Inklings #2: How Do You See?

Hi there! Welcome to the 2nd Inklings blog, where I take 3 decades of writing experience, dissect it, and try to shine a light on the pieces.

In this one, I’m going to take a look at an oft-overlooked part of the writing process. Your inner sight. How does your storyteller see things? 

You are the only one who knows what happens in your brain when you try to tell a story. Have you ever dug into that? Figured out exactly which bits are which way and what’s something different? If not, keep reading! If yes, maybe read anyway, you might see a new angle!

When this topic does come up, it’s generally asked as a simple binary – do you see in pictures or in words?

But the binary system, much like gender, is not enough for something so complex. Some folk hear words, some folk have flashes and colours, some folk see in full technicolour but hear nothing, some folk have a hybrid of all sorts of things…there’s a whole galaxy of differences in how we see things. The trick, is to figure out your inner sight; once you know how it works, you can figure out how best to use it.

The biggest takeaway here is that there is no superior method. The important thing is knowing what it is. You have to interrogate it. You have to find out how it affects the stories as they emerge onto whatever medium you’re using.

Is there colour? All the time, or just certain scenes? Or is it just certain colours? Is there a common theme to this? Or is is all black and white?

Is it a snapshot? Or a continous? Is it first person? Third person? Movielike? How does it move, if it does? If it’s a snapshot – why that moment? In the foreground and the background, moving or static, what’s important in that scene? What’s noticeably there? What’s noticeably not? 

Do you get words? Do they pop fully formed into your head? Scroll up your mental screen? Come as inner voices? Are there distinct voices in there? Or is everything a silent movie? Are there flashcards and pointers? Or are you interpreting based on what you’re seeing?

Do your characters talk to you? Do they talk to each other? Do you talk to them? Can you have a conversation with them? Can you enter their minds and be them? Is it only certain characters that do any of this?

When you see a scene or a snapshot, do you see the whole thing? Do your characters have bodies, heads, faces, hair? Or are they blank and you have to figure it out?

Those questions should give you a pretty good start on precisely how your stories tell themselves to you.

For me? I have a hybrid. I get full colour active scenes. I get characters and narrative piped directly into my head. I get blankness where my character’s faces are, but I do get their clothes and their voice. I can take them to one side and delve into them, take over them myself. They occasionally talk to me, but usually not. I get snapshots as well, but they are usually the seed of a story, something to build on or towards.

And then, I write what I see and hear as well as I can.

That’s how my head does things. Now, go find out about yours!

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