Monday, September 2, 2013

Now You See It

When I was younger, I read just about anything and everything.  I devoured books, and I drove my mom crazy by leaving them all over the house. 

We had a close friend of my parents that had similar tastes as me, and one day, I suggested that he read The Robe by Lloyd C Douglass.  (For those of you who haven’t read it, I highly suggest it!) 

My mom’s response forever changed how I looked at books and writing.

“Krista, he wouldn't like it.  He can’t see images described in books.”

What?  Books had images?  Sure, I knew that there were the boring descriptions throughout every story I’d read.  (And one of the reasons why I couldn't finish Lord of the Rings).  But I never understood why.  You see, I can’t see the images either.  When I read a book, I might hear the voices of the characters as they converse, I might feel the environment, but not once have I been able to ‘see’ what’s going on. 

Some people describe it like watching a movie.  They see everything they read, the characters have faces, expressions.  The setting isn't just a landscape, it’s an actual place. 

I've tried to practice imagining as I read, and there are moments when it feels like exercising my brain.  I've gotten to the point where I can occasionally glimpse shadows.  I can see snatches of colors.  But that’s as far as I get.

Picture taken by me!

I know what you’re asking.  I write stories.  How can I write a description if I can’t ‘see’ it?  One of the more amusing responses from a beta after reading my White WIP was that there was too much noise.  It’s distracting when there’s so many noises going on in the background, and she can’t concentrate on what’s going on. 

In my Red WIP, I have a large number of scenes where a character is listening in to a conversation, but can’t see the people as they converse.  I think this is based almost directly on the fact that I can’t visualize it, but I can hear the conversations as clearly as if I was listening in too.  In fact, sound is probably the most dominant sense that I use when writing.  Interestingly enough, one of my recent betas has asked me to add smells into every scene.  

I don’t know what my characters look like, at least, for the most part.  I have to keep a list to make sure that I don’t say one character is blonde in one chapter and brunette in another.  It’s been a struggle for me to balance all 5 senses – hearing, sight, taste, touch and smell.  But I think it’s something I’m improving on.

What about you?  What do you ‘see’ when you read?  Is it like a movie?  Or an audiobook?  What sense most appeals to you?  And do you have any advice on adding description?