Five Tips for Improving Imagery in Writing

by Christine Chadwick

Though we're not all poets, most of us have been asked to write creatively in an educational setting. English classes from primary school onward encourage students to write in a descriptive manner using techniques involving imagery. If you struggle with writing in this fashion, read on for five tips on how to improve your use of imagery in writing.

1. Use Similes and Metaphors

Including literary devices like similes and metaphors is a great way to make your writing more engaging to read. Similes and metaphors compare things. You can create a mental image with your sentences, like this one: The cat slinked across the wet pavement. Using a simile allows you to juxtapose two images with the same idea: The cat slinked across the wet pavement like a thread unwinding from a spool. Remove the word "like", and you have a metaphor: The cat, a thread unwinding from a spool, slinked across the wet pavement.

2. Engage the Senses

The way we take in our world is powerful and often involves all five senses. When describing a scene, try engaging as many of the reader's senses as possible. Think of what the location you're writing about smells like. What are the sounds you might hear? What does the air in the room feel like? Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers. Describing a setting through the senses is an easy and effective way to draw a reader into your work.

3. Be Sparing with Your Words

Try not to "information dump" with imagery in your writing. Although describing the look of a tree using several colours is helpful, try limiting it to one or two. Oftentimes with imagery, less is more. Overcrowding your descriptions with adjectives and adverbs can make your work feel heavy and confusing. If you include fewer images in your writing, the ones you do include will resonate more powerfully with your readers.

4. Connect with the Writing

This age-old piece of advice remains a useful one for many struggling writers. Whenever you can, try to write about somewhere or something with which you are familiar. This is not always possible in English classes because you must write about literature that may seem unrelated to your life. If this is the case, try to delve deeper into the ways the work relates to you. Perhaps you know someone in your real life who resembles Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. If you write an essay on this book, relating to it in a personal way can make the task easier.

5. Don't Forget the Little Things

Giving readers a sense of the big picture of what you're writing is helpful, but don't forget to include the smaller details in your words. Perhaps your poem or story takes place in a room with one window. Even if much light doesn't come in through the glass panes, describe it. You can always change these tiny details later as you edit your work.

If you focus on these five tips and still feel your writing lacks compelling imagery, ask your English teacher or a PRIVATE ENGLISH TUTOR for help.