I have fallen in love with imaginative prayer, also known as Ignatian Contemplation. In the Ignatian tradition, this form of prayer meshes the heart and mind stirring up thoughts and emotions. Whereas in other spiritual traditions, contemplation differs where praying in this way frees the mind of ideas and images.
I don’t know about you, but when my mind is freed of thoughts and images, it doesn’t take long before I feel mentally disorganized. I suppose that is why I am more attracted to imaginative prayer. Placing myself in a scripture passage is like having an outline or writing prose. Praying in this way sets the stage giving me the freedom to enter into prayer and see where God takes me. However, contemplative prayer allows God to enter on a blank page, which can be exciting in the writing world.
As a Christian Writer, my thoughts are often warm and fuzzy, and I can go on and on with the plethora of describing adjectives God places on my fingers as they tap the keyboard. A pounding in my heart occurs as I watch the word count climb. Then it happens; the editor whips the red pen and slashes half of the delicately placed syllables. In those instances, as well as this paragraph, that is known as an “info dump.”
Telling a story in any genre requires description; a valuable tool is knowing the difference between showing and telling. I could have described my writing style as compassionate rather than warm and fuzzy, allowing the reader to encounter compassion-related feelings. The difference between showing and telling will do one of two things, completely engage the reader or leave them confused about how the character feels and thinks. For instance, my telling of a pounding in my heart does not describe how I felt at that moment. How does the reader know if I was happy, sad, or frightened?
The fundamentals of imaginative prayer are engaging the five senses and also are vital elements when writing to show rather than tell. Using words that allow for vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch draws the reader into the scene as if seeing it through a camera lens. Using too many descriptive words can clutter each of the senses leaving the reader somewhat lost on the page. I have found this true even in movies or television, not to mention the commercials that don’t have a point.
Our job as writers is to accomplish setting the perfect scene where the reader laughs at the funny, cries at the sad, and can taste the pasta in the heart of Tuscany. The basics are that the reader is shown everything the writer is experiencing through the senses as the words hit the page. Instead of telling the reader the breeze was cold, allow the reader to feel the breeze.
Since the passing of her friend, Emma longed for the time they shared along the seashore and often found herself in an attempt to relive cherished moments. The fondest of her memories were the quiet times watching the gentle flow of the waves as they washed along the water’s edge. Always mesmerized by the glow of the setting sun, the crisp wind against her cheeks startled Emma as an abrupt shiver reached her soul, giving way to the ever-approaching change of seasons.
The above writing sample aims to bring the reader an experience where they can feel the cold breeze of an oceanside sunset. There are ways, however, when it will benefit the reader and the writer by providing inclusive imagery to not only the temperature Emma experiences but also visual and sensory aspects.
Since the passing of her friend, Emma longed for the time they shared along the granular seashore and often found herself in an attempt to relive the most treasured and sun-kissed moments. The fondest of her memories were the quiet times watching the gentle flow of the frost-crested waves as they waltzed along the water’s edge. Always mesmerized by the amber glow of the setting sun, Emma would lose herself in the salted caramel air. Eventually, the crisp wind against her cheeks startled Emma as an abrupt shiver reached her soul, giving way to the ever-approaching change of seasons.
In the above example, the visual cueing immerses the reader in several aspects of the oceanside retreat. The writer creates a deeper connection to the story, Emma’s character, and the author’s vision.
Engaging the five senses of every character will enhance the reader’s experience and bring your story into full color. This involves showing the movements, feelings, and relationships instead of telling the reader what happens. Writing this way creates a deeper connection with the reader and the characters and, ultimately, with you as the author. In my opinion, that is a perfectly set stage.
We are blessed with a community of fellow writers to encourage, inspire and help us on the writing journey. Additionally, the internet is full of tips, tricks, and suggestions on this particular theme. I encourage you to enhance this article by pursuing the many articles on this subject matter. Bearing in mind, God is always there to meet you through prayer in all ways that work for you.