Wordplayer.com has an excellent essay from the master of the macabre, Stephen King, on imagery. He offers excellent advice on how to create good imagery in your work; namely, that you have to actually see the thing you’re describing, rather than labeling it. He gives the example: “A beginning writer may put down, ‘It was a spooky old house,’ and let it go at that, knowing it doesn’t convey any real punch or immediacy, but not knowing what to do about it. … Well, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with ‘It was a spooky old house.’ It isn’t an image; it’s an idea. Ideas are no emotional temperature gradient; they are neutral.”
And yet, he says, “imagery is not achieved by over description. … the idea of imagery is not to set the picture by giving everything (that is for photographers, not writers).” As for what to keep and what to cut: “Leave in the details that impress you the most strongly; leave in the details you see the most clearly; leave everything else out.”
Vivid imagery is what brings a book, or short story, to life. It puts us in the setting and makes the characters come alive. Take a tip from the master and use it well!