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A Brief Word On Imagination And Description

A photograph of a door in the gardens of Hever Castle, surrounded by autumn leaves

The woman went to the sink and washed her cup. I was pulled out of the story – hadn’t she already done that? Looking through the past few paragraphs in the scene I found that she hadn’t.

I realised that as I’d been reading, I’d imagined the two women talking at the table – as the dialogue showed this was happening. I saw one taking sips of coffee as the other spoke and then the reverse, and, as often happens in reality when you’ve a friend with you in the kitchen and it’s all very casual, the home owner had left the table to rinse her mug. That I’d imagined this made me very happy; I’m not great at taking a scene and running with it; description is useful (though I agree with the fact that lots of books have too much description).

(On this note there’s a ‘condition’ in the same region as Synesthesia, called Aphantasia – the inability to create mental images. It’s an interesting thing to read about.)

The washing up brought to mind the fact that stories don’t need to ‘tell’ – even if you’re not actually imagining, you don’t need an exact run-down of what’s happening, you don’t need the minor details repeated. Perhaps that’s where the line is, between telling and showing, the line between a reader taking on the scene’s construction themselves compared to being hindered because the author won’t let them create.

How do you find the visual part of reading? Do you find yourself creating the background and context?



July 28, 2017, 2:05 pm

I don’t often picture anything that isn’t described. In fact, one of the reasons I like the LOTR movies is because I had a bit of trouble picturing the battles, and the movies show what is happening.


July 28, 2017, 4:30 pm

I always visualize rooms, places, people, etc. when reading. If it’s a series… the same visuals come back to me with every installment.

It can throw me off if a film version strays from what I’ve pictured. Case in point, I read Forrest Gump years after seeing the film. The character described in the book is NOT Tom Hanks!


July 28, 2017, 8:18 pm

I love to read for this very reason: I can see everything in my mind. And one of the reasons for example, I have a hard time liking films made from books I like.



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