Time for another writing lesson! Today we will focus on IMAGE! It is the Energizer Bunny for your writing! Artists deal in color and composition; musicians deal in pretty sounds; dancers deal in movement…but WRITERS deal in the abstract medium of WORDS.
Writing as an art begins when we surrender ourselves to the world of IMAGES. Images tantalize the senses and call up pictures in the mind. You, as a writer, must help the reader SEE, HEAR, SMELL, TASTE, and FEEL a scene.
Now, pretend we’re going on a camping trip. If you don’t like camping, pretend you do and come along anyway. Wipe that frown off your face! This is FUN! It’s a writing camp…and you get to choose where to set up your tent.
On one side of the meadow, there is the FLAT campground…for lame and boring writers. On the other side next to a roaring river is the VIVID campground. It’s exciting…and has licorice! Yum!
If you choose to set up in the FLAT campground, I must bid you adieu! There you will write many abstractions and generalizations, and put people to sleep. Yawn! Instead of appealing to the senses, you will offer judgments and preach-amonies. In the FLAT camp, you will be surrounded by politicians and lawyers (they are good at FLAT writing—for they don’t like their readers to have a clear VISION of what they’re saying. They might then be held to it…and heaven forbid!)
In the FLAT WRITING camp, you’ll hear phrases like: “I find it best to consider consequences before proceeding in any endeavor.”
AGH! Nightmare on Elm Street. HELP! When you see those types of abstract thoughts in your writing…scream and run away! They are Freddy Krueger phrases! Make an ugly face to show you don’t like ‘em…then replace those weak abstractions with sensory images and action verbs. Before old Freddy can take the knife to your writing career, use it on him instead! Cut those dull abstractions out so that your writing won’t fall FLAT on its face!
When you take time to do this, you’ve transferred your tent over to the VIVID campground. YEA! Your writing will come alive here…like Pinocchio! With the river roaring in the background, you’ll hear people shout, “Look before you leap!” And with that vision called to mind, your eyes widen and you know you’ve got the perfect camping spot as you take a bite of your Twizzler!
Basically it all boils down to SHOWING, not TELLING. I know it’s called storytelling—but a good storyteller is actually a storyshower! (I made that word up and am ignoring the spell check that tells me it’s wrong…author’s license.)
Have you ever heard of the limbic system? It has nothing to do with how limber you are (which I’m not). It’s actually the part of your brain that processes all data taken in through the five senses. You see, smell, hear, taste or touch something, and the limbic system generates intense responses in your body. Your heart rate might soar, your muscles might tighten, you might nervously bite all your nails off (Yikes…that really just happened to me!). These kind of emotional responses only happen when information is taken in by the limbic system.
So, your goal when you write is to do all you can with the 5 SENSES so that your reader’s limbic system goes crazy! Then you’ll know you’ve reached them at an emotional level…and that just makes me want to cry for JOY! Success!
Take your writing out of limbo…and go for limbic! Energize with sensory images and smash the flat campground into the ground (and all those Freddy Krueger abstractions with it). You’ll be glad you did.