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Using Imagery in your Writing

It's easy to picture a beautiful image in one's mind, but to take that image and put it on paper is a whole other story.

It's all about the senses!

The hardest thing about writing for me has always been imagery. I became so worried about setting that I stopped writing altogether. Terrified that my work was too dull to even begin to describe the vivid painting in my mind. Junior year of high school I took a chance at the creative writing course that was offered at my school. My wonderful teacher, Mr. Opp, opened my eyes and taught me it's all about using your 5 senses.

Touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. That is all it takes to have good imagery.

Once you understand the basics of imagery, it's quite simple. By using at least 3-4 senses in each description of your setting, your reader will be able to clearly see your image.

For starters, let's try to describe a waterfall in green hills. I personally find it easier to write a basic image, then go back and edit to make it stronger. Now, pick your senses and write away! In this example, I used sight, sound, and smell.

'The salty water fell into the pond with a loud splash. The reflection of the grassy hills in the water rippled with each drop of water'.


Make it strong!

Now that you can create a basic image, let's make it stronger. We want your reader to plunge themselves into the world you've created, not watch from the sidelines.

All it is is word choice and perception. By using strong verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and first-person, you can create any image on paper. Make sure to have a thesaurus handy!

Let's return to our waterfall example. While it created an image, the strength of it was quite weak.

Let's add some detail:

'I could hear the splashing of the water before I even reached the falls. The impact of the aqua into the pond sent shivers down my spine as it echoed across the ridge. Standing atop the waterfall looking down into the pond was like I was looking into a rippled mirror. The rich emerald green hills reflected back at me in the water with a blue haze. The hills were like waves, drowning in ivy and pasture. Salt and grass scents filled my lungs as I breathed in the cold air. '

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It isn't as scary as it looks!

I promise! I was terrified when I started writing again. But once I started writing and using my 5 senses and a good thesaurus, I was fine! And you will be too.

Don't be frightened about the length of your setting or what perspective you use. It doesn't matter if it's long or short, so long as you have strong word choice. As for perspective, I personally think writing in the first person is the easiest and strongest to use. But if you're a second or third-person kind of writer, then you write to your heart's content.

It's the little things

I know it's a big jump from using basic imagery to strong imagery and I realize they're vastly different. The wording is the biggest part of it. I recommend using lots of synonyms. For instance, when writing about water, try not to say 'water' over and over. Use words like 'aqua', 'deep blue', or 'liquid'. This way your paragraph doesn't sound repetitive or redundant.

Try adding in strong adjectives. Perhaps not just 'blue' or 'red' to add color, but more specific variants such as 'navy' or 'scarlet'. It's simple things like this that really make your image pop.



As a summary and a quick reference, here Is the key to great imagery.

  • Have a clear image in your mind of what your setting is like.
  • Use your 5 senses to identify details of your image.
  • Write a basic scene.
  • Grab a thesaurus to add strong verbs and adjectives to make your setting pop!

Let me know if you'd like more advice!

© 2020 MJ Dillon


Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on May 28, 2020:

Thanks, MJ Dillion for a great article. I have trouble describing what I see in my mind. Your suggestion of writing a basic description and then embellishing it is useful. I will use this tip in my future writing.

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