Give Your Novel Lasting Imagery
Creating visceral imagery is always a subject worth revisiting as a reminder to writers for their stories to leave a lasting impression with their readers and open the door to reading more of their work.
Novels are meant to leave an impression. The imagery you use is important not just for the story, but for the reader, because that’s the kind of thing that makes the story memorable – it remains in their subconscious.
Strong imagery conveys a sense of the story, the characters and the entire scene. This is drawn from vivid description, where we create the kind of lasting images that will stay with the reader. The strength of your description is what creates lasting imagery and emphasises the story and characters; the very thing that lifts them from the page.
Some writers are visceral with the way they show imagery, some writers like their narrative raw, while others are subtle in the way the engage words, emotions and senses to bring the reader into a deeper level of the story. This also depends on the genre – horror stories will be more visceral than thriller stories, for instance.
Readers remember the ankle hobbling scene from Stephen King’s Misery because it’s truly visceral – the horror taps into our minds and we can feel the pain and fear it creates. It gives us lasting imagery, delivered in a gritty, shocking way. How could we forget it?
A more subtle approach can be found in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This story is full of imagery; the descriptions of colour she uses to describe a room – the yellow wallpaper in particular – which acts as her cage, combined with human traits of emotion, help create a sense of emotional foreboding and oppression and mental anguish, which never leaves the reader.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne uses imagery as seen through the eyes of a child, especially when describing the concentration camp, with no greenery, dirt tracks and smoke stacks in the distance, compared to his house next door, with its lawn and bright flowers. Death sits next door – this is a stark image, because the reader knows what it means, yet the boy doesn’t.
Creating the right imagery is all about using the right words to convey an image and its context, and to make the story memorable. It connects the reader with the story, so how we describe things can evoke the reader’s senses – the right image can create a lasting emotional or psychological impact.
This is why description is so important.
To give your novel lasting imagery, remember to heighten mood and atmosphere with your words. Layer your descriptions. Let the reader feel each scene. This is why we show and don’t tell with the use colours, shapes, contrasts, metaphors, motifs and symbolism, and even the senses.
A balanced mix of these elements lifts important scenes from the page and makes them real enough for the reader to react – they leave an impression. They make an impact.
Be vivid, be subtle, be shocking...but whatever your descriptions, make them stand out.