Show me

« Mix it up

An occasional curve »

Yesterday I talked about mixing things up a bit and two days ago I did it.

Did you notice?

Two days ago I included an image with my post. I thought the image helped make my point about helping readers understand where they’ve been, where they’re heading and how they’re doing. It also illustrated that the techniques we use to guide readers in books have physical analogs in the rest of their lives so they recognize these reference points and appreciate them.

There are people who put a picture in their post every day. If you have a picture that is special enough each day then that’s great. Often they include some stock photo because that’s the format they’ve chosen for their blog. The image has little to do with the topic of the day and is more to make the page look nice than to convey meaning.

You should think about what images would help your book. You can include screenshots when you think they’ll help but really make them justify their existence. I’ve had authors take half a dozen pictures of the start up screens so that a simple set of instructions takes five or six pages. If the images really help your story then include them, but for the most part you can tell the reader to select the menu item "Undo" in the "Edit" menu and they’ll know exactly what to do without a screen shot.

I recently saw an image of a line of code with dialog bubbles coming out various components that helped me understand immediately what each part did. The position of the dialog also forced me to understand the code in an order other than from left to right.

What parts of your prose would benefit from an image? What images do you use that you could just as easily remove?

This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.