Writers Escort Readers to New Worlds A Technique for Imagery

by Brenda Mahler 7 days ago in advice

A Technique for Imagery

Writers Escort Readers to New Worlds A Technique for Imagery
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

When I relax with a book, I want it to escort me into another world so completely that my body shivers from the chilling winter winds and usher me past the words on the page to visualize individual snowflakes drifting to the ground as they gather into a mound of frozen moisture. All sounds around me should be drowned out by the deafening silence on the pages, interrupted by character’s voices and then shocked by the crack of the great oak when it breaks under the weight of the accumulated ice built up from days of storms.

A book that captivates my being offers a description of a meal so precise that my stomach becomes both bloated and insatiable as the aromas of delicacies float from the writing to tease me without pulling me away from the story. Engagement occurs when I enter the scene, not as a character in the action, as one in the crowd who watches from outside the window that has been opened by the text.

Great books blur the lines between reality and fiction. Their memories invade sleep with dreams that continue the events. They generate pictures in my mind, whisper subliminal messages, deposit scents on the fabrics and overwhelm my taste buds even after the book lay abandoned and life continues.

Imagery is the ability to a writer to infuse the five senses throughout the words thus creating a picture in the reader’s mind so vividly that they smell, taste, touch, hear, and see all aspects of the story.

Few writers naturally create stunning pictures on paper with their words. This craft takes practice and patience. Sometimes what appears seamless sprouts from messy drafts and revisions that proceeded the final which the reader consumes.

A common relaxation technique can be practiced enhancing a writer’s descriptive writing. Explore this writing strategy by thinking of a favorite place. The process requires you to revisit a memory in your mind and scribe after each reflection. Through each prewriting activity, ideas will gather to craft a detailed description.

Read each exercise and then write uncensored for one moment to complete the exercise. You will be amazed at the description you uncover and pull from the depths of your subconscious.

Exercise 1

Picture your favorite place. Write it down on a piece of paper — there is no backing out now. In a moment, you will close your eyes and visualize yourself in this place. Read through the list of questions.

  • Where are you in the setting?
  • Are you sitting? Standing? Moving?
  • What is above you?
  • A ceiling? Sky? Somebody?
  • What is below you?
  • A soft bed? Dry, crusty dirt? Water?
  • When you rotate in place, what do you see?
  • Animate or inanimate objects? Movement? Nature?

Now, close your eyes and visit this place. After looking around and absorbing the surrounding, write and describe what you see as specifically as possible. Come back to me when you finish.

Exercise 2

In a moment, you will return to your special place. Before you leave, think about what you hear now: A clock ticking? Music? A dog scratching? Children outside? When you begin to write, it should not be a list of what you hear but a description. Is the clock’s tick a slow, constant reminder of time passing or a loud, annoying beat like a drum assaulting your senses? Does the music create a soothing, relaxing effect or a rhythm commanding your foot to tap and pushing your body to boogie? What is the dog’s goal to rid itself of fleas, or uncover the morsel of food caught under the rug? Are the children dribbling a basketball, arguing, or screaming during a high stakes game of capture the flag?

Again, close your eyes and transport yourself to another place and listen. Identify speakers, pay attention to volume, pitch and speed. I’ll be here waiting.

Exercise 3

This is getting easier. Be careful to isolate the sense being observed. Forcing awareness on one sense at a time will strengthen the description. The next time you close your eyes think about the tastes associated with this place. No, you don’t lick the walls or take a bite of the furniture. If food is present, it is easy. If there is no food, think about emotions, actions, expectations; things that might influence taste buds. For example, salty perspiration, the dry, cotton mouth that accompanies fear, the grainy, smutty taste of earth when tackled.

You know what to do; go visit, visualize, and write.

Exercise 4

Just when the activities got easier, it is time to explore the sense of smell. Aromas can be elusive. Sometimes descriptive words for other senses can be used for example: offensive, sweet, overpowering, comforting, delicate, intoxicating, or sour. Another effective strategy is to compare a smell to something familiar like the scent of flowers or decaying food.

It’s your turn to describe the setting of a favorite place. Take a moment to revisit it in your mind and then write.

Exercise 5

The sense of touch might be the most sensitive but at the same time the most overlooked. Our bodies are constantly assaulted by items we brush against, pick up, bump into, and breeze past. Unless pain or pleasure is associated with a touch, it probably remains unnoticed. A wealth of adjectives exist to express how things feel, but the writer’s challenge is to determine how to develop a description to produce the most impact on the reader. Furthermore, emotions create feelings that fashion tactile sensations.

As you vicariously explore your favorite place one last time pay attention to how you feel. Close your eyes, extend your arms and imagine what your hands might touch or caress. Move around the setting and be aware of how your body responds in this environment. Then write.


It is the writer’s responsibility to carry the reader into a new world and allow them to experience everything it has to offer. Through this activity, you pulled up memories and pictures from a past encounter. On the page you have recorded those recollections, and they are ready to be molded into a detailed description.

If this activity sparks something great, post it in the comments. I would love to travel with you to your special place.

Brenda Mahler
Brenda Mahler
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Brenda Mahler

You are invited to my blog, I AM My Best. I write stories about life experiences: teaching, mental health, parenting, dealing with illnesses and death, and some politics.

See all posts by Brenda Mahler