What if you couldn’t imagine your favorite book characters? What if your mind couldn’t put their faces together from the text on the page? Or bring their movements to life in your imagination?

Welcome to my world.

I cannot create 3D images in my mind. I can recall live-action movies and TV scenes I’ve watched. But I can’t generate a new image.

When I read, the images come across more like disjointed comic book panels. The author sets the stage and I see a painting of the setting as described. Next, there’s usually a verb involved. The character stands up, sees something, touches a door, etc. Those panels focus on the thing committing the action–as a character stands up, I see legs moving, as the character sees something, I see eyes moving.

This is not to say I never see any movement in my mind’s eye. I do. When I have to conjure movement, I use 2D animation.

That’s right. I see all my favorite characters as goddamn cartoons.

And it’s usually based on a couple physical traits that are repeated early on. For example:

alt=Baron Ruber from Quest for Camelot taunts the mother of the main character.

Baron Ruber, from Quest for Camelot is pretty much how I view adult K’vothe from The Name of the Wind. 

Now, I’m well aware that if I saw this in film that the character would look very different, but all I remember that he has red hair and he’s a powerful dude. Boom. Ruber.

I don’t even really LIKE that movie. I only appreciate the fact that there’s a gryphon in it! (gryphons are undervalued and should be in pretty much everything).

On a very rare occasion, I can sort of paste a bunch of those comic book panels together to make 3D motion using my imagination. But it’s only for a moment or two of motion and it’s blurry.

I can’t think in 3D motion. So all my favorite characters are cartoons or expressed visually in my head as pieces of themselves. My mental camera zeroes in on whatever the text is describing and nothing else.

I’ve gotten the impression that not everyone is like this, but I’m not sure. Let me know! Can you think in 3D motion? Do your characters come to life in your mind like a live-action movie or like a cartoon?



Author: V. Kane

I write YA fantasy, blog about it, and then take my dog out for therapy. My current manuscript is ANATHEMA, a story of two sisters caught up in a war between the gods. Find me on Twitter at @ValkyrieWriting or Instagram at books_and_dogs

8 thoughts

  1. I imagine my characters as real people and they live with me while I’m writing them. I can imagine them in 3D motion but I don’t necessarily imagine the whole scene. Sometimes I feel like they become part of me as I describe them on paper, so basically living their life through me!


  2. I don’t think of them as cartoons, my brain is weird, I can write a scene without really thinking about it.
    My characters and scenery are blurry, but I can get either the emotion of a scene, or the language, not usually at the same time.
    I write like a painter, the first run through is putting down the base layer, and subsequent passes provide more detail.
    To be honest I don’t know if this adequately describes the what happens in my noggin’ but it’s close too.
    Sometimes I can see my characters though, it’s usually when I’m trying to go to sleep, you know when it’s useful, but I forget by morning.


  3. I’ve always been able to see stories I read or write in “live action” so to speak. I see the setting, the characters, clothing etc. The one thing I don’t really see are the faces. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they have faces, and if there is a description of eyes or scars or a half smile, I see that. What I don’t see is the details of the face. I don’t want them looking like anyone else (everyone is an individual, after all), so the faces are left…blank.

    I never thought what it would be like if I couldn’t “see” with my mind’s eye what is on the page.


  4. I’m a “concept” kinda girl. I don’t actually visual characters in books. I often don’t even think about how to pronounce their names. They end up with a mental “flavor”, like ‘the shy brunette girl’ or ‘the cruel blond guy’– only with far more layers of nuance as I get to know each character.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not sure I visualize characters, exactly. When I’m reading or writing I’m more likely to imagine being in the scene as the characters themselves, performing their actions and feeling their emotions. I often dream this way too – lots of pov jumping depending on where the action is, with the scenery usually kinda blurry and faces blurrier still. The exception when I’m reading is if I’ve seen a movie version of the book, then I can picture the actors as those characters.

    Liked by 2 people

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