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. In this regard, you will be amazed by readers' cleverness. Fortunately, when a reader looks at a picture, his interpretation will be guided by whatever 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 Left is the Power Position

Your best feelustration zingers should be placed where the reader cannot easily ignore them. This is the top of the left page. When the reader turns the page, he looks here for the next sentence. A big, simple picture will hit him before he can look away.

Unfortunately, there is no power position on a single-page e-reader. When the reader turns the page, his eye will sweep upward until it reaches the beginning of the text. Therefore, you might want your best feelustraton zingers to fill the whole page.

Bottom Right is the Mood Position

The reader turns the page when he reaches the bottom right. So when he turns to a new page, his eye will fall first on the lower-right quadrant, and drift over any images there as he shifts his focus to the top left. Thus a right-page image will be noticed early, if briefly, and prime the mood for the two-page spread.

The lower-right is not a power position, because the reader is not looking for something there, and because he will obstruct it with his hand, when he turns the page.

In a single-page e-reader, the bottom of every page is the mood position, which the reader's eye will sweep over on its way to the top.

Learn to See a Picture's Soul

Avoid pictures that are beautiful, but vacant. The best pictures embody a concept.

For example, here is a picture by Manfred Antranias Zimmer (Pixabay user Antranias) which I used in Gaia's Wasp. This picture is not about a playground, or a swing. It is about loneliness, and loss. alone