Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Most fiction lovers create a mental movie, and getting lost inside a thrilling tale is not uncommon. Actually, it’s entertaining and relaxing to escape reality and imagine living in another dimension and witnessing the action firsthand.
If you’re anything like me, some evenings you’d rather stay up until the wee hours hanging out with your favorite fictional characters, and then you feel lost when the story ends.
Does Everybody Visualize the Same Thing?
Of course not! That’s the beauty of being unique individuals. What we see when we read is just one of many indicators of how we’re different. We may all look at the same words, but our minds perceive them differently.
Our experiences, education, culture, values, and other factors predispose us to interpret the text in specific ways. Since no two people think alike, our mental images when we read will differ as well. Reading a book is so much more than taking in mere words. The thrill lies in how your mind’s eye decodes that alphabet soup into a picture.
Some writers believe they must include lots of descriptive language to set people’s imaginations in overdrive. The more imagery, the better to help the reader dive into the heart of the story.
On the other hand, as an author, I prefer to skip sharing my preconceived notions. I believe it’s more important to allow my readers (especially kids) free reign to let their imaginations run wild and imagine the characters and scenes to their liking.
For me, that’s the beauty of writing – to take the reader on a journey that gets those little gray cells churning madly away painting an accompanying mental picture.
Years ago, I talked with a group of middle schoolers about Gerald and the Wee People. I instructed them to close their eyes and picture the scene in their mind’s eye as I read a passage from the book.
The big reveal was a shocker! The kids came up with images I’d never dreamed possible. A few pictured the protagonists having brown hair. Others argued for black, blond, short, long, straight, or curly. Clothes varied from shorts and t-shirts to jeans to more medieval-era garments to match the setting.
I loved it! The kids were surprised at how different their classmates’ impressions differed from their own. No one was wrong because there were no correct answers. Everyone had their own ideas, making it enjoyable for them and me.
Why don’t you try Gerald and the Wee People and tell me what you think Gerald and Vernon look like? What are your impressions of the Wee People’s village and some of the residents? I’m sure Sean will be everyone’s least favorite character. Yet, who will win your heart? Will Dora’s no-nonsense approach appeal to you, or will Alyson wind up being everyone’s beloved scatter-brained teenager?
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