Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 12, 2010

8 Tips For Writing Compelling Imagery

I would like to introduce you to C. Patrick Schulze and his blog The Business of Writing. Even though Patrick has not accomplished his goal of selling his novels, yet, he has taken the time to learn the craft of writing.

He says, “With my first manuscript, I learned to create compelling characters and the use of conflict. My second taught me how to pen that good story onto paper and the power in effective dialogue. My current manuscript has heightened my command of the craft and taught me how to work within the writers’ industry.”

That statement tells you a lot. To me it says, “I know I am learning; with each step I am getting closer to my goal and I will continue to improve my craft, until no one can deny the quality of my writing – success will be mine.”

It reminds me of Jerry Spinelli and his quest to get published. He wrote for 15 years, even everyday during his lunch hour to find the time. During that time he wrote 5 novels, none of them ever published, before he got his first contract. I asked him if he ever thought he would try to resurrect them, now that everyone wants to read his books. His answer was, “No, those books taught me how to write.”

It is very hard to not run out and a submit the first thing you write, but most of us have to take our time and focus on developing our skills, just like Jerry did and Patrick is doing.

Here are 8 tips that Patrick has on his blog about writing compelling imagery.

Paint your verbal pictures in nibbles more than great gulps of information. This means you should avoid writing descriptions of setting in long narratives. A rule, and we all know rules are created for us to break, says to put no more than two sentences together when describing your scene. Try not to fall into the trap where long descriptions will draw your reader’s attention from the main story.

Use your characters’ senses. The following example will demonstrate this concept. Once inside, he noticed a soft clanging that drifted through the building. It sounded somewhat like someone hammered on bronze. He tiptoed farther in and noticed an odor waft up from beneath the floorboards. Old food, perhaps?

Pepper dialogue with imagery. That is to say you might consider allowing your characters to impart images of things happening when they speak. “I can’t seem to stop these goose bumps from rising, no matter what I do.”

Use verbs that convey action. Words such as twirled, jumped, scurried or plotted show action by their very nature.

Use adverbs that convey action. An example might be a character’s shredded credit card. “Shredded” shows an action but is used to describe the noun. Another example is a groaning piece of equipment.

Use ordinary things in other than ordinary ways. For example, what about using an automobile to pull a tow truck or having a car chase a dog?

Think small. Have your characters take note of some of the smallest of details in your setting. Could you make use of the tiny nubs on the treads of a new tire? When might you point out the indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle? Can you imagine ever employing the scratches on a cell phone screen in your novel?

Click here to read the whole post.  Patrick has some examples.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.



  1. Thanks for using my article, Kathy. Very kind of you.

    I’ve now linked to your blog on mine. I hope it helps in some small way to build your presence.

    C. Patrick Schulze


  2. Patrick,

    My pleasure. Thanks for the link. Good luck, but I know you are going to be very successful.



  3. Hey, Kathy (and C.!),

    This is great stuff and a very helpful way of looking at writing. There are some “rules” I don’t remember reading about, and I’ve done a LOT of reading about writing! It just goes to show you—you can learn something new every day!

    Thanks to both of you 🙂


    • Donna,

      I see you are coming to the conference. That’s great! I’m happy you will be there.



      • Thanks, Kathy! I’m happy I’ll be there too! I REALLY can’t WAIT!!!!!!!!!


  4. Interesting, but disturbed by the reference to an adverb. My first reaction is, no, that’s an adjective!(“shredded” before “credit card.” So I went to grammar girl to check it out:
    And, yes, for those of you like me who need a reminder, a word that modifies an adjective is an adverb. BUT, is shredded modifying credit or card? I would say card, therefore shredded is an adjective.

    So perhaps the title should be: Use verbs as adjectives. 😉


    • Sue,

      Now that I think about it, I think you are right and he also says, it modifies the noun. So he would have to agree.



    • I see “credit card” as the whole noun, though “credit” is the “type” of card, and to me, “shredded” is an adjective, not that I’m an expert! lol


  5. Kathy,

    And obviously, you’ll be at the conference, too. Will be fun to connect there.

    Did I ever tell you I lived in NJ for 11 months many years ago?



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