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TOPIC: The Experience of Fiction

The Experience of Fiction 2 years 1 month ago #1653

  • Kelly
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Hi Everyone,

So I'm a speculative fiction writer. My short fiction has been published in a number of magazines, and I have a piece that'll be in "Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy." Which is to say, whatever insecurities I may have about my fiction, I have some external encouragement on that path.

Discovering aphantasia, and discussing it with the writing community, has been very strange for me. Hearing my peers say that they "watch scenes and then write them down" or that they experience fiction as "a movie with voiceovers" is completely beyond my comprehension. When I write, it's just words. I have an idea and I find a starting place and I explore it on the page through prose.

I think in some ways, this has helped me. I'm sensitive to the 'feel' of prose. Everything needs to flow cleanly and lyrically. However, I do struggle in other areas. I'm not interested in supplying visuals of my characters. That's perfectly acceptable in short fiction but less so in longer works. I also have trouble with scenes where the spacial element is important. I don't know "where" my characters are in a scene.

Anyway, I'm curious. How do you experience fiction when you read? Do you "hear" it? Do you just flow with the words and the emotions?

And, if you're a writer, what's your writing process?
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The Experience of Fiction 2 years 1 month ago #1655

  • Nathan Buzby
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It has been years since I actually wrote a work of fiction, be it fantasy or science fiction. That said, my process that I use involves building a world and it's cultures, using a combination of anthropological theories, geography, and geology to create the world. I start by drawing a map, I include prevailing winds, rainshadows, etc so as to be realistic as possible to make suspending disbelief easier. Once I have the physical world roughed out, I can look at how that would influence culture through the environment, resources, weather patterns, etc.

With a world and it's cultures fleshed out this way, I then do what I do best, I script conversations, as someone on the autism spectrum it is the same tactic I use to navigate social settings and prepare myself for conversations or confrontation. Once scripted in my head for awhile, I then simply try to write, the information is all the there, the ambiance and setting take care of themselves because I am an intuitive thinker and since I have already created the basics of the world and cultures, it flows quite naturally at that point. Coupled with scripted personalities and rough ideas of the storyline (I often start with the ending of the story and then build to that) I am able to describe in fairly substantial detail what the setting is. I am also very hyper-sensory, above average sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch and though I cannot create these things in my mind, as I am writing I am still able to describe a lot of the other experiences, I am particularly strong with tactile and sensitive to smell, so those two senses feature heavily in my narrative.

I hope that piques your curiosity and gives you another perspective to chew on!
Tone Disclaimer: If you read something I write and feel I am trolling, please read it again and imagine instead you are talking to a teacher or professor. I do not write from a place of self-superiority or ego, I favor dialectical conversations that seek to find underlying causation and truth.
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The Experience of Fiction 2 years 1 month ago #1683

  • AlyHillary
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I'm mostly going to point and say "What Nathan said."
Though sometimes I also start with the scripted conversations and fill in cultural stuff around it if the first thing I thought of was the conversation. I write it down as I think of it, sometimes during the worldbuilding bit or before, sometimes after, and then I add all the movement and locations after the worldbuilding, and then I try to make it flow.
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The Experience of Fiction 2 years 1 week ago #1977

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H,
I'm also an essayist and novelist with Aphantasia (and I was also in a Best American Essay!). I feel like I create a world with my words that I can "see" like a blind person sees a room. It isn't clear, but if I put a detail in there, I know it's there, and it sits in my brain like a ghost image. But it's not visual, really -- though I did answer a few questions, with the dimly answer -- I am not totally blank in every category. I think Aphantasia helps me to organize and to think about the organization of a novel, and of the words in a sentence -- I rely on the flow, and I rely on things puzzling together on a word level. I have a hard time with physical descriptions of people, and honestly, I spend a lot of time on it. I have to be methodical, and to remember to put the imagery in. I think maybe in some way my writing mind compensates for my aphantasia mind. It's as close as I can get to remembering things. I think if other people see in movies and clear details, I see in slices of photos that I can only grasp for less than half a second. I have a fleeting seeing of things. But I have to really hover on a detail to get it, and I think my writing is detail rich for this compensation.

Anyway, I'm so grateful that this has a name! I
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The Experience of Fiction 2 years 1 week ago #1991

  • knowyourselves
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Let us read some of your stuffz!
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The Experience of Fiction 1 year 11 months ago #2242

  • Caldonia.Frank
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I'm only sixteen, but I do like to write and I'm in a creative writing class currently. When I write I do fantasy or just general fiction, and I usually focus on interactions. I tend to leave out a lot of details unless they have some importance to the story, but I also kind of think ahead to what I want to do with it and just describe what needs to be for that to happen.

