Mental images: zombies and coffee

Good, strong writing is found all in the presentation.  Consider the images that come to your mind when you read the following sentence: She was a zombie in need of more K-Cups.

So, what does that refer to?

Right now, you may be floundering and drowning in a sea of possibilities.  You need context to anchor your thoughts.  What should you be thinking of?

Figuratively, that sentence could describe a human female who cannot function without that first morning cup of coffee.  Literally, it could mean that a reanimated female creature drinks coffee and is running low on the packets.

Either way, the writer has set up the scene with specific, descriptive words about setting and circumstance.  Human or supernatural, your female character is of a certain social status to prefer the disposable, single-serve packets used in a Keurig brewer.

Let’s not forget the implied tension.  What if either one of them runs out of the single-serve packets?

Certainly, the story subject matter material is crucial to the events that happen next.  However, without any specific framework, your mind still generated images, thoughts, or presumptions about what that sentence means.  The presentation of that one sentence was strong, just strong enough to engage the reader and yet give freedom to create his or her own specific image.  After all, what does the female look like: blonde or brunette, or is her hair matted and covered in mud?  Is her skin dark or light, green or blue?

You want to choose the right nouns , words that create dancing images in the readers mind to solve the puzzle of the author’s intent.  If done well, the descriptions keep the story moving forward and the reader interested and engaged.  Are you intrigued?

If you’ve read this far, then you are and I did my job.  This is how inviting your writing should be.  What kind of images do you want to create for your readers?

How do you do this, find colorful language words to express nuances?  Start with a basic word and look to thesaurus or dictionary.  Typing the word “zombie,” an online thesaurus gives synonyms and antonyms for “odd person,” “ghost,” and “machine.”  Various dictionaries define a zombie as, among other things, a supernatural spirit inhabiting a dead body; a snake god; a tired, apathetic human; a spicy rum drink; and a computer virus.  Think of what other magic you’ll find typing in a different word.

Consider colloquial slang.  At some point zombie came to mean a lethargic person.  The word “shorty” now refers to clothing, cookies and an often-derogatory term for women.  What words can you mesh into new meanings?

You can also create your own connection.  It’s easier to take liberties in fiction and fantasy by the nature of creating a new world with your own rules, but nonfiction benefits from it.  That’s how I wrote the zombie sentence, with a human in mind.  It’s much more exciting than writing The tired woman had no more coffee. It also creates images that are more vibrant.

After writing it, I wondered, what if she was waking up in a post-apocalyptic world?

What does a sleepy zombie look like to you?

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