Imagine That!

From my forthcoming book, A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Fiction for Young Adults. E & E Publishing.

A number of years ago, when I was shopping in the journal section of Barnes & Noble, I saw some small notebooks with colorful covers. I opened one and rejoiced in the satiny, empty pages. I bought two. One is my Word Notebook, the other is my Image Notebook. No, they are not journals. They are simply blank pages waiting for words.

That night, I began writing a word or expression at the top of each page in the Word Notebook. I recorded something that made me laugh or sigh, something that filled my thoughts with images to write about. I wrote such words as gibbous moon, zepher, a soughing wind, dandelion clocks, sawny, and quark. Each word filled my imagination with sensory images, and my pen filled each page with sentences, paragraphs, poems featuring that word. I still record new words, tantalizing words, words that make pictures in my mind and fill my senses with warmth and humor.

The second book is my Image Notebook. For me, sensory details combine to create images – word pictures that conjure up memories of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. These are of two kinds: (1) an image that contents the reader by comforting, reminding, satisfying; or (2) an image that challenges the reader by combining sensory details that are not usually linked, thereby tweaking him out of complacency and enabling him to experience unexpected word pleasures.

Here is an example of Image # 1 from the poem Star Search:

We counted stars and named their patterns

zillions of twinkles

like Fourth of July sparklers

in the night-blue sky.

            It is a simple description likening twinkling stars to sparklers and using the inversion “night-blue” to enhance the image. (Noun followed by adjective rather than the usual adjective plus noun.)

            Here is an example of Image # 2 from the same poem:

Looking at stars today is not the same

as when we were kids,

thinking they were forever.

We didn’t notice while they all dried up and blew away.

            This description is more complicated. Stars do not dry up and blow away. The reader knows this, yet is jolted out of reality into the world of metaphor. The result is an unexpected visual image and enhanced enjoyment

Star Search


Marilyn Cram-Donahue


4 responses to “Imagine That!

  1. Marilyn, as far as I’m concerned, you are THE QUEEN of imagery!

  2. Shirley Shibley

    Amazing example that put my thinker to work. I can hardly wait to get my hands on your YA book!


  3. Thank you both. How wonderful it is to have encouraging friends!

  4. Wow! What wonderful thought provoking images. Thanks for today’s lesson.

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