Aphantasia and writing

Biskit

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The HMRC** website Self Assessment software was rather odd in some respects.

For instance, if you were due a rebate (which I was at various times in the past), the software asked if you wanted to be paid by cheque or have it transferred to your bank account. (I wanted the former and told it so.) Fair enough, but the paper form didn't give one this option, and as the output of the website produced a pdf version of a form that was identical to the paper one, I wondered how it did this.

It did so by lying on my behalf. o_O

There was a box under Question Q19B:If I had been filling in the paper form, I could not have ticked that box: I was reporting, elsewhere on the form, that I was receiving interest from a building society, which sort of depended on me having a building society account. (Okay, I could have closed the account in the meantime, but I was getting interest from it every year which, over time, rather gave the game away.) My only defence against an accusation that I had been incorrectly filling in the form (if I'd had to offer a defence), would have been that the HMRC software made me do it. (Would that have made it worse... because I was conspiring with the HMRC...?)


** - For those not in the know, HMRC = Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (so it's the UK's equivalent of IRS in the US).
1: People grumble about dealing with the HMRC but nowhere near as much as one of my family grumbled about working for the HMRC. A number of those complaints related to the HMRC forms...

2: Back in the day, before names changed, there was also the DHSS - Department of Health and Social Security. The complaining family member from (1) above, also grumbled about the DHSS swooping in and beating HRMC to the punch in picking up someone the HMRC wanted for non-payment. It turns out their few days of surveillance were far outmatched by the weeks the DHSS team had been on the case. (No idea what DHSS wanted with the target.)

3: A friend in the financial advice business always referred to the DHSS as the Department of Stealth and Total Obscurity.
 

Juliana

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I'm another one who's 'face blind' as a reader/writer. I love place descriptions and do pay attention to those, and I pay attention to mentions of clothing and equipment (like weapons used), but somehow the actual character descriptions are just not important. I'm not going to picture them, so they don't really matter, if that makes sense?
 

Astro Pen

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This is very interesting and explains some things to me.
A while back someone read the draft one of my novellas and complained that they couldn't visualise the locations. - The interiors of the two space vessels the action was taking place on.
This left me bemused because I thought they were clear as day! I actually went out of my way to contrast the submarine like claustrophobia of the earth vessel with the huge scale of the craft it encounters and what is happening in the vast spaces inside it. (no spoilers) The other betas had been fine with it. This now makes sense in the context of this thread.
It won't change my writing as, if I accommodate it, the descriptions would be 'over egged' to the average reader. That said, it is good to be aware of in terms of making sure that there are enough cues to 'steer imagination ' but not 'define' locations.
 

Guanazee

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Would it help you to draw rough sketches of the characters and settings in your stories, then paste them on a trifold or something at your workstation? Maybe a concrete visual reminder will help.
 

Astro Pen

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@Topher
Just curious about how you imagine music. Do you her songs playing in your head imagining the actual sounds and tones or are they just a pattern of notes and words?
 

Koraki_Saros

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This is the first thread I came across, and I know several people with Aphantasia. I will read through, but I wondered about how I could make my writing something that could help an aphantasic person enjoy reading what I write?

As a writer, I feel I write in great detail. As for dreaming myself, I don't always dream in colour or in visual at all. I usually am blind I can smell, sometimes hear, but it's seriously muffled, and feel. When I do see it's as if I am viewing through someone else.

I tend to like detailed stories myself. They help me visualize the characters and places, but there has to be a balance between detail and action. Detail cannot overtake the story.
 

DLCroix

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Hi all,

Bit of a strange question really, and not sure if this is the best section to ask it in?

I found out only a couple of years ago that a have Aphantasia - I have no internal mind's eye. (Well, I think I dream in images, but I can't form pictures in my mind at will, and don't ever form pictures in my mind when I'm reading.) Obviously I always knew I didn't do this, but I hadn't previously realised that other people could - I always assumed they were talking metaphorically or something!
Well, I used to draw comics, so I did the reverse process. Even so, what I have learned in all this time is that if you do not write it, the reader does not read it and therefore does not know. So, if I have the facility to, let's say, visualize a scene or an image, has made me propose as an objective, this is when writing, to try to capture at least the most important details of what I am seeing in my mind so that so the reader can also see them, and to that process then I add the psychological part, internal thoughts of the characters, etc.
 

tinkerdan

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This does bring up an interesting point.
Anyway, I don't really see it as a negative thing, because it just means i imagine and think in a slightly different way, and it hasn't ever affected my love of reading, but have been wondering what effect it might have on my writing. When reading I find I often don't pay a whole lot of attention when authors describe what characters look like - I obviously pick up on traits and descriptions that tell me what the character will be like, as a person, but don't tend to pay much attention to physical attributes like hair colour etc. But I suppose other readers probably appreciate descriptions like that more, to build up a mental image of the character? So it's probably something i should consciously try to make sure I don't overlook in my own writing.
There was another thread here--can't find it right now--that discussed the idea that some things should be left to the readers imagination.
I would have almost thought that that would not be all that helpful for the OP; yet here in the quote it seems that it doesn't matter, because it gets ignored. If I have read that correctly.

