Of Jack Kerouac’s notable writing tips, the one my father made sure I learned was: “Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better.”
My dad would tell me, “Get an image in your mind of what you want to describe. See it clearly in your mind’s eye, and then write down what you see.”
While this has obvious uses in storytelling and poetry, it also applies to nonfiction expert’s books. The right image can be worth 1,000 words when you are teaching too!
Many of my clients come from a medical, tech, or another type of academic background. Their expertise includes high-level theories and scientific material, yet their books are written for the mass market. Thus, they need to find a way to make highly technical material both accessible and interesting to the average reader.
Without the benefit of a visual image that the reader can relate to, this can be a nearly impossible task.
However, if you select an image of something familiar, the reader will see it in their mind’s eye. You can use that as the jump-off point to give them the additional details that they need in order to understand your content.
Do this, and your reader will learn what you want them to, and you can save 1,000 words of writing…And keep your reader’s attention!
Take, for example, my client, Dr. William Li, author of New York Times bestseller, Eat to Beat Disease. Dr. Li’s book reveals the science behind how eating certain foods can help our body heal itself.
To help his reader to understand the science behind his book, Dr. Li uses analogies throughout that evoke imagery of things the reader has seen firsthand. He compares the angiogenesis system removing excess blood vessels to a gardener pruning trees. He uses an image of a starfish regrowing a limb to set up how stem cells help our body to regenerate.
This doesn’t only apply to medical and technical writing.
Any time you’re describing the abstract, you can use a metaphor, a simile, or some sort of analogy to make it concrete. You can help the reader quickly orient themselves to what you’re saying.
The Bottom Line:
When teaching highly technical or scientific material in your book, use analogies, metaphors, and similes of relatable things to save 1,000 words of writing and keep your reader engaged.