Visual storytelling can add dimension to an author’s text, by using images to enhance or illustrate the words. It’s a powerful, direct way to convey information. This is true for both fiction and non-fiction.
The obvious images may include pictures, graphics, charts, tables, diagrams, flow charts, even cartoons. But there are other techniques that can enhance your work, including various text effects (e.g., bold, italics, small caps, all caps, color, underlining, special symbols, borders).
The human attention span seems to be getting shorter and shorter every year, so capturing and holding a reader’s attention is important for a writer.
… the more minutely you describe, the more you will confine the mind of the reader, and the more you will keep him from the knowledge of the thing described. And so, it is necessary to draw and to describe.
~ Leonardo DiVinci, 15th Century
Visual Storytelling Through Time
Human brains were visually sensitive long before they were verbal. Think ancient cave drawings and petroglyphs. And information was shared and passed along using stories and songs, with lots of imagery, long before they were written down. Think traveling bards, minstrels and the like.
In modern times, a number of magazines told, and still tell, stories more with images than words. Silent movies certainly did that. And television added yet another visual medium. People, today, rely on images as much, if not more, than cavemen.
A continuous stream of text tends to lull readers to sleep, unless, for example, the reader is about find out “who done it”. In fiction, endless character, clothing, room or environment descriptions detour the reader away from the plot line. So do irrelevant side-stories. The same is often true even for non-fiction works.
Why Visual Storytelling is Effective
To multiply your impact on your readers, combine story + visuals–“show, don’t tell”. While the text is absorbed by the left brain, pictures appeal to the right brain. Complimenting text with images creates an effective synergy. This is the whole idea behind Infographics.
The images you use should capture your reader’s attention and draw them in. They should add meaning and insight. In addition, images often help your audience retain the content longer.
Furthermore, the creativity you use in generating or finding the appropriate visual will improve how you communicate your message.
How you can use visual storytelling in your writing
- Add complementing images to illustrate main points. But don’t overdo it.
- Collect images from all sources. Be ever on the lookout for something visual that strikes YOU. But remember, when using images from sources other than yourself, be sure to get appropriate permissions.
- If your book is electronic (e-book), your graphic might be interactive–a sure way to engage your readers.
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