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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Writers Corner - The Mind's Eye

The "Mind's Eye" is a phrase that refers  "to the human ability for visualization, i.e. for the experiencing of visual mental imagery; in other words, one's ability to "see" things with the mind." (thank you, Wikipedia!).

Good writing relies on the writers and readers imagination, on that big muscle between the ears. I was recently asked at a book talk who I had used as a model for the hero in THE KING'S MAN. The answer was no-one. When I write, I will give the characters height, build, eye colour, shape of face, hair colour and cut but anything more than that is up to the reader.  If you read the descriptions I have written of Kit Lovell, he could fit the profile of "any man". What I deliberately chose to do was leave the visualisation to the reader. If the reader wanted him to look like Hugh Jackman or Alex O'Louglin, they were free to do so and when we went around the room, every person had a different model in their "mind's eye" as they read the book.

As an aside:  Eye colour plays an important part in books but in reality I don't think we really notice the colour of people's eyes, unless they are striking in some way. At a recent writers retreat, as an exercise we had to write a description of the person sitting next to us. Despite the fact we were sitting just about on top of each other, I found myself squinting at my neighbour's eyes, having no idea what colour they were even though I have known her for years. How many descriptions do you read of the hero noticing the heroine's blue eyes from across the crowded drawing room or in one recent example I read - from the bottom of the garden? 

The phrase "lose yourself in a book" captures the work of a good writer if the reader can drop themselves into a world that is really their own imagination, fuelled only by written cues from the writer. 

Even illustrations don't really capture characters as the mind's eye visualises them. Many years ago, a two part excerpt of BY THE SWORD was published in a national magazine. You can imagine my excitement when an artist was commissioned to illustrate the story. I was going to see Jonathan and Kate brought to life!  This was the result. Yes, it is worth a giggle or two. Obviously the artist hadn't actually read the book. I ended up with a blonde hero and brunette heroine both dressed in clothes from the wrong period. They looked nothing at all like I had imagined them!

Illustration for BY THE SWORD...New Idea

Translation to film can be a bit dodgy too...ABC Arts Nation filmed a couple of scenes from THE KING'S MAN - on a very tight budget! If you would like another smile you can see the video on my website. Click Here (although just a warning for copyright reasons it may not work in all countries). 

There is a difference between the way men and women think and respond to the written word. I was recently reading an article about the rise of the erotica novel for the female audience (don't look at me...I can't write it!). The writer made the interesting point that women are reading erotica (or romotica) because the interest for them is in their own imaginations. Men on the other hand, prefer the visual stimulation of the image.

How many times have you gone to the movies to see a film translation of a favourite book and come out bitterly disappointed because the characters looked nothing like the characters in the book? 

Speaking from my own "mind's eye" I think the Harry Potter films and the Lord of the Rings trilogy captured the books and, most importantly, how I, the reader visualised the characters. A recent example where the film missed the book completely was Eagle of the Ninth, which I have adored since childhood. Channing Tatum as Marcus? Noooooo!