Fiction or Non-fiction?

DiscussionsCategory: QuestionsFiction or Non-fiction?
Jennifer McDougallJennifer McDougall Staff asked 1 year ago

Some aphantasics prefer non-fiction over fiction or fantasy novels, as they cannot create mental images of scenes or characters. What’s your preference?

Margaret Morgan replied 1 year ago

I read and enjoy both. I am also a novelist and screenwriter. Interestly, people have commented that my fiction is very “visual”. (My novel features, for example, vivid descriptions of visual synaesthesia, something that is almost the antithesis of aphantasia.)

I’ve thought a lot about how this could be. I do often refer to photos when I am writing description, and I think that when I remember a place I have been, I tend to remember my impressions of the place because I can’t conjure a visual recollection. It is the memory of those non-visual impressions that I use in my writing.

When I read fiction, I don’t, obviously, see in my mind what the writer is describing. That isn’t a drawback, though. There is so much more to reading fiction than the visual.

Eric Johnson replied 6 months ago

When I was younger, I wanted to write, buy my prose was so flat that I couldn’t imagine anyone who would enjoy reading it.

Anna Postnikova replied 5 months ago

I tend to go for fiction. Just because i cant see it doesnt mean i cant enjoy it. But i do occasionally enjoy nonfiction. But i have noticed that i tend to either avoid books/authors that are description (imagery) heavy or i skim the description for anything that might actually be relevent to the plot

Lindsay Pulsipher replied 4 months ago

I prefer fiction, specifically fantasy and sci-fi. If I read books that are more factual, they tend to be historical fiction. Biographies bore me most of the time. I also like to read and write poetry (although it’s been a long time since I’ve written any). John Grisham’s books, although enjoyable, require a list of characters’ first and last names because I can’t keep it all straight.

On the flip side, my husband is a hyperphant who prefers factual books, mostly war stories and history.

17 Answers
Nathan BlumenfeldNathan Blumenfeld answered 1 year ago

I love both. Thinking back, I used to fixate on visual descriptions of characters — I would take notes whenever height, eye or hair color, features, etc for a character were noted in the text, to help me construct a full idea of the character, because I couldn’t picture them. This led to some interesting situations where I realized that often what other readers pictured looked nothing like how the character was actually described, and some others where I’d note contradictory information in the text, or note trends such as when an author kept describing heights relative to other characters, to the extent that every main character must have been pretty much towering over the average person.
But at the same time, I tend to skim over lengthy descriptions of locations. Instead, my pleasures are not in "seeing" the narrative but in the texture of the prose, the architecture of the story, etc.

Gordon HallGordon Hall answered 1 year ago


For me it is all about the story obviously I skip over descriptions of scenes I can’t picture.

Katrina WicksKatrina Wicks answered 1 year ago

My husband who is full aphantasia doesn’t appreciate or get fiction in written format at all. I am a fiction writer, so this is how we discovered he had it. Personally though, even though I can imagine, i get quite bored with over descriptive books too, i tend to try and write about the experience the character is having and what they are feeling, not necessarily a huge amount of time on what they are ‘seeing’.

Max WatsonMax Watson answered 12 months ago

I’m a fiction writer and completed my first novel before discovering I have aphantasia. I had to look up pictures of the things I wanted to describe in my novel due to not being able to imagine it but I did not know this was abnormal until a few months ago. I have always enjoyed fiction books but my focus was on the way the story was told, on the imagery the author provided via sensation rather than physical description. I think this is why I love Ray Bradbury so much. All of his writing is less about making the reader envision something as it is about how that something makes you feel, how it conjures dread or fear or wonder.

Luc JeanneauLuc Jeanneau answered 7 months ago

I like both. A gripping story with awesome facts and twists and turns is right up my alley. I’m like you Katrina, in that overly descriptive books will bore me though. So I think it’s harder to find fiction that keeps things concise. Fast reads are always the best.

Aside from the plot, the "feel" of the book is almost the most important. The cadence, pacing, flow, and turns of phrase help. It’s almost like it needs to be a satisfying feeling to read/narrate it in my head because that’s the only experience I am really getting out of it.

Christoph BackhausChristoph Backhaus answered 7 months ago

I’m 99% non-fiction. I used to read fiction when I was a child but I would say very little and more because I just wasn’t that interested in non-fiction fields yet. Now I enjoy reading a book about psychology or some other field as much as I would watching a movie. The only difference really is that one requires more effort to do. I have a huge backlog of books non-fiction that I want to get through. I find the stories that the real world has to offer are far more exciting than anything someone could come up with.

Stan BlakeyStan Blakey answered 6 months ago

i read both. i read fiction for the plot. i haven’t picked Dickens again after trying to get through two pages describing a room.

ANIKA BRKICANIKA BRKIC answered 6 months ago

I love sci-fi and fantasy even though I can’t see what’s going on. I like the plot, the characters, the world building, everything. By worldbuilding, I mean the cultures. Not how the world looks.

Sarah MorrisonSarah Morrison answered 6 months ago

I prefer fiction– I have a terrible memory for my own life experiences but I can remember some book plots pretty well. Because I can’t visualize, I have trouble with some nonfication concepts: anything having to do with astronomy, microbology, or other things I can’t physically see; history nonfiction that goes into much detail about troop movements, city layouts, etc.– I can’t "see" them so they don’t make much sense to me. I do like science, psychology, and nature NF. I’m a dyslexic aphantasiac ADHD librarian. 😀

August RodeKen Rode answered 6 months ago

When I was younger, I used to read science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively. Over time, however, this has shifted to fact-based genres like science and history. The number of fiction authors I read now is very limited.

M. T.M. T. answered 6 months ago

I read and write fiction, and though long descriptions of how people or places look bore me to no end, I love it, if they conjure up a feeling. That was usually my only reason to describe anything visually, to get the feels up.

Iblis BaneIblis Bane answered 4 months ago

I read both, but I prefer fiction. I also love, and write, poetry. For me it is the play of words more than any images they may invoke.

Leonie SargeantLeonie Sargeant answered 4 months ago

Funnily enough, I usually resort to reading fan works from tv shows or movies. it might be because I already know what the characters look like, and if I need to I can google. I guess it just takes off the pressure to try and visualise. Anyone else?

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