How to Create Powerful Imagery

All good poets and story-tellers know that creating compelling imagery is one of the keys to producing literature that draws your reader in. You want your reader to have a powerful, multi-sensory response to your writing. You want your them to be able to see it, hear it, smell it, taste it and even feel it.

But how?

I’ve always found the task of creating powerful imagery in my writing, quite a challenging one. I have tended to be a ‘provider of facts’ rather than a ‘painter of pictures,’ in my written work.

But that all changed one day.

It just so happened that my eight year old daughter was doing a unit of work at school on poetry. One day, she came home with a simple graphic organizer to help her create word pictures, so that she can write her own poems. I was intrigued.

It was called a Y-Chart. And it looks something like this:

I thought this idea was cute, but I didn’t really think it would be particularly helpful — that was until I sat down with her and started working with the Y-Chart to create a poem about thunderstorms.

At the end of the exercise, my daughter had an array of vivid and powerful word pictures that she was then able to weave together into a really great poem that even an adult would be proud of.

I thought to myself, “If this works for my eight year old, then perhaps I should give it a try as well.” I took my daughters Y-Chart and added and extra quadrant for the sense of smell (you may also choose to add one for taste) and behold, I produced the X-Chart. It looks something like this:

I then began to use this simple graphic organizer to help me develop imagery for my poems and stories. Even though it is incredibly simple, it proved to be incredibly useful as well. I found that after spending some time with the X-Chart, when it came time to write out my poems or stories in full, I had a range of ready-made phrases and descriptors that were good to go.

For example, some time ago, I wanted to write a poem about what it felt like to be in limbo — you know, that awful place where you are waiting on something and you can’t move on with your life until you have an answer. It could be a medical diagnosis, or the outcome of a job interview or even something more challenging. Being in limbo is never a good feeling. So, I sat down the with X-Chart and began to make notes. Here is my completed X-Chart.

At the end of my X-Chart, I had a generated a really good metaphor likening being in limbo to being stranded on an island. I borrowed many of the phrases and images from my X-Chart to put together a poem. Here is a link to that finished poem: Limbo Land

One more example: For another poem that I was working on, I wanted to create a powerful picture of what it might be like to be on a tall sailing ship. So, I sat down again with my X-Chart. Here it is:

I used this X-Chart to set the scene for a narrative piece called Call Me Captain. The feedback that I often receive about this poem is how easy it is to imagine being in the story. I take that as an absolute compliment!

So there you have it! I promised you a simple tool and here it is: The X-Chart! If you want to create more powerful imagery in your writing, then give it a go! You might just find it helpful, like I did!

Happy writing!

P.S. If you’d like a PDF Copy of the X-Chart, then by all means send me a message! This isn’t a shameless plug. I am genuinely happy to share!

Previously published on writingcooperative

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Photo credit: unsplash