Pictures Aimed At Your Brain

By Dr. Insensitive Jerk


Here is an example of priming, reinterpreting, and reinforcing:

feel Example 3a
feel Example 3b

In a hard-copy book, the reader sees two-page spreads. Ditto for ebook viewers on computer screens. (Sadly, Kindles are too small for two-page spreads, and Ipads are marginal.) If the reader sees the full spread, he will notice the seagull early, when he turns the page. The seagull is big and simple, so even from his peripheral vision, it will prime him to the ideas of, flight, and, floating above it all.

When the reader reaches the picture of two happy children, he will reinterpret. He will wonder if the picture is ironic, or the young couple are actually happy to pay taxes. He will reinterpet again, if he looks carefully enough to notice the sausage grinder.

Notice that the picture immediately follows a sentence that mentions a young couple in the tax queue. Without this last sentence, the reader might misinterpret the picture as the couple in the airplane. (Buff and Luci.) The last sentence before a picture will guide the reader's interpretation of the picture, and should be written accordingly.

The first seagull image is reinforced when the reader's focus actually reaches that page. This priming drastically amplifies the (otherwise mundane) next sentence, Buff banked left, to give Luci a better view.

The final picture, two seagulls, shows that an image can deviate from the literal details, and still invoke the correct concept. (In this case, friends flying away together.) In the text, the two people are together in the same aircraft. It doesn't really matter that the two seagulls are not.

Here is an example of priming and reinforcing. A dozen young recruits are sitting in a school classroom, learning the bad news about what they volunteered for. In this scene, they are getting drunk, in preparation for a drug that will force them to look inside their own minds. They have been warned that looking inside your own mind is dangerous.

feel Example 1

The first image (the red-clad monks) sets the mood with, crowd of novices. Furthermore, the image has been photoshopped to emphasize the red cloth. Priming the concept, cloth, makes the mundane experience of touching Luci's silk dress more vivid.

In the picture, the cloth is conspicuously red, and the idea of red is further reinforced in the text. On a following page (not shown), a recruit will spill red wine on Luci's white silk dress. This event, spilling red wine on an expensive white dress, will be more vivid because the reader's brain has been primed with the concept of red-died cloth.

The last image reinforces the concept, novice playing with fire. Instead of this image, I almost used a picture of a baby, poking his finger into a wall socket. But I chose the gun, to tilt the reader's perception from, risk, to, acquiring a dangerous power.

Here is an example of foreshadowing and priming. Ignore the political symbols on the picture. They are just used to separate the two main storylines, and by now the reader is used to seeing them.

feel Example 2

The picture of hot metal, about to be struck by a hammer, adds menace to events that would otherwise seem benign.

Furthermore, the image primes the reader's mind with the concept: forging steel. The payoff comes on the next page, which I didn't show you, but you might be able to guess.

Here is an example of a picture used as a punchline. In this scene, an extraordinary signal has been detected by an astronomer (Frank) who is now trying to decide if the signal is real.

feel Example 6

Notice the picture is a metaphor for two different aspects of the story.

Here is an example I consider marginal, because the metaphor may be too subtle. The main character, Frank, has just made an Earth-shaking discovery. (All these examples are from Gaia's Wasp.)

feel Example 5

I intended the corks as a metaphor for Frank's discovery, and as priming for the flying packages. Did you interpret the wine corks as celebration? Because that never occurred to me, until my woman mentioned it. You may be surprised and educated, if you ask a reader to interpret each of your pictures.

Even this vague picture would be interpreted as I desired, if it appeared right after a reference to Pandora's box.

Here is an example of priming and reinforcing. In this scene, a man encounters a frozen woman he finds beautiful.

feel Example 4

In a hardcopy book, the reader will see the frozen rose early, and be primed to the concept, frozen beauty.

The picture is big and simple, so it will register in the reader's peripheral vision, even if he blocks it with his hand when he turns the page. Notice the rose becomes more noticeable, as your eye moves down the page and encounters the idea, beautiful.

The last sentence guides the reader to reinterpret the picture slightly, from, frozen beauty, to, frozen beauty, in the dark. After the scene ends, this image will linger in the reader's mind, as Luci lingers in the darkened room.

Image Credits

Farm kids - Marc Hatot (Pixabay user marc-hatot)
Single seagull - Pixabay user unsplash
Two seagulls departing - Marybeth (Pixabay user msandersmusic)
Buddhist monks - Aline Dassel (Pixabay user dassel)
Boy with gun - Dariusz Sankowski (Pixabay user DariuszSankowski)
Hot horseshoe - Jacqueline Macou (Pixabay user jacmac34)
Dog poop - Ivonne Wierink (via Fotolia)
Corks in wine glass - Adriano Gadini (Pixabay user gadini)
Frozen rose - Dirk Schumacher (Pixabay user beeki)