Did you know? Approximately 83 percent of human understanding occurs visually, and our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text—at least that’s what I read in an ad.
Wow! That means photos reach readers in ways your words can’t.
Photos add depth and dimension to your words.
They foster intimacy with your readers by introducing them to your memoir’s important people. Photos can help a character come alive. The right pictures let readers tag along with your family or companions. Pictures can even enhance a reader’s sense of attachment to you and your main characters.
Photos also allow readers to live within your setting, your geography, your building, your culture, your weather, and in your action.
Photos, then, make you, your main characters, your setting, and your experiences more relatable, more memorable.
Danielle Lazarin writes of the impact author Stuart Dybek’s I Sailed with Magellan had on her, saying that the book took her, “a Jewish girl raised in the ‘80s and ‘90s in New York City, who’s never touched the waters of Lake Michigan, [and enabled her to] see some of herself in his boys in Chicago. He . . . did a bang-up job of showing me around, so that I felt like a local, comfortable and sure of where I was going.”
That’s precisely what you want to do with both your words and your pictures—show your reader around, convince him he’s a local.
Pictures can multiply such opportunities for readers.
The right photos can yield big results. They can help your stories stick.
In other words, photos offer readers opportunities to enter your story, to experience it alongside you, and feel involved.
Do you want proof? This is fascinating: Check out Karen Keagy’s account, “Vintage Photo.” Do a little experiment: Don’t look at the photo until after you’ve read the whole story.
While you read, picture yourself living her story with her. Afterward, let yourself study the picture: Notice how much the photo enhances Karen’s words. (How cool was that?)
Photos can reach readers in ways your words can’t
so be sure to include key photos in your published memoir.
Have you decided where, in your memoir, to place your photos?
If you self-publish, you’ll decide which ones to include and where to put them.
Some authors group them together in the middle of their memoirs.
Others place their pictures at the end.
Other authors scatter images throughout their memoir.
Which is best?
“Where you place photos . . . will influence how readers appreciate your story…. There is in reading and writing a phenomenon called ‘suspension of disbelief.’ If I as the reader am constantly saying, ‘This is only a book. This isn’t happening as I read,’ then it impossible for that reader to get ‘lost in the story.”
Our goal as writers—and as designers of our layouts—is to avoid suspension of disbelief and, instead, to invite readers to live the story while they read. Strategic photo placement can help readers get “lost in the story.”
If we place photos throughout the memoir, within the chapters/vignettes (instead of grouped together in the middle or the end), we will increase readers’ likelihood of entering our stories—almost like seeing events on a movie screen, but better.
Photos can help readers learn from your story, remember it,
and change in positive ways because of it.
So plan ahead:
Which photos will you include?
Where will you place them?
Do you have additional tips on photos?
If so, leave a comment below or on SM 101’s Facebook Page.