How To Sharpen The Imagery In Your Writing

by Reggie Mcleod - Date: 2010-09-28 - Word Count: 621 Share This!

Imagery and Characterization, can the two ever meet outside of an English class?

Seething volcano or skittish bird, what image best fits your characters and why would anyone care? Last time I talked about giving a unified imagery set to your main characters. I outlined how choosing basic element properties to your characters creates adds texture and EASE to a character arc. We went with the basic earth, air, wind, and fire possibilities. But let's say you want to go one step further. How would that work and why?

Make your imagery more specific. First off, add metal to your list of elements. Then while you're at it, maybe add all the elements of the periodic table. What if your hero is a tinman in search of a heart? Give him metallic colors to wear and surround himself in. Make him bendable, but when he adjusts to the heroine it gives him a sharp edge to his words and actions.

Now start picking out words to use for your hero. Match it with all five senses, but make sure to pick words that reflect both the good and the bad. You want to be able to indicate your character's changes from a problem through growth into happiness (and love). Confused? Try these examples. For sight-metallic and reflective. When people look at him they see themselves reflected back, not the man himself. When you describe him and his environment surround him in chrome and give him a tin car toy collection. Let the heroine see him as childlike but cold. Then as he grows around her, you can add color to his clothing and surroundings.

Sound-tinny, brittle. You don't have to make his voice sound tinny or thin. That's not hero-like! But he can speak with a brittle edge or it can grate like metal on metal. He can hit something that clinks. When he's depressed he can have a hollow echo to his tone, but as he warms to the heroine, his voice gets depth and color. Eventually-at the end-someone hears his heartbeat. Even the music he listens to changes from Metallica to country-or maybe that's too much of a stretch.

Touch-sharp but malleable. Initially his touches are cold and angry words hit like shards. But as he changes, his rough edges smooth. His face is not chiseled but pressed or shaped. Then when he smiles he shows a kind of light (heroine's reflected light). She warms him (because metal doesn't carry his own warmth), but he protects her and brings out her child-like qualities (because he's a tin toy).

Now you add taste and scent. Truthfully, with a tin toy image, I stick with cold feel, metallic taste, and sterile scent. None of that is erotic or hero-like. So if you mention these things, keep them at the beginning of the book, letting the negative words drop away as he changes for the better. He is, after all, gaining a heart and growing into a real boy. But remember, he can be a geologist or a metal worker. He can work in a sterile room or be comfortable in clinical settings.

So now you get the idea, but don't just stop there. Make your images very specific. My hero in Tempted Tigress is a Chinese ink and brush set. He's a scholar and when he feels drained, I say that his words were like ink mixed too thin. His body is thin and pointed, and during the love scene, his touch paints words on her.

My heroine in Cornered Tigress is a cat. Every time she enters a room, she experiences it first through taste and scent. When she's afraid she tends to go into tiny enclosed spaces. You can use anything that sparks your imagination, so...go wild!

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