This post originally appeared at http://www.teleosis.org.
While it may be true that an image or picture can be worth a thousand words, in our less quantitative approach to narrative healing, an image is that which the words bring to mind – the picture that the words conjure for a reader or listener – which we’ll say more about below.
Imagery – the presence and function of images in a narrative is at the heart of the “show, don’t tell” directive for writers and it beckons us to write “Heart pounding, palms sweating, I slowly turned the doorknob…” as opposed to “I was really, really scared.” Imagery in writing allows us to feel in our bodies what we might otherwise only be able to understand with our minds. It takes our abstract notions of fear, joy, love, anger, confusion, rage, empathy, bliss, anxiety, doubt, contentment, certainty – any and all of the emotions or states of mind with which we may be familiar, and translates them into concrete, sensory language.
While the abstraction gets us into the vicinity of what we’re trying to express, the image drops us into its essence – we can see, feel, taste, touch or smell what the idea itself suggests. Anger becomes a clenched fist; love appears as the young woman cradling her newborn. And just to be clear, in this particular context, we are not even considering the prospect of the image as metaphor – used to represent one thing as or through another (stay tuned for metaphor in future narrative tradecraft writings). Continue reading