Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Understanding Imagery

Why is it that some books affect us long after the last page is turned, yet other books, while a good story, are put down without a second thought?

Both have a rocking plot, great characters, and a ton of action. So why, then, is one so riveting and the other one not?

It seems lately that I've read a rash of books that fall in the latter category. Great storyline, wonderful characters, and yet I didn't enjoy it enough to read it again.

And then I realized it's not the storyline, it's the way the story is written.

If you've read this blog for a while you know I'm a nut for imagery. To me, reading a good story without descriptive words is like watching a movie with the sound turned down. We see the action, but we aren't pulled into the experience.


For those that don't know, imagery is a literary device in which words appeal to the senses. It's at the heart of the infamous show, don't tell. More importantly, it's what makes us feel as if we are in the story, experiencing what our beloved characters experience.


Below are two excerpts of the same scene. One uses imagery, one does not. 


Excerpt one:

Early morning light shone over the forest as the carriage went down the road. Up ahead, an old woman stood. Her hair was white, and her shoulders were slumped.

"Don't worry," I whispered. "Help is on the way."


Just then, the king's soldiers rode up.


Excerpt two: 

Yellow and orange brushed the landscape encasing the carriage in a snarl of shadows. The horses snorted and sidled, growing nervous as small frame stood in the open road. The woman’s shoulders slumped with age; her wild, white hair fell to her waist in a thick, tangled mess. She leaned on a twisted cane, keeping her head bowed.

"Don't worry," I whispered. "Help is on the way."

The thunder of hooves crescendoed and slowed; the king's soldiers came into view.


Now I ask you, which one would you rather read? 

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