Creating Imagery - Part 2

When we use imagery in creative fiction, it’s not just description, simile or metaphor that makes it work. Writers can employ other imagery skills such as assonance, alliteration and structure in order to make their writing vivid.

Assonance and alliteration are other tools at the writer’s disposal. Assonance is basically the sound of the words you create, the sound of the vowels in the sentences you write, working well together. Think of poetry, the way verses almost sound like music. This is assonance, and it works just as well within prose. 

Here’s an example of simple assonance: ‘He stared at the moon; his thoughts fraught with fear and caught in a swell...’

The words ‘thought’, ‘fraught’ and ‘caught’ give the sentence assonance because they sound similar.  Not only that, but 'fraught with fear' contains assonance, and when strung together with 'caught in a swell', both phrases conjure clear images in the reader's imagination.

Alliteration is the repetition of sounds in words too, for instance, ‘Sing a song of sixpence.’

Assonance and alliteration don’t come naturally to writers because they’re not something we consciously think about when writing, but with practice, both assonance and alliteration can make your prose come alive and it can make your descriptions sparkle. It makes the mundane seem marvellous. 

For example:  ‘The trickle of the stream melted the ice...’
This is mundane and boring, but if you add assonance, then you could have this:

‘The trickle of the stream seemed strained and it softly stressed against the melting ice...’

Stream, seemed, strained, softly, stressed
. They all begin with ‘S’ and they all sound the same when strung together, they are all describing something about the stream. This is assonance and alliteration at work, and when interlaced within ordinary description like this it creates a deeper sense of imagery.

The use of assonance helps the writer produce narrative that is fluid, clear and brings a sense of poetry, but it also engages the reader on a much deeper level because the writer is conveying not just an image, but also a whole concept.

Both assonance and alliteration also rely on the right word order. It you don’t choose the right words or you don’t put them together carefully, then it won’t work. No assonance means little chance of conveying the right image to the reader. The connotations of what you want to say may not always work. This is where practice comes into its own.

If you are going to create assonance, think of the image you want to convey, think of the words that might work to support it, and think how fluid they are within the sentence. 

Like everything else in fiction, tools for creating imagery, like assonance, are there to use every now and then within the narrative. A writer must decide when and how to employ them; too much can make the prose seem over flowery, too little and your narrative might appear flat and boring. This is why structure is important when creating imagery using metaphor, simile and assonance.

Conveying meanings of imagery – this depends how well you write description. The imagery you create depends on the meaning you want to convey. Remember, you don’t have to hit the reader over the head with a mallet to make those meanings known. Subtle works better. Descriptive flourishes like metaphor, simile or assonance enables the writer to garnish descriptions with these little touches. They are designed to lure and tease the reader into the story.
  • What images do you want to emphasise?
  • What message are you trying to convey?
  • Does it create a sense of immediacy?
  • Do the words you have chosen flow fluidly?
  • Assonance - do the words work together?
  • Be imaginative with metaphor and simile – are they fresh and new?
  • Can you make the reader look beyond the words on the page?
By using these simple tools, you as a writer will be able to create a sense of immediacy with the reader because you are involving the reader on several levels within the story. They want to pick up your story and read much deeper than the words on the page. If they can do that, then you have succeeded in your job as a writer.
Next week: The Greek Unities – time, action and place.


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