Posted On February 27, 2014 by Print This Post

IMAGINE THIS…Part 2 Imagery and Characterization, can the two ever meet outside of an English class? By Jade Lee

USA Best-Selling Author JADE LEE returns today with Part 2 of her series on Imagery and Characterization.

Seething volcano or skittish bird, what image best fits your characters and why would anyone care? Last time I talked about giving a unified imagery set to your main characters. I outlined how choosing basic element properties to your characters creates adds texture and EASE to a character arc. We went with the basic earth, air, wind, and fire possibilities. But let’s say you want to go one step further. How would that work and why?

Make your imagery more specific. First off, add metal to your list of elements. Then while you’re at it, maybe add all the elements of the periodic table. What if your hero is a tinman in search of a heart? Give him metallic colors to wear and surround himself in. Make him bendable, but when he adjusts to the heroine it gives him a sharp edge to his words and actions.


Now start picking out words to use for your hero. Match it with all five senses, but make sure to pick words that reflect both the good and the bad. You want to be able to indicate your character’s changes from a problem through growth into happiness (and love). Confused? Try these examples. For sight–metallic and reflective. When people look at him they see themselves reflected back, not the man himself. When you describe him and his environment surround him in chrome and give him a tin car toy collection. Let the heroine see him as childlike but cold. Then as he grows around her, you can add color to his clothing and surroundings.

Sound–tinny, brittle. You don’t have to make his voice sound tinny or thin. That’s not hero-like! But he can speak with a brittle edge or it can grate like metal on metal. He can hit something that clinks. When he’s depressed he can have a hollow echo to his tone, but as he warms to the heroine, his voice gets depth and color. Eventually–at the end–someone hears his heartbeat. Even the music he listens to changes from Metallica to country–or maybe that’s too much of a stretch.

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Touch–sharp but malleable. Initially his touches are cold and angry words hit like shards. But as he changes, his rough edges smooth. His face is not chiseled but pressed or shaped. Then when he smiles he shows a kind of light (heroine’s reflected light). She warms him (because metal doesn’t carry his own warmth), but he protects her and brings out her child-like qualities (because he’s a tin toy).

Now you add taste and scent. Truthfully, with a tin toy image, I stick with cold feel, metallic taste, and sterile scent. None of that is erotic or hero-like. So if you mention these things, keep them at the beginning of the book, letting the negative words drop away as he changes for the better. He is, after all, gaining a heart and growing into a real boy. But remember, he can be a geologist or a metal worker. He can work in a sterile room or be comfortable in clinical settings.

So now you get the idea, but don’t just stop there. Make your images very specific. My hero in Tempted Tigress is a Chinese ink and brush set. He’s a scholar and when he feels drained, I say that his words were like ink mixed too thin. His body is thin and pointed, and during the love scene, his touch paints words on her. My heroine in Cornered Tigress is a cat. Every time she enters a room, she experiences it first through taste and scent. When she’s afraid she tends to go into tiny enclosed spaces. You can use anything that sparks your imagination, so…go wild!

To read examples of imagery, check out Jade’s novels. Guess at her imagery sets, then email her about places where she’s inconsistent: But don’t surprised when she responds: Good catch, but that was my editor’s fault. BTW, her editor’s imagery set is as a catcher’s mitt–all faults are caught by him. Praise, however, wings over his head to Jade!


How would you describe your hero, using words that – in Jade’s words – “reflect the good and the bad”?

Join us Friday, when regular RU columnist ADAM FIRESTONE returns!



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A USA Today Bestseller, JADE LEE has been scripting love stories since she first picked up a set of paper dolls. Ball gowns and rakish lords caught her attention early (thank you Georgette Heyer), and her fascination with the Regency began. And as a Taurus, she lives to pit a headstrong woman against a tortured hero just to watch them butt heads on the way to true love. Flesh wounds are rare, but the healing and laughter are real.

Now an author of more than 30 romance novels, she finally gets to set these couples in the best girl-heaven of all: a Bridal Salon! This way she gets to live out all her wedding fantasies, one by one. (Let’s be honest, what girl has only one idea for her dream wedding?) For more on the Bridal Favors series, visit Jade on the web at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Kathy Lyons book 2

And don’t forget Jade’s other name, KATHY LYONS. That’s Jade’s lighter, contemporary side. She writes for Harlequin Blaze merging hawt sex and funny relationships into really great reads.

Kathy Lyons book 3

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10 Responses to “IMAGINE THIS…Part 2 Imagery and Characterization, can the two ever meet outside of an English class? By Jade Lee”

  1. I’m so glad you mentioned voice. I have a hard time coming up with words to accurately describe a hero’s voice, but I know it in my mind. As I’ve gotten older, I realized voice is a deal-breaker for me. No weedy, whiny or self-important-sounding hero voices in my favorite stories!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | February 27, 2014, 12:20 am
  2. P.S. I LOVE this! “My hero in Tempted Tigress is a Chinese ink and brush set. He’s a scholar and when he feels drained, I say that his words were like ink mixed too thin. His body is thin and pointed, and during the love scene, his touch paints words on her.”

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | February 27, 2014, 9:56 am
  3. I used your example in yesterday’s post to experiment and paint some word pictures of my heroine–whose description has already in place for two years. Once I decided she was earth because she’s stable and grounded in her family, it was amazing to see how the choices I made for her something like two years ago all contribute to that earth feeling. She has red hair, wears blues, greens, and earth tones, works in her family’s nursery and landscaping business, she’s the strong center of her family and protects them, like a sheltering tree…And I swear, it was all unconsciously done! I had a good handle on her before, but doing that exercise just took her (and my understanding of her) up another level. And now I’ll do the same for my hero. This stuff is gold, Jade. Thank you so much!

    Posted by Linda F | February 27, 2014, 11:47 am
  4. I love this! I used the heck out of technique like this in my latest–the hero is Winter (somewhat literally, as it’s a paranormal), so he dresses in cool silvery grays that flow like water, and softens to icy blues, and his friends describe him with the coolness of a rock star. His first marriage even ended with a freeze, rather than a bang, beginning with fights over thermostat settings, escalating into a cold war that turned into an ice age.

    His job is to find the warmth and wonder in the Winter of his nature–the softness of snow, the refreshment of ice, the way frost eases harsh lines. And of course, the way Winter can embrace and protect and nurture beneath the surface when there’s a tough, determined blossom underneath, ready to burst forth and bloom.

    Posted by Athena Grayson (@Athena_Grayson) | February 27, 2014, 11:52 am
  5. And another fantabulous post!

    My hero is steel. Grey eyes, body hardened by hard work. He’s steady and unflinching, stands with a straight spine and when he’s angry, he’s molten. (ok, that’s a little cheesey, but I just made all that up. =))

    So he would slowly soften and unbend around the heroine…relax his stance, unclench his jaw.

    At least that’s what pops into my head! =)

    Thanks so much Jade for a fantastic set of posts – really helps me rethink my characters!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 27, 2014, 6:46 pm
  6. The TIGRESS books were the first romances I read, and the first books to hook me in the genre. I feel like I’ve just been handed a backstage pass!

    We’re due to get snowed in again this week. May have to pull those down from the keeper shelf and indulge myself again.

    Posted by Keri Stevens | February 28, 2014, 6:18 am

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