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Jadziel
May 15th, 2004, 06:10 AM
One question that fascinates me is the extent to which others mentally visualise the scenes described in a novel, short story or poem as they read it. By this i mean seeing the text as moving colour images, similar to if you were watching a television programme or looking out of a window.

Do you visually imagine each scene as you read it? For example, do you 'see' the type of room, furniture, position of objects, lighting, colours? Do you 'see' the clothes characters wear, their physical stature, posture and expressions, the way they interact with each other?

If you do visualise what you read, does the process occur automatically while you are reading at normal speed? Is every scene visualised or only key scenes? Or do you stop reading to reflect on the words and consciously choose to imagine what certain scenes may look like? Do you visualise every novel you read or only certain authors / works that capture your imagination? How strong and vivid is the visualisation?

As writers, do you mentally visualise your characters, world, and scenes? Do you 'see' scenes as moving colour pictures as you write about them?

If you don't visualise scenes that you read or write, what happens instead?

It should be interesting to see the answers here - i do have a background in psychology, but am very much interested in people's general experiences and how they'd describe this in their own words :).

ironchef texmex
May 15th, 2004, 09:45 AM
Interesting question. I do and I imagine that almost everyone on this forum would too.

The question is one of imagination and I think readers of spec-fiction are more predisposed to wild imaginations than most (it's why we like spec-fiction).

I always did it, but since I started writing I do it a little differently. Now, I find myself holding the mental pictures in my head, stopping, and picking them apart, looking at the individual components and trying to think of what it was in the writing that led me to visualize that very thing. Not everything in the picture comes from the text. It's interesting how our brains fills in the gaps. I'm always curious with some of my assumptions if the 'mood' of the writing led me to a certain conclusion or if it's my own invention.

As for writing, for me it's crucial. If I don't have a mental picture I'll spend an hour writing a single paragraph (and the paragraph usually has a canned feel to it). I usually do a chapter a day, outline the chapter ahead of time, and make sure I have at least a day or two to mull the scenes over in my mind to keep this from happening.

Miriamele
May 15th, 2004, 11:15 AM
I don't always visualize when I'm reading--for example, if it's a section with a lot of dialogue then I'll probably just focus on that--but I definitely visualize when I'm writing. I can see the whole picture as the characters see it, then I decided which details should be put in. Even when I'm not writing the narrative yet but planning ahead how the story is going to go, I see scenes like scenes from a movie played out in my head. Sometimes it's tricky to get these "movie scenes" into writing.

Dawnstorm
May 15th, 2004, 11:24 AM
The question's not an easy one for me, to answer. I imagine a lot goes on while reading, but since I'm reading and not watching myself... I'll try, anyway.

1. I do think I visualize things, but that's at the back of mind. At the forefront of my consciousness there are words, and concepts. I can tell that I am visualising things, because, on occasion, an image pops to the forefront of my conciousness. That usually interrupts the reading, though.

2. I don't think, I visualise entire scenes. There's a difference between "seeing" and "reading". When I see something, it's all there before my eyes, at once. Reading is a sequential thing; you get one detail after the other. I fill in details only as they are needed, and leave "variables of indeterminacy" where something has not been described. (It could be that the popping up of images I've referred to above, has something to do with the sudden "completion" of a scene or an image, I don't know.)

I'm unsure, what determines my need to fill in gaps in the descriptions. It's not strictly plot, nor point of view. There must be some personal frame of associations at work.

3. Different texts trigger different degrees of visualisation (and probably a different rate of image build up). For example, the amount of visual detail plays a part in it. At low detail level, more detail will increase the vividness of images. But at some point more detail will actually decrease the vividness. (Is this, because I become lazy and don't bother to join the various details into a coherent image anymore?)

===

Writing is similar.

I don't plan much, before sitting down to write. I'm picking concepts and images from my mind (which is ever active in day to day life...) and string them together. It's funny how I don't visualise scenes, but if I need to describe a particular detail, I don't need to hesitate to fill it in.

Sometimes, however, writing a vivid scene is difficult. Then I close my eyes and start to build up the scene, with minimal verbal interference. After a minute or so, writing will be easier. The interesting thing is that the scene changes again while writing... Quite often I plan a scene around an image or concept, and when I'm done writing it, there was no place to put it in. :rolleyes:

Also, I try to balance the visuals against the other senses. The hardest to transtlate into language are smell and taste.

choppy
May 15th, 2004, 12:30 PM
I have a tendency to over-visualise. I get a pretty big picture in my head and then I get frustrated when the author later goes into descriptions that don't match up with what I've pictured.

Unfortunately I think this translates over into my writing as well. I tend to avoid descriptions because I already know what everything looks like, and maybe on a subconscious level I feel like the readers should already know as well. I'm getting better though.

Priestvyrce
May 15th, 2004, 01:59 PM
When I read or write , I tend to be like a director. In that, I see it like I would shoot a scene for a movie. Even when a writer doesn't describe something, but gives hints to what and where the character is or doing, I add things in my mind to complete the picture.

