Updated: Feb 10
Have you ever read a book and feel as if you're transported to other places and times. As if we’re sipping coffee after dark in a late-night Denny's or enjoying the beauty of Bouville port from the top of the hills. These are some visual and auditory aspects regarding Imagery. But, it’s so much more than a picture in our mind or an imaginary sound.
What is Imagery in Fiction?
Imagery is a literary device is a technique a writer uses to convey ideas and messages to their readers. Imagery is painting with words in order to fuel the reader’s imagination. To explain it simply, Imagery is the feeling that when you read a book it makes you feel like you’re seeing, feeling, smelling, or tasting the same thing as the character in the book. So, Imagery is the use of language to create feelings in the reader’s mind or creating a "mental image" through the words. Stephen King describes imagery as it "does not occur on the writer’s page; it occurs in the reader’s mind. To describe everything is to supply a photograph in words; to indicate the points which seem the most vivid and important to you, the writer, is to allow the reader to flesh out your sketch into a portrait."
An easy way to use the imagery in your writing you can use words, phrases, and sentences that connect with the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. As it is designed to connect a reader to a piece of writing, I can say it is one of the most powerful tools you have to communicate your messages.
What are Imagery Types?
There are 5 different types of imagery linked to our 5 senses which as a writer I prefer to show not tell:
How to Use Imagery
If you want to use more imagery in your writing, you might try using the right selection of adjectives, figurative language, and even diction. I can say the master of Imagery is Gustave Flaubert. His beautiful novel Madame Bovary(1856) is one of the major achievements in the excellent use of symbolism and use of imagery. The apparent purpose of Flaubert is to paint pictures with words, bringing scenes and settings alive with the astonishing use of descriptions. As Levi mentions, Flaubert’s descriptions are often built up like pictures, from left to right of background to foreground, normally even moving through the senses, from sound and smell to touch and sight. Here are some examples from this novel:
The future was a dark corridor, and at the far end the door was bolted.
Large dishes of yellow cream, that trembled with the least shake of the table...
The smell of melted butter penetrated through the walls when he saw patients, just as in the kitchen one could hear the people coughing in the consulting room and recounting their histories...
Madame Bovary turned away her head, as at the loathing of another bitterer poison that rose to her mouth.