Visualizing the Books We Read

Posted 16 August, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook / 18 Comments


Sunday Bookish Funday

Happy Sunday Everyone!! It’s another scorcher here in Dallas so we’ll be hanging low until after nap and then heading to the pool for a bit of a dip. I know so many of you are scrambling to get ready for school starting again and picking up old routines, but I’m looking forward to September if nothing else than the cooler temperatures! I forget every year that August is so stinking hot!

In an effort to keep cool, I’ve reading staying in an reading Sense and Sensibility  by Jane Austen. This is my first time reading the book and I haven’t seen the 1995 adaptation. It’s been a fun reading experience so far and a bit novel knowing nothing about the plot. I assume there’s a Mr. Knightley coming in a bit, but sometimes it’s rare to read such a popular classic and not know much about the book or characters.I’ve been dying to look up the actors from the movie on IMDB in order to put faces with names, but I’ve been trying to resist the urge. Would having faces go with the names spoil things for me? Would it alter my current vision while reading the book? (I will note I’m fairly certain I have the two female leads pegged based on what I know about the movie).

Thinking about actors and characters got me thinking about how we visualize a book and its characters while we’re reading.

I don’t put faces on my characters when I’m reading. It’s almost like I can visualize the scene I’m reading, but with all of the characters as faceless beings. However, when a movie is cast for a book I loved (or even a television show), I often have an immediate reaction of “That’s not who I pictured!” Do you picture features on a face when reading about your characters? Do you often assign actors’ faces to those of the characters you are reading? Once you’ve seen pictures of characters from an adaptation, is it difficult to get them out of your head? 

Scenery seems to be a little different, though. When reading a scene can play in my mind and the landscape and even specifics of a room can be more clear than the actual characters. I’ve often wondered why this is–why can I so easily visualize where the characters are but not who the characters are? How does your visualization of scenery compare to that of characters? Do you have an easier time seeing the landscape upon which your characters walk?

Just some short little things to ponder on this hot hot Sunday! I’m sure some of this has to do with how visual we are–I have noticed that when I dream the people in my dreams rarely have clearly defined faces. Sometimes I’m not even sure who exactly I’ve been dreaming about. Ha! But perhaps that is a different topic for a different day.





No little blip today as I haven’t bought anything new and the only thing I’ve finished is the audio for A Gift Upon the Shore by MR Wren. I thought this book was just a couple years old, but when I looked it up I discovered that it was published in 1990. It’s an adult post-apocalyptic book that thoughtfully explores new a new society after the world has gone quiet. The religious themes are heavy throughout the story and I found the storylines and the ideas fascinating. By the second half of the book I was looking for excuses to listen. I’d certainly recommend it!

Hope you’re having a great Sunday! Are you reading anything particularly good?



18 Responses to “Visualizing the Books We Read”

  1. Kay

    Sense and Sensibility is my favorite Austen book. And I love the 1995 adaptation. Hope you do as well. I know that most people are more enamored with Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley, and I love them too, but well, I love Elinor Dashwood. She is a woman after my own heart. I won’t spoil the movie for you by talking about the actors. Enjoy your pool time. Yes, the hot. So ready for September (well, probably more like late October, right?).

  2. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read Sense and Sensibility and if I ever saw the movie it’s been years. I remember basically nothing about it. I do tend to visualize characters and frequently the TV show I’m watching a lot of interferes with it a bit. I was in a big Doctor Who binge awhile ago and the main character of every book looked like David Tennant (that’s not really a bad thing though). I don’t know if looking up the actors would really bother me – especially if I was planning on watching it later.

  3. I haven’t read Sense & Sensibility, either! Nor have I seen the movie…I have read some “re-tellings.” I have mixed feelings about those.

    I used to completely visualize the characters’ faces, and recall that when I saw the movie Gone with the Wind after reading the book two or three times (when I was a teenager), I didn’t think Vivian Leigh looked at all like my imagined Scarlett.

    Nowadays, the faces of characters are pretty ambiguous for me. Perhaps my mind is reminding me that a movie might be coming? LOL. I can see their hair color, and I can totally fill in the rooms and outdoor spaces, especially if I’ve been to the places they are describing.

    Some authors do such a great job of describing the places that I am sure this adds to my visualization.