When writing, I leave enough room for the reader to put his/her own spin on what things look like.

KatG
May 17th, 2004, 09:23 AM
In a movie, you have two senses to exploit -- visual and auditory. But in written fiction, you have six: sight, sound, feel, smell, taste, and thought. If you have an omniscient narrator, then you've got the additional "omniscient sense" as well. So I can't say that I "visualize" a scene, since that's only one aspect of the palate that I'm working with. I do visualize visual images -- how someone looks, facial expressions, physical actions. I visualize how a particular setting appears and determine what elements of that setting I want to describe and emphasize. I will mentally hear dialogue and other sounds. I will mentally consider other aspects of the environment that are not visual -- temperature and humidity, aromas, the feel of clothing, the taste, temperature or texture of food and drink. But then I have to figure out how to translate those sensory elements into descriptive words. And added to all that sensory description is the emotional context -- the thoughts and assessments of characters about the sensory data, about each other, themselves, and what sorts of knowledge they possess, and the question of how and in what form that information will be conveyed to the audience. So you could say I half-visualize scenes, or that I visualize visual elements.

I do know some writers who have to visualize scenes in a very cinematic way for them to be able to find words to describe action and sensory elements in their stories, so how much a writer makes use of mental visualization does vary considerably from person to person. But I do also think that writers often believe that they "visualize" scenes more than they actually do because of the emotional content of the scenes. It is also a common problem that while a writer may have visualized a scene fully in their head and have all the information of a scene worked out mentally, the description and information don't always make it down to the page successfully. So I suppose you could call that a danger of visualization. :)

Priestvyrce
May 17th, 2004, 09:34 AM
In a movie, you have two senses to exploit -- visual and auditory. But in written fiction, you have six: sight, sound, feel, smell, taste, and thought. If you have an omniscient narrator, then you've got the additional "omniscient sense" as well. So I can't say that I "visualize" a scene, since that's only one aspect of the palate that I'm working with. I do visualize visual images -- how someone looks, facial expressions, physical actions. I visualize how a particular setting appears and determine what elements of that setting I want to describe and emphasize. I will mentally hear dialogue and other sounds. I will mentally consider other aspects of the environment that are not visual -- temperature and humidity, aromas, the feel of clothing, the taste, temperature or texture of food and drink. But then I have to figure out how to translate those sensory elements into descriptive words. And added to all that sensory description is the emotional context -- the thoughts and assessments of characters about the sensory data, about each other, themselves, and what sorts of knowledge they possess, and the question of how and in what form that information will be conveyed to the audience. So you could say I half-visualize scenes, or that I visualize visual elements.

I do know some writers who have to visualize scenes in a very cinematic way for them to be able to find words to describe action and sensory elements in their stories, so how much a writer makes use of mental visualization does vary considerably from person to person. But I do also think that writers often believe that they "visualize" scenes more than they actually do because of the emotional content of the scenes. It is also a common problem that while a writer may have visualized a scene fully in their head and have all the information of a scene worked out mentally, the description and information don't always make it down to the page successfully. So I suppose you could call that a danger of visualization. :)

Kind of like information overload, huh?

JRMurdock
May 17th, 2004, 11:24 AM
When reading, I like to take everything in. I also get disappointed when the author 'hints' at what something looks like, I get the image in my head, then the author goes back to describe that item/person/creature more in depth and distorts my vision.

When I'm writing, I'm a dorky weirdo -- which is why I like to write alone -- and I'll mimic movements, facial expressions, reactions. I actually think about what would it 'feel' like for the person going through the situation I've put him/her into. I then translate that onto paper.

In one story I wrote (Don't Eat the Bread) I described the bread so vividly, I got hungry. That was until I got to the point where the folk find out why they shouldn't eat they bread. :) Wince. Cringe. Contort. Convulse.

Continuing on with writing, I do try to either fully describe something, or give vague generalizations and let the reader figure it out, not both. It's interesting, with my test readers, to see the different impressions each person gets making a specific story personalized with their own views.

Jamza1986
May 17th, 2004, 11:49 AM
I can't say I mimic any movements, but when writer's flow really grips me, the story is practically happening in my head. It becomes easy to describe the important parts of scenes, and far easier to write about people's emotions, as I really do get to seem to get in the mood of the person from who's point of view I am writing.

When I'm reading, I sometimes visualise things. I visualised LOTR completely. Lol in the film it was really weird because Gandalf coming along in the wagon simply WAS Gandalf, exactaly how I visualised him. That was the same with Sam Gamgee, Saruman, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, Treebeard, Merry, Pippin, and the Orcs. Wasn't true with Frodo, Arwen, Galadriel and I few others, though.Gollum was completely different from what I imagined, but I liked the way it was done. Has anyone read the books since seeing the films? Totally different I find.