Imagery is an important part of setting, which is one of the 5 elements of a story.
Imagery is one of the most powerful tools you as a writer can use to submerse your readers into your characters’ world. However, this tool is often overlooked.
Take painters, for example. They tell stories with a single image.
Some artists paint pictures of flowers or people having lunch on a forest floor, whereas others prefer the shocking portrayal of a dead man in a melting universe.
Some artists paint landscapes with sharp images of vivid pinks contrasting against deep blacks. Others prefer pastel colors.
Even brushstrokes play a significant role in depicting their world.
Writers are artists. We tell stories with words rather than literal colors, but it is so important for us to paint the full picture and to focus on all five senses.
When a cop shows up at a crime scene, the first thing he senses is the rotting stench of decaying flesh. They almost always smell it before they see it. So, when writing about crime scenes, let your readers smell what the character smells.
If your main character cuts someone’s throat, describe the soft gurgle of the man choking on his own blood.
A sunset is rarely just one color. Especially if there’s pollution.
Surely there’s more than a sharp feeling when accidentally cutting a finger.
What about the bitter flavor of ammonia forced down the throat of a captive?
Many descriptions focus on sight, some focus on sound and a select few focus on touch, but the two other senses—taste and smell—are often overlooked. Paint. That. Picture.
And, like a painter, your style of description will be different than your colleagues’. Their audience won’t always be the same as yours, their tastes may not be the same as yours, their focus is likely to differ from yours. And that’s okay.
Some people write stories where no true evil exists. Others prefer drama, a handful will spelunk into the darkness of humanity. Some focus on spirituality, and others will build all new worlds. Find your place, take it proudly. Only one person can write your story. But whatever you do, don’t skimp on important imagery, and don’t infodump on the unnecessary.