I have discovered recently, that not everyone sees their thoughts in their head. I know that sounds like an odd opening but stay with me. When I read a book, I see it, the pictures are there in my head. I don’t really know how else to describe it because I can’t really comprehend the idea of not being able to. I thought it was something we all did! But talking to in a writing group, there was a split down the middle of who visualised their writing and those who saw literally nothing.
To me, this is one of the biggest writing tools I have. See me staring out of a window, nope, I’m writing. Got my hnans poised over a keyboard but I’m glancing up at the corner of the ceiling with literally no typing happening, yep still writing. If I’m stuck, I go out wandering and let it play out in my head. Doesn’t work, rewind to the last bit it was okay and try it another way. It can mean I get a little overly emotionally invested in certain characters and scenes as I almost feel like I’ve lived through it but hey, I suffer for my art.
Whether this goes hand in hand with other habits I have about always imagining how things can go bad in real life is a whole other can of worms; don’t ask me what’s the worst that could happen, I will tell you, ten different horrifying examples, vividly, with all possible consequences and I believe all of them. Oh yes, I thought it through…
I digress, as I often do. Back to the point. How do writers that don’t visualise it do it!? In a recent submission I wrote, a character was on a bus staring out at the decimated world around her. I saw her sat there, I saw what was through the window and I even felt like I could feel the cool glass against her forehead. you’d think this would make for wonderful exposition and description, but no, still heavy on the speech. (Thanks year 8 teacher that asked if I’d ever thought of script writing, I got the hint.) Without the visualisation and playing through of scenarios I would struggle with certain plot lines. It’s also how I find character’s voices, I listen to them, accent and all. It’s probably why I struggle so much when you read something after half a book and something goes against the image in my head, or you see the film/tv version. Yes, yes there is a certain character in a series I read and it wasn’t until near the end of book one, maybe even book two where they said he was bald,. Sorry, if you’d told me at the start, I could have dealt with it but at this point the man in my head is very much not bald and I can’t fix it.
There is also another issue. The ever branching series of stories. Oh you thought that was a nice one off story? Well you know when you went for that walk and you played it through and somehow went five books ahead!!! Yep. Guilty. I’m currently writing a serialised story for Cloaked Press. 500 words episodes twice a month (completely free to your inbox, just sign up to the newsletter now! Shameless plug). You know how far you get in 500 words? Not far. You know how far ahead the story is in my head…. oh about eight years give or take. And woah when we get to that plot twist, let me tell you! I tweeted about two of my favourite characters in the series about six weeks before one of them appeared! The other hasn’t even shown up yet!!!
In short, writers who don’t ‘see it’, hats off to you. Do let me know in the comments how you whether you ‘see’ what you write or not. ‘Seeing it’ is very much part of my process, and a big cause of me staring out of windows in car journeys. I don’t know how I would do this without it. I feel like my head would be very boring without it. Some would tell me to get out more. But I would turn around and give you ten very good worst case scenarios as to why that should never happen. On that note, did I mention there’ a marvellous free series available at Cloaked Press 😉