Monday, August 22, 2011

Guest Post: Amy Garvey Talks Imagery

Amy Garvey is the author of Cold Kiss, which comes out next month from HarperTeen. I've had the pleasure of reading her book and one of the things I was most impressed with was Amy's absolutely incredible ability to paint a picture. She uses imagery in beautiful and haunting ways, that could pull me into a scene in a way I've never experienced before.

So I was thrilled when she agreed to do a guest post for us, showing us just how she uses this skill of hers. Basically, I gave Amy a very simple sentence and she gave us an example of imagery to spice the sentence up a bit. We hope you enjoy it. 

Also, be sure to add Cold Kiss to your to-be-read lists. You won't want to miss this one! 

You can find Amy online at: Goodreads / Blog / Twitter

Guest Post: 

Trees blowing in the wind.

The tree’s bony fingers scraped at the sky every time the wind gusted.

Condensation on the side of a glass of water.

He stared at the glass instead of answering her, watching as it dripped wet pearls onto the table.

Quickly typing on a computer/phone.

She hit reply, fingers stuttering her outrage on the keyboard.

A child singing.

Each bright note was a balloon, drifting up and away. 

A lone car in a parking lot/driveway.

At the far end of the parking lot, an ancient van crouched under the trees in nothing but gray primer, every dent exposed.  

A dog/cat wagging its tail.

The dog ran up to him, tail swishing like a demented windshield wiper.

Flames in fire.

She threw the locket into the hearth and watched as tendrils of flame circled it, a furious halo. 


Above are seven unconnected things Cindy asked me to play with for the sake of imagery. 

Boy, was that harder than I thought it would be. 

I love imagery, and I love to use it in my writing. But the above looks almost too purple too me, too descriptive, because I never use that much imagery all in one place. Imagery is like salt. Use it properly and it flavors and intensifies the whole dish. Use too much of it and the meal is inedible. 

It’s useful, though, because it shows that you can use imagery almost anywhere, and in a lot of different ways. Take the child singing. My emphasis was on the sound – the notes are “bright balloons” which are “drifting up and away”. But someone else might have used imagery to describe the child herself – the shape of her open mouth, maybe, or whether she was nervous. That’s the beauty of imagery – it calls out the places in your scene where you’re looking for an emotional response. 

Do you think the sound of the child’s voice is happy? Sad? Good or bad? The notes are “bright,” don’t forget. If you wanted to describe a kid really mangling “America the Beautiful,” you might say something like “each note was a weight, crashing to the ground.” 

Look at the dog’s tail. Imagery can do more than make your scenes prettier. If you’re calling a dog’s tail “a demented windshield wiper,” you definitely have opinions about at least that particular dog. (And probably a sense of humor, too.) When you’re writing in third person, it’s another way to take the perspective a little deeper, by echoing the protagonist’s voice or personality. 

This is a great exercise for anyone who writes. From right here at my desk, I see a dozen things I could use imagery to describe: a stack of unread books, a sleeping cat, another stack of unread books, a manuscript to revise, another stack of unread books …


  1. Excellent post! I love it when examples are given and then makes things so much easier to understand!

  2. Excellent!!! I loved this post!!

  3. Great post! I'm really looking forward to Cold Kiss now!

  4. I really love what you can do with words, Amy. This is so beautiful. I may use some of these examples for my sophomores this week!

    Thanks for posting!

    -Jenna @ Fans of Fiction



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