“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”
― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
Wise words from an amazing book. (I’m also currently reading this, so I wanted to squeeze in a quote somewhere!) Words do have a great deal of power, if used correctly. As writers, we have the ability, no, the responsibility, to use words to create a wonderful experience for ourselves, and for readers.
One thing to keep in mind when trying to fulfill this responsibility: imagery is a powerful tool and friend. One that you must understand and learn to use correctly to be the best writer you can be!
Simply put: imagery is a tool in literature to bring a story to life. It is the responsibility of the writer to touch on the five senses for better imagery, to further immerse the reader into the novel. Afton went through the five senses back in January in her blog, “Using the Five Senses in Description”. Please refer back for more info!
When you first hear the word imagery, you probably think of the grade school definition: words that create mental images, or something along those lines, right? But as I mentioned before, a writer needs to put to use descriptions of all five senses in order to submerse the readers in the story. To recap what Afton went over, you want to use words to describe what the characters see, smell, hear, feel, and even taste. It may seem a bit excessive to use all of them at once, and I would say that it’s not necessary to always use all of them. BUT, try to use at least two or three at a time, and switch between them to keep it fresh.
According to literarydevices.net, “Imagery needs the aid of figures of speech like simile, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia etc. in order to appeal to the bodily senses.” Let’s explore a few of these figures of speech to better understand how to use imagery in writing.
Simile: a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared,as in “she is like a rose.”
Metaphor: a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”
Personification: the attribution of human nature or character to animals, inanimate objects, or abstract notions, especially as a rhetorical figure.
Onomatopoeia: the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk, or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.
(definitions provided by dictionary.com)
Now that we have a few examples of the figures of speech, how can we learn to use these effectively to create better imagery? Let’s find some examples and discuss.
Simile: “Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East . . .”
— Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie.
Metaphor: “But thy eternal summer shall not fade”
—Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.
Personification: "When it comes, the landscape listens, Shadows hold their breath,"
—Emily Dickinson, "There's a certain slant of light"
Onomatopoeia: “He saw nothing and heard nothing but he could feel his heart pounding and then he heard the clack on stone and the leaping, dropping clicks of a small rock falling.”
—For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
These are only a few of the figures of speech, but I hope that as you grow more familiar with these (and others) that it will be easier for you to create some amazing imagery in your writing! I challenge all of you to pick one of the figures of speech above, or some not listed, and try to apply it to whatever you’re working on now. If you’re writing a thriller, drop a simile about how a mob boss has a mustache like a ferret. If you’re writing a story about a little boy running around in the woods, talk about the sound of the wind in the trees using onomatopoeia! I’m sure you guys can be much more creative than that. Have at it! Enjoy the journey of writing with imagery, and remember these wise words from Rothfuss: "Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts."