As an author, words are my stock in trade. Words can wound or heal. They carry power: both the power to communicate and the power to incite change. To many religions, words carry inate power – magical abilities, if you will, whether by means of prayers or spells.
Funny how just a few symbols – we call them an alphabet – can be used to say virtually anything. They’re a march of squiggles, lines, and dots on a page – yet they bring the world to you.
Pictures can come into play, as well. From Lewis Carroll’s literary genius came the line:
“What is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”
Needless to say, there are plenty of books without pictures or conversations. We usually call them nonfiction books, textbooks, etc. Aside from children’s books or instruction manuals, in fact, few works come with any sort of illustration these days, unless venturing into the realm of graphic novels. And that’s a pity. While it’s imperative a book’s words shine brightest, a sketch at the head of a chapter can take a novel to the next level. Think of half a ship’s wheel at the beginning of every chapter, where the book has a naval or boating theme; a silhouette of a wolf in front of the moon for a werewolf novel; and so on. Fantasy authors frequently include a map of their world at the beginning of their book. Imagine Game of Thrones without its map – the HBO series stamped that indelibly into our minds. However, it was in fashion long before G R R Martin’s books made it to streaming.
Illustrations aren’t a substitute for good writing. They can sure help a book stand out in the crowd, though.
There’s another book-centric detail where images are everything: the cover. A good cover elevates any book. A bad cover will kill any hope of success.