Friday, August 13, 2010

Imagery

One of the things that I feel makes truly memorable writing is the author's use of imagery. This is one of the things I'm really trying to improve on in my own writing.

Here are a few examples from some of my favorite authors:

From Tithe, by Holly Black:
"Waves tossed themselves against the shore, dragging grit and sand between their nails as they were slowly pulled back out to sea."

Also from Tithe:
"She laughed at that, silvery cold laughter that rose up out of her throat like crows going to wing."

From Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr:
"The Summer Girls were like plants needing the nutrients of the sun to thrive; they couldn't be away from the Summer King for long, or they'd fade."

From Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull:
"The demon sprang forward with a roar like a thousand cannons firing together. A black wall of shadow flowed from Bahumat like a wave of tar."

Can't you just see that wave of tar or hear the silvery cold laughter rising up like crows going to wing?

Do you try to include imagery in your own writing? Do you have any favorite authors whose imagery you admire?

46 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

Oh love that one about the waves. And yes, I love imagery. I try to make it my trademark :)

Jen said...

This is something I'm working on mastering!!! Practice makes perfect but reading new ones (from books I must add to my TBR list) just gives me more inspiration!

Happy Friday!

Old Kitty said...

Describing imagery as evocatively and as imaginatively as possible is definitely a skill worth learning and crafting! These are beautiful examples, Susan Fields, thank you! I can only hope to aspire to such writing one day!!
Take care
x

Stephen Tremp said...

I like to use weather as imagery. My settings are in Boston and Southern California, so I can contrast a real nasty blizzard with the warm weather. Anything that involves the five senses will work. Food too. I use weather and food as inanimate characters with lots of imagery. Great post.

Stephen Tremp

Lenny said...

hi miss susan! i like stuff like that cause it makess stuff more alive. i didnt know what it was called so now i learned a new word. i
think i do some of it in my writing. i wrote he fell out of the sky like a fizzled out rocket cork screwing his way down til he plopped head first into the pond. is that an imagry?
...smiles and hugs from lenny

Jayne said...

I do love imagery like that, but am wary of using too many similes. But a well-placed one rocks!

Al said...

The trick seems to be to provide enough to trigger a reader's imagination without smothering it.
I tend to minimise and encourage a reader to help build the world with me. Does that make sense?

Vicki Rocho said...

Okay, I'll admit it. I suck at imagery. I can create it when something strikes me while roaming through the park or sitting meditatively in the hammock. But to purposely deposit it into my story...I suck.

Patti Lacy said...

Fabulous writing! But it does need to flow naturally as those tides...

Blessings,
Patti

TerryLynnJohnson said...

ooh, I like these! I haven't read any of these books so thanks for the little glimpse. All fabulous use of imagery! When I read THE ROAD, I didn't care for the story, but some of the imagery blew my mind.

Nicole Murray said...

Always. Sometimes one of those written images is what starts an idea for a scene. I build from it.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I try to use imagery but I'm not very good at it. I wrote something in one scene and a beta reader told me to do more like that. So once I've finished this round of edits, I'll go back and figure out where I should add them. You don't want to put in too many (I critted one ms that had at least one or two per page, and it started to drive me nuts half way through), so I figure this might be the easiest why to determine where they should go.

Theresa Milstein said...

I do try to include imagery in my writing, though I don't know if I do it as successfully as the authors did in your examples. In my last manuscript, I have some important descriptive scenes that I spent extra time on, trying to be as lyrical as possible.

Marcia said...

I agree that imagery makes a book memorable. I can't help but write that way -- it's PLOT I need more of. I love being momentarily pulled out of a story to marvel at a really good line.

Talli Roland said...

Beautiful sentences. I love Hemingway's imagery - he packs in so much in just a few words.

Amie B said...

imagery is what sucks me in, too. one of my favorite books/series with great imagery is The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves. Carrie Ryan's writing is like poetry.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Imagery... I do include it in my work, or course everyone does. However, it's usually absent or lacking in my first drafts. I find that revising is the perfect time to really nail my imagery.

Have a great weekend!

Brian said...

I don't do it nearly often enough. I need to describe it not as I see it, but as I want others to imagine it. Thanks for the tip!

Julie Musil said...

I do like to add imagery, but sometimes it doesn't make it in until the second draft!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

So hard to do it well, but when it works, it's amazing. I think, too, we're reading the same type of fiction! Great examples!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oooh, I love those examples. I think imagery is something I need to work on.

Donna Hosie said...

Imagery is so so important. I have a quote written down by a Russian writer which says, "Don't tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of silver on the broken glass."

Inspirational stuff.

Dawn Simon said...

I love reading books with good imagery. I saw Tabitha's comment, and WOW, she's great at imagery! Her blog posts are always so poetic! I could definitely add more to my writing.

Susan Fields said...

Tabitha - Isn't that one about the waves incredible? If you haven't read Holly Black, you should - she's a master of imagery.

Jen - I get so inspired by reading great imagery in other books, too!

Old Kitty - I'm aspiring, too! Maybe someday... :)

Stephen - I agree, weather and food are both great for imagery. I just read in a writing book about being sure to use imagery for all five senses - an excellent point!

Susan Fields said...

Lenny - That is certainly imagery, and very well done at that! Bravo!

Jayne - Absolutely, imagery can be easily overdone, and that's just annoying.

