Here I Am

Last week I came across an excellent essay by Stephen King about the use of imagery in writing called “Imagery and the Third Eye.” The essay–in which King writes that all 407 of his rules of writing  “will take care of themselves almost automatically if you will, from this point on, take two pledges: First, not to insult your reader’s interior vision; and second, to see everything before you write it.”–got me thinking about prompts that improve the ability to see pictures in one’s mind, pictures which could then be put into words on the page to produce vivid, specific imagery (without over-describing, which King warns against: “a Roget’s full of adjectives by your typewriter may not be the answer to your problems with imagery.”)

At the same time, I was thinking about some of the prompts that have worked best for me lately while leading workshops. And, putting the two together, what came to me was this prompt (which is today’s prompt):

(1) Write these three words on the page: Here I am.

(2) Begin to imagine yourself at some point in time in the past. Perhaps while traveling in a foreign country. Or perhaps when you were very young. Then, freeze an image of yourself at some point in time, at some place. That is, take an imaginary snapshot of yourself. Then study it at length until you can see it clearly.

(3) Write about what you see, beginning with the words “Here I Am …” (And feel free to not only describe what’s happening in the imaginary snapshot but also what happened just before and/or just afterward).

(4) After writing for as long, or as short, as you like, begin again. That is, return to step #1 and start again, taking another imaginary photograph, picturing it clearly, then describing what you see, beginning with the words “Here I Am.” Continue like this until you feel like stopping.

(5) Alternatively, instead of imagining yourself in the past (or future), imagine a character. And take imaginary photographs of this character, implementing the prompt with this character, as opposed to you.

(6) And, lastly, if you’re curious about what Stephen King believes to be an example of well written imagery, here’s a passage from The Shining that the author says he’s “still on friendly terms” with:

His father would sweep him into his arms and Jacky would be propelled deliriously upward, so fast it seemed he could feel air pressure settling against his skull like a cap made out of lead, up and up, both of them crying ‘Elevator! Elevator’; and there had been nights when his father in his drunkenness had not stopped the upward lift of his slab-muscled arms soon enough and Jacky had gone right over his father’s flat-topped head like a human projectile to crash-land on the hall floor behind his dad. But on other nights his father would only sweep him into a giggling ecstasy, through the zone of air where beer hung around his father’s face like a mist of raindrops, to be twisted and turned and shaken like a laughing rag, and finally to be set down on his feet, hiccuping with reaction.