Archive of Articles about Writing

Improving your imagery

One of the most common pieces of advice you will see is to use all five senses. Writers tend to rely on the visual almost exclusively. It is a good idea though, to think about how things smell, taste, sound and feel. You can train this by training yourself to write without visual descriptions. If you leave visuals out, you force yourself to think in terms of the other senses. If you do this long enough, you should eventually turn this into a habit. Once you are used to including the other four senses, you can work visuals back in. Then you can work on the quality of your modifiers.

Not all modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) are created equally. There are really two types of these modifiers, the descriptive and the evaluative. A descriptive modifier provides information without judgment (or with just a little judgment). Evaluative modifiers provide judgment over information. If you say that a dessert was “sugary” you are describing the taste. If you say the dessert was “delicious”, you are evaluating the taste. Evaluative modifiers are less interesting and evocative to the reader than descriptive modifiers.

The next key to improving your imagery originality, which is usually a product of specificity. Specificity separates your images from other poet’s imagery. When you are creating an image for your poem, ask yourself what information you can give that will differentiate your image from everyone else’s description of that image. Find your own way to describe something. Don’t rely on what has been done before.

When you are editing your poem, concentrate on eliminating any tired descriptions from your work. If you think you have heard a description before, the chances are pretty good that you have, and so has your reader. Find a way to change it and make it your own.

Today’s Poetry Prompt

Find an original way to describe a chair and make that the first line of your poem.