Voice Lesson 3

Lesson 3: Imagery

Hello, and welcome to lesson 3!

Imagery is defined as: visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work.

This element is a lot like details in that what we describe is consistent with our character’s point of view. So, our character might say that the sundae she was eating was a volcano of ice cream with a river of hot fudge lava pouring down the sides. Or he might say that the sundae was a blob of sugar-ladened frozen cream.

Consider this paragraph:
“She looked into the distance and the old terror flamed up for an instant, then sank again. Edna heard her father’s voice and her sister Margaret’s. She heard the barking of an old dog that was chained to the sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry officer clanged as he walked across the porch. There was the hum of bees and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.”
~Kate Chopin

What visual images come to your mind when reading this paragraph? How do those images contribute to the mood of the story? Do you not only see, but hear and smell too?

Sensory details, which we’ll talk about more in a later lesson, contribute to imagery too.

Now take this example:
It was a mine town, uranium mostly. Dust devils whirled sand off the mountains. Even after the heaviest of rains, the water seeped back into the ground, between stones, and the earth was parched again.
~Linda Hogan

This excerpt is all visual, but what clear images we get! The choices of words like parched, seeped, and whirled help to bring the images to mind. But what do we feel when we read this? I get a sense of poverty, of despair. Imagery can not only bring the reader into the story by creating mental pictures, but it can also evoke the feeling of the story. Make your words do double duty. Create images, mood, and emotion too.

As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair
In leprosy; thin, dry blades pricked the mud
Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood.
One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
Stood stupefied, however he came there:
Thrust out past service from the devil’s stud!
~Robert Browning

Write a short paragraph describing a scene where your character is afraid. Use imagery to create mood and evoke mental pictures in the reader.