And I have to admit when it seems too dense I sometimes find myself scanning over the block of description.

However the discussion on interiority:

This might be something that the OP might appreciate--should check out.
This is, basically, when the character has internal monologue that offers backstory and motive that help explain how the react and act.
(The question would be does it help you are do you scan that also.)
 

Topher

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@Topher
Just curious about how you imagine music. Do you her songs playing in your head imagining the actual sounds and tones or are they just a pattern of notes and words?
I always have music going around my head! To the point where it almost gets annoying :p so yes I imagine the actual sounds and tones...
 

Topher

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This is the first thread I came across, and I know several people with Aphantasia. I will read through, but I wondered about how I could make my writing something that could help an aphantasic person enjoy reading what I write?

As a writer, I feel I write in great detail. As for dreaming myself, I don't always dream in colour or in visual at all. I usually am blind I can smell, sometimes hear, but it's seriously muffled, and feel. When I do see it's as if I am viewing through someone else.

I tend to like detailed stories myself. They help me visualize the characters and places, but there has to be a balance between detail and action. Detail cannot overtake the story.
I'm not an experienced writer at all, so take this with a pinch of salt, but I don't think I'd do anything specific to change your writing style. I've been obsessed with reading sci fi and fantasy my whole life, and don't think I get any less out of it than people with very visual minds - I just have a different way of representing what I read to myself. I guess there are certain kinds of details where I glaze over a little bit, but I'm so used to doing that that I don't really notice and it doesn't really slow anything down unless they're toooo long.

I take it that most description in fiction is kind of doing double duty (perhaps subconsciously) - letting the reader build up a picture in their mind, and implying other things about the character and setting. For instance, if the character is described as big and tall, I might not build a picture of that in my head, but I will understand that the writer wants me to think of that person in a certain way (even if that's to set up an expectation that is then flipped around). I suppose the bits I glaze over on are where description isn't really playing this double role, but seems to be there only for the sake of visualisation. But I think that's probably relatively rare?
 

Topher

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However the discussion on interiority:

This might be something that the OP might appreciate--should check out.
This is, basically, when the character has internal monologue that offers backstory and motive that help explain how the react and act.
(The question would be does it help you are do you scan that also.)
Yes that kind of stuff is what I enjoy most about fiction! I can't see a picture of a character in my head, but I can enter their mind and their thought process, feel what they're feeling, etc.
 

HareBrain

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I take it that most description in fiction is kind of doing double duty (perhaps subconsciously) - letting the reader build up a picture in their mind, and implying other things about the character and setting.
This is a great point. It might not always be possible, but we should try to make sure it does this.
 

AlexH

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Hi Topher - if you watch films, do you find more often the film is better than the book? Maybe not given how you talk about stories, but I think one of the reasons the book is often considered better by many readers is because the book leaves a lot more to the imagination and for the reader to interpret in their own way.

When I started writing fiction, most of my settings were "white room" and apparently needed to be more descriptive. I wrote in this way because I used my imagination to fill settings in with stories I read by other writers. I now write more descriptively, and a big benefit of that is description can and should do double duty - as you mentioned - or even better, triple duty.

I feel like I'm losing my vivid imagination in recent years, which I didn't realise until I was reading this thread. I wonder if that's a result of me having to work harder to describe things in a double & triple duty way in my writing or something physiological.

I didn't realise how many people had face-blindness. I didn't know it was a thing until relatively recently in my life, after years of not even recognising my own friends and family at times, especially out of context (e.g. seeing a work colleague outside of work). I must have a mild form of prosopagnosia, which can make some social situations awkward and makes some films very difficult. For Game of Thrones, it probably took me a series to be able to distinguish between a couple of the Stark brothers (studying the family tree DVD extras helped a lot), and I wondered who the new guy in one of the Avengers films was for a while, which was very confusing. It turned out it was Captain America, but he'd grown a beard.

For distinguishing characters from one another as a writer, I think Neil Gaiman's 'funny hat' tip is excellent (number 10 at the link). It's worth reading up on tags as well as traits.
 

Topher

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No, I generally prefer books to their film adaptation. I still get very engrossed in writing - I still imagine myself in the world, it's just that my imagination isn't visual, if that makes sense?

Face-blindness is fascinating, and I don't think I've met anyone with it - hadn't thought about the impact it'd have for films!

Thanks for your gaiman link, looks interesting :)
 

Topher

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Actually, my partner just pointed out that I tend to get less furious about film remakes of books than she does, because when people or places don't look like they do in her head it makes it difficult for her to enjoy the film, whereas I don't have that problem!
 

Guttersnipe

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I thought I might have a mild case, but it wasn't as bad when I was a kid, when I would be able to make limited pictures in my mind. When I write, it feels as though I can't get inside the story as much as I'd like to, which affects my reading similarly.
 
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