Imagery and Your Novel

Novelist James V. Smith, Jr. author of You Can Write a Novel, has strong opinions about creating powerful imagery in your writing. “It’s a blunder to write description,” he says. “That’s my attitude and the reason I think in terms of imagery instead of the D-word.”

Here are just a few of Smith’s suggestions for creating powerful imagery:

  • Incorporate images into action, as in the sample “She crossed the threadbare rug, looked up into his downcast eyes.” If the narrator reveals the same information this way—”The rug on his bedroom floor was threadbare. He stood there, his eyes downcast. He was taller than her”—that’s description. Static. The author’s talking. Can you hear him?
  • See through the character’s eyes. Hear through his ears. Feel through his skin. It isn’t “Glass beads rolled in the rumples of the kitchen linoleum. It’s “He heard glass beads…” get it? When you can, use the character’s senses instead of the author’s.
  • Salt dialogue with non-intrusive images. A quaver in a voice. That’s an image. So is toying with somebody’s ear, as are droplets on sweat on a lip.

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