How Writer's Visualize

Several years ago I read a blog posting and comments by several of my favorite authors on The running commentary was about creating scenes and visualizing the action and characters. The discussion was standard enough that I almost moved on to a later discussion until I realized several of the authors said they didn’t see the scenes in their heads.

For example, urban fantasy author, C.E. Murphy noted in a posting on Magical Words (March 2008) that ‘she didn’t get pictures in her head,’ and neither did urban fantasy writer, Faith Hunter.

What? Two authors who create such vivid scenes and they didn’t get a running commentary in their head as their story spewed into narrative and dialogue?

That brought me to a complete stop. I always assumed that every writer received the Technicolor, full motion relay of action that propels me to type faster than my fingers find comfortable so I won’t miss a detail. And while I get that we each approach our craft and storytelling from a unique perspective, I felt loss and confusion for a writer that can’t see scenes like motion picture images. I do. I’d feel a great emptiness if suddenly my sense of story ‘sight’ were to end. It’s the reason I write. It’s the way I feel connected to my characters and stories, and how I carry them with me away from the keyboard to my car, on a walk, even in snippets of dreams.

And for those of you worried that you might live close to where I drive while I’m thinking about story, please rest assured…I don’t zone out at the wheel. I merely find thinking about scenes and plot while driving on long trips stimulates the imagination. Go figure.

I see every gesture and movement for all my characters, though perhaps a shade less for my villains and probably by choice. I don’t want to feel the villains or see them too closely as I already understand the impact of the tragedies they cause.

But the main characters, those I definitely see in each passage of time and plot point. For example in this book, Warrior Reborn, I visualize Briet’s spritely attitude, her short cropped blonde hair that shivers and bounces with her emotions, and her large brown eyes that depict everything thought of worry and compassion. Fortunately, Briet’s young patients see all those traits and qualities as well. As does the hero, Jason Ballard. For him, I see the crisp white shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbows, a calm demeanor, and cool look to his deep blue eyes that reflect a man at ease in his environment and assured in the outcome of his actions. Assured until Briet manages to get under his skin.

And for them both I can visualize the impact on their gestures and actions from threats to those they love and feel beholden to protect.

I suspect I held this same ability to see the scenes before I started writing. I suspect it is what lead me to put on paper what plays in my mind. I hope readers can see what I see as well, or at least something infinitely more wonderful. That’s my aim as a writer.