What is descriptive imagery? I believe it was Robert Louis Stevenson who once said: “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.” Have you ever read a scene in a book that was so vivid, so clearly detailed and precisely described, that you felt like you were there? Like you could close your eyes and be transported into this moment of the story, see what the characters or the narrator is seeing, hear the sounds, feel the sensations, maybe even smell the aromas? If so, then that writer was using effective descriptive imagery. There are numerous ways to achieve this effect, but the most basic way is to use sensory descriptions. That is, relate elements of the scene back to our five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. Many of the things you will describe this way are easy to relate to because, as people, we have all experienced a lot of similar sensations. The caress of a warm summer night's breeze, for example, or the gentle drumming of drops of rain beginning to fall against the window. Why is descriptive imagery important? Re-read the examples I posed earlier: The caress of a warm summer night's breeze, for example, or the gentle drumming of drops of rain beginning to fall against the window. Did you feel like either of those examples invoked an image, or that you knew precisely what that felt or sounded like, or if you didn't know, you could imagine it? If so, then that means it was an effective use of imagery. If you say you didn't experience those things, then you're lying I need to come up with better examples. Everyone always has room to improve! But contrast how drastically the feel of the sentences change if you remove the imagery: - There was some wind. OR - It started to rain. Those may seem like oversimplifications, but I kid you not I have seen people roleplay and write like that. How strong was the wind? What did it feel like? Or for the rain example, how hard was it raining? Where is the narrator or the character while it's raining? These details are left out, and so the reader is forced to guess the specifics, or worse, to make up his/her own. If your reader has to fill in the gaps on what a scene looks or feels or sounds like, two things happen: - First, the message is lost; often the exact emotion of a scene isn't conveyed to the reader if those subtle cues aren't there. - Second, you risk losing your reader's attention or interest when they realize that the scene they've created in their mind isn't quite like the scene you're describing. Sometimes we don't even consciously realize this is happening, but when we register that we aren't seeing the story the same way the writer wants us to, we begin to feel disconnected. We don't want these things to happen. We want our readers (in our particular case, our RP partners) to feel engaged and immersed in the story. We want them to feel invested in it. This is especially important as roleplayers, because our reader's interest level directly affects us. If our partners are interested, they are more likely to continue to RP with us! We accomplish this in a variety of different ways, but one of them is with great imagery. So how do I use descriptive imagery? We start with sensory descriptions. When describing a scene, consider what a person in that scene would be able to hear, smell, feel, see, and even taste. Add those details in your descriptions and watch as the scene you've just written about begins to actually unfold and materialize in your reader's imagination! Well, not literally watch, anyway. You can't see that happening. Additionally, imagery does not always have to be about describing an environment. While it is most commonly used for that purpose, imagery can also be used to convey body language that suggests what the character is feeling, thinking or doing at that moment. Diana held an excellent exercise on body language that you can use as a reference. For more in-depth reading, much good imagery also utilizes literary techniques to help us understand a description better. Some of the most common techniques used in imagery are metaphor, simile, and personification (and sometimes allusion). I won't go into those techniques in depth, but some very good explanations of them can be found here: - Metaphor - Simile - Personification - Allusion Understanding and utilizing these techniques will not only improve your roleplay, but it will also carry over into your normal writing, and may even affect your speaking and conversational ability because you'll realize that you communicate better! And in this world, communication is everything. Exercise! This is a totally optional exercise. I don't want to take up more of your time (if you've gotten this far, thank you for reading! I really do appreciate you taking the time). But if you would like to give it a go, I will provide you with a very, VERY basic skeleton of a scene. Come up with the details, and describe them in detail! If you can, even convey or foreshadow the emotion of the scene using as much description as possible. I want you to OVER-describe, because only by going too far can you really know where the "just right" line is. Here is your scene: Here is your task! (Move your mouse to reveal the content) Here is your task! (open) Here is your task! (close) One or two characters (you decide how many) stand atop a cliff. That's it. You fill in the details! In one or two paragraphs (or more if you feel inspired), describe the scene in detail. Where are they? Where is this cliff? What is around it? What do the characters see? What do they smell? Hear, feel, taste? What is the emotion of the scene and how can the imagery of the scene reflect or complement that emotion? Again I want you to OVER DESCRIBE! Try to use as little dialogue as possible (though of course some dialogue is acceptable), and try not to cheat by looking at other people's responses! GO!