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Imagery: Definition, How It Works & Examples In Writing

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When you read a book, watch a movie, or look at a painting, what do you see?

Chances are, you see imagery. Imagery is one of the devices used by writers that employs words to create pictures in the mind of the reader.

In this article, we will discuss what imagery is, how it works, and why writers use it.

We will also provide examples of imagery so you can see how to use it.

What Is Imagery?

Imagery is the use of descriptive language to evoke emotions or senses.

It works for many types of content to invoke any of the five senses.

Also Known As:

  • Imagination
  • Mental imagery
  • Representation

Simple Definition: How To Explain Imagery to a Child

Imagery is one of the oldest and most powerful tools in a writer’s toolbox.

Writers use it to create sensory details, making the reader feel as if they’re experiencing the scene, character, or plot first-hand.

Why Is Imagery Used?

Imagery creates a certain mood or atmosphere. Use it with these purposes in mind.

  • To make the reader feel a certain way
  • To help set the scene
  • To establish character traits
  • To advance the plot

Types of Imagery

There are five main types of imagery, corresponding to the five senses.

  • Auditory Imagery: Auditory imagery appeals to the reader’s sense of hearing. You can use it to evoke sound effects, music, or dialogue.
  • Gustatory Imagery: Here is a type of imagery that deals with taste. It is often used to describe the taste of food or drink. You can also use it to evoke other tastes, such as the taste of metal or the taste of blood.
  • Olfactory Imagery: Using this imagery type, you will appeal to the reader’s sense of smell. It can help you create smells like roses or the stench of a garbage dump.
  • Tactile Imagery: Tactile imagery is imagery dealing with the sense of touch. Use it to describe how something feels, such as the softness of a kitten’s fur or the roughness of sandpaper.
  • Visual Imagery: With this type of imagery, use words to create pictures in the reader’s mind. It is the most common form of imagery. Many writers use it to describe anything from colors and shapes to movement.

How Do You Identify Imagery?

When looking for imagery in a text, look for language that includes adjectives and adverbs, as well as metaphors and similes.

How Do You Use Imagery in a Sentence?

To use imagery in a sentence, start by thinking about which of your five senses you want to use.

Then, use descriptive language to help the reader visualize what you are trying to describe.

For example, if you wanted to use auditory imagery to describe a party, you might write: The music was so loud that it felt like my head was going to explode.

Or, if you wanted to use gustatory imagery to describe someone’s cooking, you might write: The food was so salty that it made my tongue swell up.

No matter which type of imagery you choose, use vivid and concrete language.

It will help create a clear picture in the reader’s mind and make your writing more interesting to read.

What Is the Most Popular Example of Imagery?

One of the most popular examples of imagery comes from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

In Act III, Scene II, Brutus is debating whether or not to kill Caesar.

He imagines an angel and a devil sitting on his shoulders, each trying to persuade him to take their respective course of action.

The example uses both visual and auditory imagery.

We can see the angel and the devil sitting on Brutus’ shoulders, and we can hear them arguing with each other.

Other Famous Examples of Imagery

If you want to be a better writer, it is essential to explore different ways of using imagery.

Try using this literary device in ways that add more interest and variety.


The ocean is a vast and deep place. It is home to creatures both big and small.

The imagery of the ocean can evoke feelings of wonder, awe, and even fear.

When you use imagery of the ocean in your writing, you can create a sense of peacefulness or chaos.

You can also use it to describe the vastness of the world and the power of nature.


The sky is a place of both beauty and mystery. It is full of stars, planets, and other celestial objects.

In your writing, you might use the imagery of the sky to get your reader feeling wonder, amazement, and even terror.


Morning is a time of new beginnings.

The sun rises, and the world comes to life.

Consider using the imagery of morning to create a sense of hope or possibility.

Other Modern Examples of Imagery

Now, let’s explore more examples of imagery in our contemporary world.

Use these ideas to add depth and dimension to your writing.

Examples of Imagery for Kids

If you’re writing books or blog posts for children, imagery can help you create more vivid descriptions.

Here are some examples that famous authors have used.

  • In The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle wrote, “On Monday he ate through one red apple. But he was still hungry.” The imagery of the caterpillar eating through the apple is both visual and tactile.
  • In The Lion and the Mouse, Aesop wrote, “The lion was so angry that he roared and shook his mane.” A sense of fear and power comes forth by getting kids to imagine a lion roaring.
  • In Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White wrote, “She was so happy that she began to dance around and around in a circle. Then she leaped into the air and turned somersaults.” The imagery here is both visual and kinesthetic, getting children to see not only what Charlotte looks like but how she’s feeling.

