Fiction or non-fiction?

Jennifer McDougall Staff asked 2 years ago
2678 views 13 comments

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

Max Watson April 05, 2019 12:51 am

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.

Nathan Blumenfeld March 12, 2019 04:10 pm

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 Hall March 14, 2019 01:55 am


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

Katrina Wicks March 30, 2019 08:02 am

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’.

Luc Jeanneau September 18, 2019 03:04 am

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 Backhaus September 20, 2019 08:29 pm

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 Blakey September 21, 2019 12:09 am

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 BRKIC September 28, 2019 01:37 pm

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 Morrison September 30, 2019 09:43 pm

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.

Ken Rode October 02, 2019 03:25 pm

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. October 06, 2019 06:57 am

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 Bane November 21, 2019 07:59 pm

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 Sargeant November 26, 2019 10:47 am

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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