A Lesson on Imagery

Our brains think in images. If I ask you to imagine a woman, your brain does not spell “woman” in giant letters inside your head. Instead it attempts to think of an actual image of a woman. Your brain races around in confusion. Is this woman tall, short, young, or pretty?  If I give you no instruction as to what that woman looks like, you’re frustrated.  But if I add this simple statement— think of Sophia Loren, but with long blond hair— you get it.  An image pops in your head. Your brain calms. 

There’s a lesson to be learned for the writer in this explanation of imagery. As readers, we are proficient in creating movies  in our heads from the words we see on the page.  If we are reading along and can’t follow the images, we stop and throw the book against the wall in frustration.

What images have you created for your reader? How long is your on-ramp before you get to those images? Don’t make your reader wait. Give them a picture, an image, as quickly as you can to satisfy the confusion in their head. Images keep our readers engaged. Don’t forget that. It may be one of the most valuable lessons about writing you can learn.


  1. Kassie Rubico
    Jul 21, 2011

    Such great advice, Angela. Can’t wait to go back and shorten
    the on-ramp!

  2. affoster22
    Jul 22, 2011

    Thanks for reading, Kassie. I often go to the image if I can’t figure out how to get into a piece. Ann McCartle said that image drives the theme. I’d agree with that.

  3. Malcolm Maxwell
    Jul 22, 2011

    “Ya, Ya!” I certainly agree. A great point to always remember. I cannot remember the books and articles I have tried to read and set aside in frustration because they did not capture my imagination. Thanks again Angelia. Malcolm Maxwell

  4. affoster22
    Jul 22, 2011

    You’re welcome, Maxwell. Imagery is one of your strengths when you write.

  5. Alexandra Cartier
    Jul 31, 2011

    I enjoyed reading this and found that my mind goes to certain fixed ideas that have a personal association for me in the words I use. In reading the word “woman” I instantly saw images of my mother. I could see her smile, her silver hair, her hazel eyes… it was all right there for me. How effective am I in creating images? It seems to depend on how much effort I put into character development before I begin writing.
    I really like the suggestion of getting the imaged out in front!

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