I have read a few blogs now that aphantastics prefer non-fiction over fiction/fantasy novels. What’s been your experience?
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.
For me it is all about the story obviously I skip over descriptions of scenes I can’t picture.
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’.
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.
I’m an English teacher and have loved reading fiction and non-fiction since I was a child, though I have developed an increasing preference for factual books and read far more of those than fiction. Despite having an MSc in Psychology I’ve only just discovered the concept of aphantasia and had never previously thought about it, believing that people were talking metaphorically when they mentioned picturing things in their mind – I thought they were doing it just like me, through mental constructs using language.
Thinking back, it has definitely influenced my reading and helps explain what I enjoy about fiction, which is characters’ relationships, behaviour and experiences, I have very little interest in details about their appearance or descriptions of settings unless they are directly relevant to the plot e.g. the run down, dilapidated setting that establishes the dystopian world of Orwell’s 1984: However, I don’t "picture" it in my mind, instead, the words themselves take the place of the "image" for me. Neither do I "smell" the boiled cabbage mentioned though I still fully understand and appreciate what it would smell like and why it is mentioned – in fact, I’m pretty glad I don’t actually smell it!
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