. Lovely blog...good luck with the challenge!

Donna L Martin

nutschell said...

Imagery is very important, but often hard to pull off.
Happy A-Zing!

Jeremy Bates said...

Imagery is created with the proper adjectives. I attempt to get a reader to feel as well as imagine.

By the way, I have made some 300 comments on various blogs since the start. Whew!

Chris Fries said...

@Gina: Thanks! And thanks for visiting me, too!

@Misha: Thank you -- I'll be sure and visit you on U-day! ;^)

@Susan: Ha! Makes me think of a story I heard after the movie "Fargo" had been out -- Some people were digging all over along I-80 (or is it I-90?), looking for the money that had been hidden there in the movie. I'd love the ideas of having dedicated fans, but I hope they're stable enough to be able to separate truth from fiction, lol!

@Donna: Hi! Nice to meet you and thanks for the visit! I'll be sure and return the hop! ;^)

@nutschell: Very true! Doing this theme for the challenge, I've discovered it's much easier to write about how to write fiction than it is to actually write the fiction, lol!

@Jeremy: Very true -- the emotional impact is what makes visual description become a deeper level of imagery. And WOW! That's a lot of commenting! Thanks for the visit!