I’m 52 and only realized I was an aphant about 10 days ago. I think I do dream visually, but I have no visual mind’s eye. Always had trouble with memories, and remembering faces. I used to joke that I needed a chronicler to follow me around because I couldn’t remember things.
I’ve also been a professional fiction writer for the past 23 years.
I write thrillers. I’ve written several dozen, and I’ve sold several million books. Readers seem to like my stuff.
That said, I could never do description well. As a result, I always have to remind myself to add visual details. I have never been able to picture the characters I write about.
I know I write differently than my peers, especially since I have co-written with many. I can plot very fast, because I “see” scenes as connections among words and ideas. So if A, B, and C have happened in a story, I can quickly find E, F, and G. And I mean really quickly.
The same is for jokes. I’ve always had the (annoying?) skill of being able to automatically match any situation, conversation, or fact, with a joke, and to do it instantly. My brain finds connections, and then presupposition allows me to see the reasonable response, and then the incongruous, humorous response.
So for me, writing is about what happens next. Lots of dialog and action, very little description. Plotting is a giant word cloud of themes and ideas and conflicts that weave together in my mind in an obvious way; at least it’s obvious to me as I write it.
I jot down notes and ideas on character arcs, story goals, suspense and drama, and then string these in a pleasing order to best tell the narrative. I don’t want to say it’s like math, or that it’s a formula. It’s more organic, like cooking without a recipe or pictures, but knowing how something will turn out. Or like planning 3 moves ahead in a chess game. But when I play chess, I have to look at the board.
I can hear music in my head when I think about songs, and my internal voice sounds like me. I can imagine tastes and smells, but I’m not sure how accurate I am, because I’m still amazed that when someone imagines a banana they actually can visualize a banana. For over five decades I thought that was hyperbole.
So TL:DR–I write fiction the same way I’d verbally describe a movie I saw to a friend, except it’s a movie I make up using words instead of images.
Also I find it interesting that I can’t type, because I can’t imagine the keyboard. Looking at the keyboard I can hunt and peck about 60 words a minute. Once I look away, I can’t type.
I hope that answers your question. 🙂