Islands to Swim to — The Power of Images in Writing

A lesson learned from Jeff Kinney


Once we migrated from children’s books to YA and beyond, books with pictures in them were immediately thrown to the side, discarded as “baby books”. But the world of articles and other online pieces of text follow different rules. Images attract readers, they reel them in, like bait for fish.

December of last year, I attended the Puffin Annual Lecture with Jeff Kinney as the speaker. While there was a lot to take away from the talk, I’m going to focus on my personal favourite — Jeff Kinney’s concept of islands in books. He used the example of his school textbooks to illustrate his point, but that can be extended to articles too.

Jeff Kinney on stage at the podium
The quality’s a bit fuzzy because my then-phone didn’t have the greatest camera ever

Jeff talked about how while reading his textbook, he would lose focus very quickly and easily. There weren’t many pictures, but the few that were present, enticed Jeff. They were like checkpoints on a journey, little rewards for being able to patiently, and dutifully read through all of that dull text. He described them as “islands to swim to”. I thought that was a truly wonderful way to put it.

So provide your readers with lots of images, lots of little rewards as a means of thanks — they’ll thank you too 😉


The problem – image sources (and it’s solution)

I know putting in image sources can be irritating and ruin the flow of the article. Luckily, I’ve got you covered.

If you use a website with royalty-free content, there is no need to accredit the website or photographer (you always could if you want to support the artist)!

Screenshot from Pexels’ website

Personally, I use either Pexels or Unsplash as they always provide quality images with a large range of choice for all my needs.


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