Al - Absolutely that makes sense. I like the way you put that, about not smothering the reader's imagination, that's a great point!

Vicki - It can be so hard, because a bad one really sticks out. So I try to read, read, read and learn from the masters. :)

Susan Fields said...

Patti - Well said, it certainly does need to flow naturally. I guess that's what makes it so darn hard.

TerryLynn - I never really thought much about imagery until I read Tithe and the imagery was so fantastic it really stood out to me. That takes a lot of skill on the author's part!

Nicole - I usually put the imagery in after the first draft is written, but it sounds like you do it the other way around. I'll bet that makes for some fantastic writing!

Stina - I agree, you need to be careful about how many you use, and I've heard different recommendations on how often that should be. I guess it's a matter of personal taste, but hopefully not so much that readers get annoyed.

Susan Fields said...

Theresa - I definitely take extra time with imagery. I'd say it's one of the most difficult parts of writing, because a bad one really draws attention to itself. But when done well, they can be so beautiful.

Marcia - That's wonderful that you've got the imagery down, that's something that's quite difficult to learn if you don't have a knack for it, I would think.

Talli - Okay, here I go showing my un-literariness (yes, I know there's almost no chance that's an actual word) again. I haven't read Hemingway since high school (which is much longer ago than I'd like to admit). I need to go back and take a look at his imagery - thanks for the suggestion!

Amie - Thank you for the suggestions! I've written those titles down and I'll check them out.

Susan Fields said...

Kimberly - Yes, I add my imagery in during the rewrites as well. Sometimes in a first draft I'll know I want to use imagery at a certain point, but I hate to slow down my flow to search for just the right one, so I'll put "XYZ" in place and come back and fix it up later. You have a great weekend, too!

Brian - Very well said! "As I want others to imagine it" - I love that!

Julie - I'm with you - I think the second draft is the perfect place for adding imagery. Otherwise it slows down writing the first draft too much.

Carolina - You're right - I just saw in your DUFF book review you said you read paranormal and urban fantasy - my two favorites!

Velva said...

I do use a lot of imagery for my food blog. Actually, I use imagery in place of writing. I try to let the photo tell the story. Since I do not consider myself a good writer, this is a perfect solution for me.

Hope your summer is going well.

Susan Fields said...

Jennifer - I know I need to work on it. Even with all these great examples, it's still hard to come up with "just right" ones on my own.

Donna - I love, love, love that quote! I'm writing it down and keeping it with my writing stuff. Thank you!

Dawn - That would be a pretty cool trademark to have. :)

Susan Fields said...

Velva - Nothing says it better than a picture, that's for sure. Especially with the delicious looking foods you showcase on your blog!

Myrna Foster said...

So, did you end up liking Fablehaven then?

I do use imagery, and I loved your examples.

Susan Fields said...

Myrna - I've always liked Fablehaven, I was just anxious to get to the romance. :) We ended up taking a break for the summer (I read it out loud to my kids before bed), so we haven't finished all the books yet, but we will - they're awesome!

Aubrie said...

I love writing imagery! An author that inspires me is Patricia McKillip.

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

Beautiful example.I love the imagey and try to include it.Would that be wonderful is to someday have someone quoteing your writing just like in this post!

Catherine A. Winn said...

Beautiful examples of imagery. They've inspired me to do better!

notesfromnadir said...

I really enjoyed all your examples. I feel that imagery is very important & is a good way for the writer to convey a character, scene or thought in a way that's poetic.

In THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy, he writes: "Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world."

Now that's some wonderful, if depressing, imagery!

Jen said...

Reminder - Guess that character blogfest this Thursday and Friday! Look forward to seeing what you post!

Shelley Sly said...

I haven't read any of those books, but I like those examples.

Imagery is one of my weak points. I am all action and dialogue and tend to skimp on description. But it's something I'm hoping to improve with time.

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Myrna Foster said...

Oh, good.

Susan Fields said...

Aubrie - Thanks for the recommendation!

Holly - You're right, that would be so wonderful! When I first read Tithe, I was so taken by Holly Black's use of imagery and I knew I had to share it. Certainly something to aspire to!

Catherine - They've inspired me as well!

Lisa - Someone else mentioned The Road in this post, too. What a wonderful line you've quoted - that's so creative.

Susan Fields said...

Jen - I'm looking forward to it, too!

Shelley - I tend to skimp on description, too. Definitely something to work on. :)

Myrna - Oh yes, we're excited to get back into the books now that school's started again.

Lynn said...

Great examples. I do enjoy imagery--when you can tell an author spent time finding a unique, new way to describe an emotion. I love it when I'm reading and I have to stop and read over a description again and again. It is that good. And reminds me why I love reading.

Jai Joshi said...

I agree. Good imagery is what can make a scene come alive because it provides a vivid backdrop for the characters and the story. It can also be a type of character in the story, because it ties in with the action and gives the reader a feel for atmosphere and setting and emotions.

Jai

Jackee said...

Love the imagery here! But I admit sometimes I have an awful time trying to think of a good metaphor, one that enhances not pulls the reader out of the story.

Have a great week, Susan!

Mohamed Mughal said...

Yes, I try my best to develop strong imagery. One of the things I'm mindful of is to not focus on one or two senses but to include as many of the senses as practical and appropriate.