Do you ‘see’ your story as you write?

“Mikaella Clements interviews various authors about how their visual imagination (or lack thereof) informs their writing. The answers run the gamut: “I rarely visualize what I’m writing because visualization takes effort and can be distracting,” says Talia Hibbert. While Claire Messud says, “When I’m in a world it’s like a 3D five senses movie. I’m there.” (Washington Post)” – From Poets & Writers

On weekdays, I check Poets & Writers overview of literary headlines. When I read the blurb above, my first thought was that I wasn’t going to be able to see the entire story due to the Washington Post’s pay wall. That was frustrating because, after seeing the comment by Talia Hibbert, I wondered how anyone could possibly create a story without seeing it in their mind’s eye.

I guess we all assume that what we experience while writing is similar to what other authors experience. Since I “automatically ‘see'” the characters and locations I’m creating in my fiction, I wondered how visualization could be distracting, much less take an effort to accomplish.

As Messud says, “I’m there.”

In fact, I couldn’t avoid being there even if I wanted to because images appear (unbidden but welcome) while I write. True, they’re often somewhat determined by the research I do, especially when it comes to the look and feel of locations. 

“Seeing’ absolutely nothing would, for me, be a distraction. It would be like writing in a dark room with my eyes closed. Heck, I’d probably ‘see’ the story anyway.

If you write fiction, does your mind create pictures of your location and your characters while you’re writing? (Just wondering.) If you do see those pictures, are they helpful or distracting?

I’m always writing, so to speak, about a mental movie I’m watching. But maybe most writers don’t approach their work this way. When I hear that other writers don’t/won’t/can’t to this, I’m filled with wonder about how the process of creation works.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, realism, magical realism, and paranormal stories and novels.



3 thoughts on “Do you ‘see’ your story as you write?

  1. Yup: the movie runs in my head while my fingers scurry to get it down. I know every room, every view, what they’re wearing. Although I don’t always put all that on the page. I don’t know how people write action scenes if their process doesn’t work like this.

  2. Pingback: Do you ‘see’ what’s happening in a novel while you read it? – Malcolm's Round Table

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