Novels are different in the way that they’re written and presented. I came across a question in a reading forum, which I suppose came from an aspiring writer, and the questions was “can novels have pictures?” . Having spent a lot of time reading different kinds of books, I thought I should write an article surrounding this topic by leveraging my experience with books/novels.

So…. can novels have pictures?

Well the short answer is yes. Some, not all novels can certainly have pictures if the writer feels it important and crucial to the story or information being relayed to the reader.

For example, a novel like Dan Brown’s “Inferno” which is heavily about symbols has a few diagrams/pictures that are meant to give the reader an idea of what exactly the author is referring to and talking about.

Cases of course vary because books are different therefore the other right answer would be that it depends on the novel.

Why pictures in a novel can be important

Let’s get into some of the reasons why pictures and illustrations can be of vital importance in a novel.

Specific details and data

Novels are very unique and vary by genre and author.

The author assumes the sole responsibility of conveying information to you in a way that you can comprehend by not only relying on the authors words but your intellect as well.

Some details in a book or novel can be so specific that no amount of description could do them justice. In this case the author can look to add a picture or an illustration. The purpose of doing so is providing, you, the reader, the needed context to understand the message and information the author is looking to pass on to you.

Of course some novels in certain genres can do without illustrations in which case the author would be at liberty to add or omit any pictures or illustrations.

If you’re a writer, you have the choice of using illustrations or not without limitation. It all comes down to how the illustration helps in the delivery of the overall information. Therefore this choice is in your hands.

A break in the text

Sometimes pictures and illustrations in novels are used as an effective way to create a break in the text.

Let’s face it, reading large blocks or text from page one to the last page can be a difficult thing for people. Therefore the author can use illustrations and pictures as a way to create a break in the text to give the reader a mental relief and keep them engaged long enough to read the entirety of the book.

A picture can serve as an aid to your imagination whilst providing some relief from the text.

To Control imagination

Words can express almost anything; imagination uses this expression to create mental pictures that serve as the context for the overall information being read.

While authors work to get your imagination firing off in which ever direction your brain grants, they may also use pictures and illustrations to control your imagination and narrow it down in a way that helps their writing to be easily digested.

This is helpful when the author is looking to get every readers imagination to go down a specific route. Granted, imagination is not an easy thing to control but it is controllable as psychology tells us.

For example, if I tell you NOT to think of a black cat…your imagination directly thinks about a black cat.

In this similar manner, pictures can be used to direct your mind to think about a certain thing in a certain way.

To create a deeper connection with the reader

There’s nothing that an author fights for more than your emotional connection to their work.

For this reason, they may use pictures and illustrations to get a point across that will aid the reader’s imagination so they may further get more interested in reading the material.

This sort of conviction is important for the writer because their goal is to get you to read the entirety of their work.

Why pictures are not embraced by some authors

I’ve discussed some of the finer points as to why pictures serve as an important function in novels, however, not all authors embrace pictures and illustrations in their novels and below are some of the common reasons as to why this is…

Defeats the purpose of the text

Some authors believe that the purpose of writing is so the reader can read and enjoy text using their imagination.

Therefore adding pictures as believed by some authors, Defeats the whole purpose of writing novels.

Granted, this may be partially true but it all comes down to the context and the reasons as to why pictures and illustrations are being employed by the author.

Limits the emotional commitment from the reader

Some authors believe that pictures may put off some readers and hence decrease their emotional commitment to the authors work.

This may be true for book worms and generally people who would rather read and use their own imagination than be directed down a path of imagination by illustrations and pictures.

It all comes down to preference.

Distracts people

Some people are easily distracted and can easily find it hard to concentrate when there’s a bunch of pictures in a novel.

Therefore, some authors may completely omit pictures while others may simply limit their use in the works.

As an author, it is therefore important to strike a balance and ensure that you don’t overuse pictures so you don’t risk people getting distracted.

Limits intellectualism

Another argument as to why pictures shouldn’t be used in novels is that pictures and illustrations limit intellectualism from the reader.

Rather than the reader using their own imagination, pictures act like a cheat sheet for the reader by luring them into a specific mode of thinking.

Of course this is dependent on the material itself and the reader but still a valid point nonetheless.


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