Most people will have heard of the saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, and it is true in many respects. However, a picture created in your head as a result of reading a writer’s description can make quite an impression – possibly even than a physical picture or painting can do, because sensuous language appeals to all senses, not just the eyes.
If those ‘thousand words’ are your painting strokes, therefore, how will you best use them? How will you create effective mental images?
Think of the five physical senses that are common to all the people God has created in this amazing world. These are:
There is also the more abstract and possibly mystical ‘sixth sense’, but I’m not including that here.
The most effective way to make your words create strong images is by using sensory language – ie, language that relates to the five senses.
The stronger senses, such as sight and hearing, are usually used well in writing. It is the less-used senses – touch, taste and smell – that should also be remembered. They are more evocative than most people give them credit for.
My parents, for example, had hot-houses in which they grew mostly tomatoes. I not only recognise the particular odour of the tomato plant, but its smell can quickly remind me of those hothouses and the many tasks we had to do in them. Just thinking of that smell makes me want to cut a thick slice of that ruby-red tomato in my fridge, sprinkle a little sea-salt on it, and eat it now; and that is exactly what I want to demonstrate. Evocative writing will help your reader truly experience the ‘picture’ you are painting.
When you are writing something, think about descriptions that will add colour, sound, touch, small or taste.
- When you describe a day at the beach, can your reader smell, taste or feel the saltiness?
- Are you telling about a meeting in a stuffy office? Stuffy – did you say? What does that mean? Hot? Humid? What is about the room that is so stifling?
- What about a child’s trip to the dental nurse? Ah – now that has some real possibilities for evocative description, doesn’t it?
The saying about the thousand words suggests that words may be somehow defunct, but that isn’t the case of course. Images are a lot quicker to see than a thousand words are to read, but images don’t tend to leave the same impressions either.
You have the opportunity to paint pictures with words. You might not have or need all thousand words (which is not a rigid rule by the way, as it is just someone’s clever quip). You might have half or twice that number, or many times more.
What pictures will your paint with your thousand words today?
Note: This is a repeat blog.