Examples of Imagery in Literature

Literature affords us examples where authors use imagery to evoke certain feelings in readers.

  • In Salem’s Lot, Stephen King used this passage, “The night was cold and dark. A single light bulb swung from the ceiling, casting an eerie glow about the room.” Notice how he uses the imagery of light and darkness to create a sense of dread.
  • In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger wrote, “All the kids kept on running and yelling, and finally they were all gone and there was just this big red ball left, rolling down the street by itself. I felt so lonely all of a sudden.” The imagery of the ball rolling by itself creates a sense of loneliness and isolation.
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses the following imagery to describe the town of Maycomb, “Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather, the streets turned red, and the gutters ran purple; the doors of the old houses grained and swelling and the roofs slanted.” She uses the imagery of color to create a sense of decay and despair.

Examples of Imagery in Poetry

  • In “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, the speaker hears tapping at his chamber door. The auditory imagery creates a sense of suspense and helps to set the dark tone of the poem.
  • In “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot, imagery creates a bleak and desolate landscape. Eliot writes, “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
  • In “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats, Keats uses imagery to transport the reader away from the real world. He writes, “Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget/What thou among the leaves hast never known.”

Notable Writers Who Used Imagery

Imagery is an engaging way to spruce up your writing and make it more interesting.

Here are three examples from famous authors who used this literary device.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses imagery to describe the opulence of Jay Gatsby’s parties.

He writes, “The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher.”

J.K. Rowling

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling uses imagery when talking about the wizarding tournament.

She writes, “Beams of light shot out of it in every direction, illuminating the surrounding trees.

It was as though someone had lit a giant bonfire that burned green and purple and blue.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien uses imagery to describe the dark lord Sauron.

He writes, “The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.”

What Is the Opposite of Imagery?

As you become acquainted with using imagery in your writing, it’s beneficial to consider its opposite.

You can use straightforwardness as the opposite literary device to imagery.

Imagery vs. Straightforwardness

Straightforwardness is different from imagery.

Most imagery is figurative language, which employs metaphors and similes to create a vivid picture.

However, straightforwardness uses literal language that states things plainly without embellishment.

For example, if an author wanted to describe someone’s anger, they could use imagery and say the person’s eyes were “flames of fire” or their voice was “a thunderous roar.”

Alternatively, the author could describe the person’s anger plainly and say they were “yelling” or “intense.”

Of course, imagery isn’t always appropriate. In some cases, using literal language is better.

For example, if you’re writing a white paper for a technical blog, it’s best to stick to literal language.

However, if you’re writing a poem or piece of fiction, imagery can help.

Other Related Literary Devices To Know

Here are examples of additional literary devices to understand and use.

  • Simile: A simile is a type of comparison that uses “like” or “as” to describe something.
  • Metaphor: A metaphor is a figure of speech that offers a comparison between two things that aren’t alike.
  • Symbolism: Symbolism is when an object or person represents something else.
  • Juxtaposition: Juxtaposition is the placement of two contrasting objects or ideas side by side.
  • Flashbacks: A flashback is a scene from the past that’s inserted into the present story.

Writing Tools To Help You Out

As you’re learning the steps to write a blog post, you should strive to learn how to improve your writing style.

As well, consider how the following writing tools can help you save time and money.

  • Writing Helpers: Writer helpers are tools that make it easier for people who write by doing tasks for them. With some writing services, you can tell them what you want and they will not only organize and edit your content but also finish it.
  • AI Writing Software: You can use AI writing software to write passages via artificial intelligence.
  • Grammar Checkers: A grammar checker is an error-prevention asset for your blog post writing. You can avoid mistakes by proofreading your content with a grammar checker before you make it live.
  • Content Creators: Content creators help brainstorm ideas for your website articles. If you’re struggling to come up with topics to write about, a content creator can help by giving you topics you might consider writing on.

Frequently Asked Questions

Use the answers to the following questions to further cement your understanding of imagery.

What is a synonym for imagery?

Imagination is a synonym for imagery. Consider how you can use the same language to evoke both imagery and imagination in the mind of your reader.

What does visual imagery mean?

Visual imagery is when an author uses words to describe a scene or object so that the reader can “see” it in their mind. It’s one of the five types of imagery.

Wrapping Up

Imagery is a powerful tool used in writing to help the reader see, feel, and experience what you communicate.

Any writer that produces content should use it to evoke emotions, set a tone, and create a mood.

Take what you’ve learned about and begin using imagery in your next blog post.

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