Pictures Aimed At Your Brain

By Dr. Insensitive Jerk


Feelustration is new, and its possibilities have not been fully plumbed by anyone. I hope you will go deeper, and use what you discover to write something glorious.

Here is a hole, to get you started.

The Last Sentence Governs

Since feelustrations are metaphorical, they can be misinterpreted, and will be. In this regard, you will be amazed by readers' cleverness. Fortunately, when a reader looks at a picture, his interpretation will be guided by what he just read.

So be strategic, when you write that final sentence before the picture.

For example, a pair of compassionate men, talking about their romantic pursuits, and wondering why they never score. If their conversaton is followed by a picture of two lions fighting, the picture will be confusing. But a picture of fighting lions will not be confusing, if it immediately follows the sentence, "How would a woman react, if I was one of those jerks who doesn't ask permission?"

Prime the Surprise

Suppose the text contains a surprise, when an apple turns out to be square. The surprise will be more vivid if the reader's brain has been primed by an image that embodies the concept of, cube.

This example may seem counterintuitive, since the event (the square apple) gains its power by violating expectations. Those expectations could be strengthened by priming the reader with images that embody, sphere. However, your goal is to boost the mental response to the surprise (the cube) rather than the expectation (the sphere.)

Big and Simple

Readers won't stop to find Waldo, and you don't want them to, because that would break their immersion. If they are caught up in the story, they will spare your pictures only a glance. Feelustrations should be big and simple, so they register at a glance, and in peripheral vision.

We have all seen traditional pictures in novels, and they didn't really help. For this reason, an experienced reader might not spare your feelustrations even a glance. Ironically, the best feelustrations will exacerbate this problem, by pulling the reader into the story.


Nonetheless, experiments have shown that the human brain is primed by images that don't reach conscious awareness. (For example, pictures shown briefly, or only in the visual periphery.) Thus, an unnoticed feelustration can make reading more vivid.

Consider this nicely-composed image (by Pixabay user Three-shots.) It conveys the ideas of, solitude, and, rare creature showing itself.

This picture could amplify a brief sighting of a reclusive billionare. Unfortunately, this picture might not register in the reader's brain, unless he looks directly at it.


The same image, cropped, is not so nicely composed, and does not convey solitude. But it's more likely to affect the reader, from his peripheral vision.

Which of the two images is better? I don't know. But the first image (the one that requires more attention) should be placed somewhere hard to ignore.

Top Page versus Bottom Page

The ideal feelustration is a punchline for what came before, and a primer for what comes next.

The best priming actually comes from the bottom of the previous page, because page-turning takes time. So an image at the bottom of a page will have a little longer to sink in.

However, a page-bottom image may be a less-effective zinger, because the reader sees it coming, in his peripheral vision. (Remember, a good punchline violates the reader's expectations.) For the same reason, a page-bottom image is easier to ignore. A page-top image is harder to ignore, because you see it for the first time when you are actively searching for the next paragraph. This effect is more pronounced on the left page, for media that show 2-page spreads. (Pretty much everything but Kindle.)

To complicate the author's task, every feelustration must relate to the page it is on. Otherwise the reader will be confused, and quickly learn to ignore your pictures as irrelevant.

Explain less

Every novel has a body (the events) and a soul (their meaning.) In a feelustrated novel, the pictures depict the soul, so the text can focus more on the body.

When you sense the need for an explanation, or an internal monologue, remember that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Learn to See a Picture's Soul

A picture also has a body, and a soul. For example, here is a picture by Manfred Antranias Zimmer (Pixabay user Antranias) which I used in Gaia's Wasp. alone

This picture's body is a woman on a swing. Its soul is loneliness.