Today I’m bringing to the discussion table a very “ambiguous” concept; What exactly do you see while reading? What’s basic knowledge: When you read, you don’t look at the printed page, you grasp the meaning and weave the pictures and scenes.
But what people don’t talk about is how each one of us imagines a character. If the author does not describe any specific clothing or facial features, what do you see in your head ? What about faces, how can you give a new face to each and every character ? What about combat, do you sometimes fill in scenes of your own imagination ? And voices; can you actually imagine a voice ?
Colors, dresses, weapons… Reading can be hard, and I’m here to talk about what I, personally, see while reading. Well, to the best of my abilities. Some of this stuff can’t be put into words.
Let’s take a simple description of a scene. I’ll quote the original paragraph, and then describe what I actually see in my mind, and then we’ll see what that gives in my mind !
The comet’s tail spread across the dawn, a red slash that bled above the crags of Dragonstone like a wound in the pink and purple sky. The maester stood on the windswept balcony outside his chambers. It was here the ravens came, after long flight. Their droppings speckled the gargoyles that rose twelve feet tall on either side of him, a hellhound and a wyvern, two of the thousand that brooded over the walls of the ancient fortress.
A Clash of Kings – G.R.R Martin
(I literally just grabbed the book that was right next to me, which I’m currently reading)
Okay, that was what I read, this is what I saw; A huge red and orange comet against a night sky, then a shot of a city clouded in black, only the outlines are visible. Then, I’m on the balcony, looking at the scene from the maester’s left side, as if I just turned and was just about to talk to him. He’s looking at the balcony’s grey stone. I read the droppings part, but my brain deemed the stone gargoyles more important to visualize. What I actually visualized is an ambiguous silhouette of 2 statues on either side of the maester, and barely focused over the fact that more of them are on the fortress, or the actual shape of them.
Now; I read as fast as anyone, but it takes effort to visualize a hellhound and a wyvern. And when you’re reading A Clash of Kings, you don’t stop to focus what that statue looked like when you quite literally have a thousand more pages to read 😂
Okay, so here’s what I don’t visualize; wind, colors, unimportant details, information concerning a wider setting than what the character’s can see.
I won’t claim to have the vastest imagination, but when I read, I put myself as just a witness, as if I’m watching it on tv. If I decide to take my time and fully imagine every detail, I’ll be reading at the speed of a third grader, which is quite the inconvenience xD
- Some people cast themselves as one of the characters. I tried that, but then my character stops appearing or dies, or something like that. Plus, I feel weird saying what they say, because that’s not what I would have said in their place, or I don’t know what they know. So I stopped doing that long ago.
- Let’s talk about faces; I literally don’t imagine a fully detailed face. But what I’m sure of is this; If I’ve seen the movie cast, or fanart, I’m almost 100% sure to unwittingly make that what I imagine ( See? This is why you gotta read the book before you watch the movie! Because if I don’t remember the actor/actress, they’ll be out of place if I imagine them myself and it distracts me) But if I don’t, then I’d make the character look somewhere between real-ish, and an anime character (Yes, I watch anime, and it has largely shaped how I read 💙💙)
- Clothes! The thing I struggle with most 😭 I have a HUGE problem imagining dresses. I have zero knowledge for satin or gossamer or whatever the heck extensive dress description says. Just reading them bores me to no end 😂 like, I get it if your dress is gorgeous, but I won’t look to make a whole design in my head😂
I love me some epic fight scenes, especially if there are superpowers involved. Even more if they are on a big scale ( the scale of damage on the scenery, because it reflects how powerful a character is) or a deadly one-on-one.
When the descriptions are too detailed, I space out until a serious consequence happens, a terrible wound, poisoning, a stab in the heart or just good old complete annihilation 😉 If they are not enough, I tend to visualize how the characters look like, a tired stance, a glare, light reflecting on a dagger.
I won’t make this even longer for you to read, but I’ll conclude and say that combat scenes are relatively easier to imagine because they are focused on actions. But sometimes I get overwhelmed 😣
This is something I never noticed until I read The Giver by Lois Lowry, because *minor spoiler alert* to the MC and almost everyone else, everything is literally black and white. They don’t see colors. Because of something called Sameness, conformity created by advanced technology . *spoiler alert over* I realized it’s harder not to visualize colors. Because colors are how I’ve always seen everything. Unless you watch a lot of black-and-white movies, in which case you’d not have my problem with the Giver xD
Something else; in the Colors of Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley, in another galaxy far far away, there is a sun, that is in a color that is nowhere near any one you know, an eighth color. That one, I can’t imagine D: I just saw it as a murky shade between red and orange, like parchment, but redder.
That was all I have to say about what I see in my head while I read ! Do you relate to any of these? Drop a comment !