    Thanks for sharing…it’s pretty hot here too! Here’s MY WEEKLY UPDATES

  4. Hmm, what an interesting question! Sometimes I “cast” actors as character while reading, but I don’t do it for every character or every book. And I think I also tend to pick actors based more on the personalities of characters I’ve seen them play than on the actual physical characteristics of the character in the book; it’s more about their vibe than their appearance, for me.

  5. Whoa- you just listed to A Gift Upon the Shore?!?! Did you read my review? Huh. Anyway, you ask many interesting questions abt visualization in reading. I would rather discuss over wine. Someday!

  6. I love Sense & Sensibility — the novel and both film adaptations I’ve seen. I tend to cast actors in the roles of book characters to help me visualize. If I can’t come up with anyone for the role, sometimes I’ll just conjure up an image. :-) It can be frustrating, because sometimes by the time the character is described I’ve already come up with a persona that’s all wrong.

  7. Have you read What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund? I really enjoyed it. My personal visualization of characters and settings is rather vague – I get a general idea of what things and people look like but not specifics. It’s one of the reasons I hate TV or Movie tie in covers and any discussion of who should play X character in a Movie or TV adaptation. I do not like any actors face interfering with the face (however vague) that my brain and the author’s words create in my head.

  8. I almost always read something that isn’t a movie, or is a movie I haven’t seen, so I don’t picture actors when I read. But, to be honest, I almost never have a face in mind while I read, even when some aspect of the face is important to the story. I do enjoy a good bit of scenery, though.

  9. I actually had trouble reading Sense and Sensibility because I have see the movie version too often.
    I try to read the book before I see the movie. The movie frequent ruins it for me. My vision of what people look like is often different than the casting directors.

  10. I really do like watching movies/shows after reading the book because I like that sometimes the extra detail not laid out in the cinematic version is still hinted at so you get a better experience than someone who didn’t read the book. Otherwise, when a book doesn’t have a lot of description, my mind will pull up the characters I write about as if they’re acting out the book in costume or whatnot. If a character is written very well, then my mind will conjure them up hopefully as the author meant them to be ;)

  11. Do you picture features on a face when reading about your characters? Do you often assign actors’ faces to those of the characters you are reading? Once you’ve seen pictures of characters from an adaptation, is it difficult to get them out of your head?

    I don’t normally pictures the features, unless they’ve been described by the author and even then it’s difficult for me. I don’t think I ever assign actors’ faces to those of characters I’m reading. I don’t usually read books that have been adapted into movies so I guess I don’t have that problem.

    How does your visualization of scenery compare to that of characters? Do you have an easier time seeing the landscape upon which your characters walk?

    It depends on the book. If it’s somewhere I’ve been or seen pictures of, I can see the landscape in my mind. Otherwise, it’s pretty much blank.

  12. I love S&S! Second only to P&P. Enjoy!!! And I hate the heat … hate it. That’s why I don’t live in Texas (okay, so that’s not the only reason).

  13. Interesting thoughts, my dear. I don’t necessarily try to visualize characters. I read the description of the features but very often don’t give it another passing thought. I am more interested in how they act and think than what they look like. I do though try to visualize the setting without having it distract me from the story. I realize I do this on a subconscious level. I probably could never draw a picture of a setting in a story, but I understand what it all means and unconsciously understand how it fits together – if that makes any sense whatsoever.

    • it does make sense to me as I think that’s how my visualization works–not that I try to conjure up the picture but that on a subconscious level I can somehow see what is going on in my mind. But even still, characters are basically a blank ghost-like form. Ha!

  14. If I’ve seen the movie, I have the hardest time getting that image out of my head when I read the book after. But I don’t always have a clear picture of a character from a book before seeing a movie. Maybe I did when I was younger and read fewer books and spent a longer amount of time with each book – really absorbing the characters. You’ve probably figured out by now, no Mr. Knightly in this one. And DO NOT watch the 1995 adaptation until after you finish. As much as I do love that movie, Emma Thompson is TOO old to be playing Elinor Dashwood.

  15. I absolutely agree with my characters being faceless beings but knowing INSTANTLY if the “wrong” person gets cast for the movie role. So strange! Maybe we just get a “sense” of who the person is, and if the actor’s persona doesn’t match, it just seems off. Who knows!