Pictures for the Imagination

The stories I read come alive in my head.

My mind does not merely read the words in a book. It form pictures in my brainof the characters, of their clothes and even their expressions. Crying and laughing with them, it’s as if I’m inhabiting their worlds, making me a shadow character with super powers that allow me to move from scene to scene, from character to character.

It’s a private world that I’d hate to have shattered, especially in terms of the characters with whom I develop a relationship. I’ve seen them and felt them as no one else can. I’m sure this is true for all readers.

But how about the settings, the locales where the stories are set?

My imagination can transcribe an author’s paragraphs, capture them in images. For example, I can visualize the fictional setting of Wessex in Thomas Hardy’s work. From more recent times, I can envisage the Ireland described by Donal Ryan in The Spinning Heart. Or I can picture the small town Indiana setting in Lee Martin’s The Bright Forever. All three are places (although Wessex is fictional) I have never visited and I rely on my intellect to draw the scenes for me, using the author’s descriptions.

There are times, though, when I’d appreciate a little prompt. A little nudge to my imagination that allows it to flourish, like a bit of yeast to help bread rise, without taking anything away from the my internal, confidential relationship with the characters.

Let me explain. My upcoming novel is set in the desert southwest of the United States. For those living in other parts of the world, the summer heat, the cacti with names like saguaro, ocotillo, prickly pearand dry landscapes will be unfamiliar. The main characters meet on the fifth floor of the large central library, a singularly beautiful structure.

It occurred to me, then, that a few photographs might help my reader, offering their already rich minds a tiny bit of extra fodder. With this in mind, here are a few images that will fit into the scenes of my upcoming novel, A New Dawn: the cacti, to convey the vibrancy of the desert landscape and the view from the fifth floor of the library, to capture where the protagonists first meet.

Prickly pear
View from the library

Author: Sudha Balagopal

Sudha Balagopal's fiction straddles continents and cultures. Her highly commended novella in flash, Things I Can't Tell Amma, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2021. She is also the author of a novel, A New Dawn, and two short story collections. Her work appears in Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, 2022, and is listed in the Wigleaf Top 50. When she’s not writing, she teaches yoga. More at

2 thoughts on “Pictures for the Imagination”

  1. Oh, I do love visual aids. They plant that image in my head and then I’m set for the entire story. It’s amazing how helpful even one image can be.

    And a food analogy! I love food analogies. Talk about helping me relate, anytime I try to explain something to my critique partner, I always use food analogies. I don’t know why, because she doesn’t cook, but somehow it makes it easier to understand. 🙂

    Great post!


    1. Christina,
      Thanks for your comments.
      And for bringing up food. I totally understand how food can connect people — it’s also sensory. Visual aids provide pictorial nudges while food would provide olfactory, tactile and gustatory stimuli.

      Liked by 1 person

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