Painting a Picture with Words
Walking into the flower shop he could smell the sweet fragrances.

Painting a Picture with Words

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One of the best skills a writer can have is being able to use words that can create images and/or memories, smells, sounds and emotions in the reader. This is known as “painting a picture with words.” For example, let’s look at the following sentences:

Walking along the beach, she felt the warm, sun baked sand as it softly oozed through her toes. Closing her eyes, she could hear the seagulls hawking as they darted sporadically around the sunbathers.

What images or memories come to mind when you read these sentences? Can you imagine the feel of the sand oozing through your own toes? Can you hear the seagulls hawking? Can you feel the warm sun? These words are creating a picture, restoring memories, providing you with sound and affecting your emotions.

For each sentence or group of sentences below, choose which answer best describes the picture the writer is trying to paint for the reader, i.e., images/memories, smells, sounds or emotions.
1.
The mother cried out when her four year old twins came in covered in mud from head to toe.
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
Although the word “cried” conveys an emotion, the writer is focusing the reader on the twins being covered from head to toe in mud. This picture creates an interesting image, perhaps, a funny image. Answer (a) is the correct answer for these sentences.
2.
As the best man completed giving his toast, the entire room filled with the clinking of several glasses.
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
Although a reader can imagine or have a memory of a best man and a toast, no smells are being shown nor emotions created. In fact, the writer is mostly painting a picture of sound by using the words “clinking of glasses.” Answer (c) is the correct answer for this sentence.
3.
Her agonizing sobs were so loud it tore at my heart.
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
The writer of this sentence does not mention anything about smells so Answer (b) is not correct. As we do not know why she is sobbing, it doesn’t direct us toward any memories so Answer (a) is not correct. Although the reader can imagine the sound of the sobbing, the writer is mostly trying to convey emotions to the reader. This is why the sob “tore at my heart.” Answer (d) is the correct answer.
4.
Walking into the flower shop he could smell the sweet fragrances of the roses, tulips, daisies and every other kind of flower he could see.
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
The writer makes this an easy picture to experience when the words “smell” and “sweet fragrances” are used. The reader can easily imagine the smell of all kinds of flowers. Therefore, Answer (b) is the most correct answer for this sentence.
5.
He was shocked when he saw the huge, gaping crack in the foundation wall of his new home. That crack could cost him thousands of dollars.
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
Although the word “shocked” conveys an emotion, the writer is focusing the reader on the crack and the fact that the crack could cost thousands of dollars. This picture creates a not so pleasant image of a huge foundation crack. Answer (a) is the correct answer for these sentences.
6.
The badly decaying flesh of the corpse made my stomach heave.
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
Although this sentence can create a picture or image of decaying flesh, the writer points out that the flesh made his/her stomach heave. This makes the reader think of the smell of the decaying flesh. Therefore, Answer (b) smells is the correct answer for this sentence.
7.
They say the best way to sell a house is to have the aroma of chocolate chip cookies or apple pie baking in the oven.
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
Although this sentence can create a picture of an image or memory of selling a house, no sounds or emotions are highlighted so neither Answer (c) nor (d) is correct. And even though a reader can imagine the selling of a house, in this sentence the writer wants to point out that smells (aromas) can help a house sell faster. The reader can easily imagine the smell of baking cookies or pies. Answer (b) is the correct answer for this sentence.
8.
Squeezing myself as far back into the closest as I could, my heart began to pound wildly as I heard the intruder enter my room. I was so frightened that a gulp of vomit filled my mouth.
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
The writer of these sentences does not mention anything about smells so Answer (b) is not correct. Unless the reader has had an intruder in their home, this sentence might not trigger any memories so Answer (a) is also not correct. Finally, although the reader can imagine the sound of the wildly beating heart, the writer is mostly trying to convey emotions to the reader by describing what fear can do to you, i.e., wildly beating heart and vomit in the mouth. Answer (d) is the correct answer.
9.
Jimmy jumped out of bed. He was certain he had heard reindeer bells. That meant only one thing – Santa Claus had been there!
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
Although a reader can imagine or have memories of Christmas and Santa Claus, no smells are provided nor is there any emphasis on emotions. Rather, the writer focuses on the sound of reindeer bells and what that sound could mean to the readers. Answer (c) is the correct answer for this sentence.
10.
Walking his daughter down the aisle filled him with pride, joy and sorrow all at the same time. This was his baby. Now she would become the other man’s wife.
Images/memories
Smells
Sounds
Emotions
The writer of these sentences does not mention anything about smells so Answer (b) is not correct. Although many people have had the experience of walking down an aisle or giving their daughter away in marriage and an image or memories can be sparked, the writer’s main intention is to paint a picture of emotions. That is why the writer uses the words “pride,” “joy” and “sorrow” to highlight the mixture of emotions the father was feeling. Answer (d) is, therefore, the correct answer being sought here.
Author:  Christine G. Broome

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