Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How Do You "See" Your Characters?

I read Michelle Diener's blog this morning, and her post about having a soundtrack for her books was interesting - what struck me most, though, was the comment by Edie who said she didn't "see" her characters when she wrote, she "heard" them.

It made me wonder how other people experience the scenes and characters in their books. I've been guilty of expecting everyone to be like me: I see (and consciously try to feel) everything in my head, then have to try to translate that into words. It didn't occur to me that other people might experience it differently. (Duh)

I wondered if the differences could be traced along learner styles: aural, kinesthetic and visual. I'm a strong visual learner with feeling/doing coming in second place - almost no auditory involvement at all. In fact, my daughter was aggravated with me last night because I couldn't understand what she was reading to me unless I looked at it myself.

So now I'm really curious -- how do you experience the characters and scenes you write about? Do you see them? Hear them? Feel them? Something else?

Inquiring minds want to know. Can you see a correlation to your learning style?


islandgrovepress said...


Thanks for the gracious comment on my site.

re "hearing" characters or seeing them.

I have done some acting and this helps in the placement of characters in your work, but on the whole, I "sense" the character, as if through a drug, place him/her on a stage in the back of my mind, and then I see, see see.
Writers tend to see whole words.

It does seem to come from a lot of acting, a whole whack of reading and a lot of writing intended for publication.
There is a vast difference between just stringing words together and producing proof copy.

A few oxymorons: read like pig, act like a pig if you have access to local theatre; write like a pig.

So much of it is experience, especially writing experience.

In a word, you have to write a lot.

Perhaps you have. But write more.

It will all come.


Kate S said...

Thanks, Ivan, that's an interesting take on it.

Charles Gramlich said...

I usually see my characters acting, although I generally can hear them as well. I love the sound of good prose, but it works best if I read it myself and combine the visual and auditory.

Kate S said...

Interesting, Charles. I don't often "hear" anything, unless it is a very specific noise in the story - tires on gravel, something like that.

Avery said...

I sense, if that's the right term for it. I don't hear their voices and I don't see them in my mind. It's more like I'm (to sound slightly dramatic and more than a little nutty) possessed by them. Just like I'm sitting here thinking my thoughts, when I'm writing I'm there, thinking their thoughts. I guess it comes from a childhood of constant playing pretend.

To drive the final nail in my crazy-coffin, I sometimes catch myself working out dialogue by talking to my bookshelf.

I haven't started using accents or changing the pitch of my voice, so I've got that in my favor (so far).

Kate S said...

LOL, Avery. I think "sensing" the characters is what Edie talked about, and a bit of what Ivan said too. I can't imagine that, which is what makes it interesting to me. I didn't realize that people had such different processes for the way they experience the stories they write. For me, it's like watching a movie unfold, but I'm in the scene with them, and can see all angles at once.

Steve said...

I reckon I see, feel and head-hop.

These days I'm writing in rotating 3rd person, so I have to be careful to stay with my viewpoint character.

Otherwise, I watch the scene a couple times from outside. And I jump into that PoV character's head. What's she seeing? How's that chair feel? What are some noteworthy textures, smells, etc? How does she feel about what that other guy just did?

And then I look at the outside and the inside info and try to pick the most effective way to tell the story...

Sidney said...

I see my scenes in my minds eye, often when I'm not at my computer then it's kind of transcribing.

Sometimes if things are going a little rough it's like viewing the scene through a fog. The fog moves gradually and I get glimpses through it which I can set down.

Kate S said...

Steve & Sidney, thanks for taking the time to respond.

So far, it seems the "seers" are in the lead, followed by the "sensers" and then the "hearers."

For some reason, I find this fascinating. Could be boring the rest of you to death, but I find it interesting. :)

Edie said...

Kate, reading Ivan and Avery's comments gave me chills. I read somewhere if you use "see" words a lot, you're probably a writer who "sees" characters. The same with all the other senses. Well, I use forms of "think" a lot in my writing (and I delete most of them during revisions, lol). So I thought (there I go again) that I "think" my characters. But "sense" is more accurate. Good to know. :)

Michelle said...

No, Kate, you're not alone, I find this fascinating as well. I see it like you, a movie playing before my eyes, and I like using music (just like in a movie) to help evoke the feeling a scene should generate. Thanks for mentioning my blog ;).

Kate S said...

Thanks for dropping over, Edie and Michelle. :)

Michelle, I've seen some other blogs recently about music and writing (Charles also posted about it) and just yesterday I saw a television program that equating playing music to telling a story - that it had a theme, beginning, middle and end. I'd just never really given it much thought before.

Some time ago, I bought a book that even came with it's own music CD and a list of the chapters the music went with. I can't believe that I don't recall exactly what it was, but I think it was Laura Esquival's "Law of Love"?