The Worlds Inside Our Heads


When I write, I visualize my characters as well as their surroundings. I know that in the world of my Thom & Tom series, that when you open the front door of the treehouse in which the titular characters live, the kitchen will be on the right and the bedrooms will be on the left. There’s a couch along the back wall of the living room opposite an old-style boxy television that sits on the floor. The walls are made of wood, such as one might see in a child’s treehouse, unadorned by either paint or plaster.

But you might never guess the layout of their treehouse from any of my stories. For one thing, as an author, I don’t need to tell you the layout of every building or room in order for you to create a mental picture. Isn’t it cool how our brains fill in the details for us?

For example:

Joan unlocked the door and stepped inside her dark apartment. She hated working late, though not as much as she hated spending time alone in her bed, tossing and turning as she begged sleep to numb her loneliness.

Dropping her purse on the chair near the door, she made her way to the kitchen for a cup of tea. She decided that tea would help her mood. Maybe not as much as a meaningful relationship with another human being, but still, tea was good.

“Maybe I need a pet,” she said aloud to the No One who lived with her.

Joan refused to admit that she talked to herself. Instead, she spoke to No One. Somehow, it helped, like late work nights and tea.

Okay, that was an impromptu little scene, but could you see Joan? Were you visualizing her apartment? Where was her bedroom? Where was the kitchen? What did the chair near the door look like?

Whether you realized it or not, your brain was probably filling in these details for you. You might even have developed a good sense of what Joan looked like, though absolutely no clues about her appearance were given.

And now I’m curious. Let’s do an experiment.

If you read today’s post, would you please comment with a few details that you saw in Joan’s scene? Let’s see how closely we visualized the story.

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