My writing process so far is just to sit down, get writing supplies and an idea, and then start writing a bit. When I get to a slow point (or even before that occasionally) I'll make a plot diagram.

Sorry if this wasn't helpful, but I thought I'd put in my own input since it seemed different from the other ones.
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The Experience of Fiction 1 year 10 months ago #2382

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This is exactly the topic that brought me here... I've been writing on and off for many years and I used to write comics, working with artists who, in hindsight, were visualising for me. Recently I've been thinking about writing a novel, and after coming across an article on Aphantasia began to worry that I might have it and that it might impact my ability to write good fiction.

I've never really thought about the mind's eye before and to think that some people can close their eyes and see what their imagination creates in vivid detail... well, that must be a creative advantage!

I'm hoping now I'm aware of it I'll discover ways I can train my mind's eye. But I'm encouraged that there are people here who do not feel it's holding them back.
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The Experience of Fiction 1 year 6 months ago #3021

  • dicknose
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Reader only!
I tend to skip over large bits of descriptive text to get to the action, a few bits of detail are fine, but extended parts designed to "build an image" just tire me out.
I don't tend to read much fiction, although I recently read The Martian and found that very good.
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The Experience of Fiction 1 year 6 months ago #3022

  • Ethel B
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When you read do you enjoy the descriptive parts? If you read description that said, "a flat, grassy plain, interrupted only by a lone barren tree" does your mind automatically start to fill in more details?

I can't visualize in my head, but I still have the experience of creating a scene or the way I think the character looks when I am reading, it just doesn't come to me as an image. But not all aphantasia people do the same. I am curious how it works for you.
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The Experience of Fiction 1 year 6 months ago #3037

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I don't tend to try to build a model (non visual representation), unless it seems important.
I guess I probably do have a model based on the writers description, but adding lots of detail can feel like hard work, like memorising a shopping list!
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The Experience of Fiction 1 year 6 months ago #3038

  • Ethel B
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No, that certainly doesn't sound enjoyable. I am lucky that it just sort of happens in the background for me. Still, very long descriptive passages bore me. Never finished any Tolkien book.
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The Experience of Fiction 1 year 6 months ago #3106

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I have no sensory imagination at all. I find it interesting that I highly enjoy fantasy and sci-fi novels with lots of descriptive imagery.
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The Experience of Fiction 1 year 5 months ago #3226

  • lindajdunn
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I dropped out of professional writing when my mother developed dementia and haven't decided if I will return to this or not since the market has changed so dramatically. I'm just not certain I can return to the business end of writing and I've found other outlets than professional publication. That said, I never realized that I was missing something because I'm hearing impaired and thus I just assumed I was missing something in the communication end of what was being expressed or that others had better sense of imagination than me. Having realized less than 48 hours ago that I others can visualize and I cannot, things began to make much more sense.

My writing has been published (but not for about a decade) in various publications. My best two were probably in Analog. Short has always been my style and I suspect that is because I have to hold the story in my head and novels don't hold together well. I have written novels, but they are not worthy of publication (imho). I've never submitted any of them for publication.

I write much like I knit so I'm going to use that as an analogy that's easier to follow. I seldom knit from a pattern and consider a pattern a guide. Sometimes I just have an idea and try to create it. I have been knitting long enough to sense/feel/know the basics just as I've memorized the 7 steps of commercially successful stories. With those guidelines, you can create anything... but it's not an easy process. When I knit and reach a point where I can see how the project is going, I often rip out and start over again or go back to a specific point and start again, changing the number of stitches or knitting stitch being used. I once remade an item about 12 times, start to finish, and changing it each time in an effort to replicate something I'd seen elsewhere but with a different type of collar. When I write the first draft, my revision is quite often a total rewrite and the longer the story, the more likely it is that by the time I'm 5,000 words into the story, it's turning into a different story where the verbage written 10,000 words away no longer fits into what is written thus far and what follows becomes a first draft middle and end of a second draft that is really a rewrite. As a result, I'm a very slow writer unless it's a very short story. Short is much easier. I cannot visualize at all but - despite losing a significant amount of my hearing at age three - I can do sounds and especially music. Unfortunately, that music recall is GIGO and is what I actually hear. Dreams are entirely different. In my dreams, I have images and (oddly enough) I have perfect hearing. I used to have vivid dreams and reasonable recall but now the dreams fade before I can record them. I attribute this to the aging process. It may also be part of why the urge to write is not as strong.
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The Experience of Fiction 1 year 4 months ago #3942

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I too skip over the descriptive parts, but I have always enjoyed fiction (nearly always fantasy or SF). But I do have some imaginative imagery; vague and dim, but present. Maybe having no imagery at all makes a significant difference?
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