Making Faces

Whether you are a writer or reader if you are capable of thinking in pictures (which as we have discussed before is not all of us) you will almost certainly be conjuring up an image in your mind of what a character looks like. Sorry to those of you who think only in words no exclusion is intended, I’m still wrapping my head around just what that means. But worry not I read a very long time ago that actually even us picture thinkers are incapable of “creating” a new face.

A lot of this research relates to our dreams, maybe there’s more value in that research I’m not sure. Most of these researchers have come to the conclusion that when we are dreaming about people and faces that we feel as though we have never seen before we are wrong. Somewhere at sometime we have seen these faces before, neatly stored it away and saved it for later use. Whether it’s the face of a friend of a friend on Facebook or a complete stranger you passed by in the street they are faces that our conscious mind quickly forgets and our subconscious mind tucks away for our dreams.

At first I began to think that while it was probably true of dreams surely I was still capable of imagining a new face in my waking hours. I’m a writer, I create characters all the time, I create an image in my mind of what they look like, doesn’t that contradict this idea? But then I thought about every time I had read a book and tried to imagine the characters. They all end up looking a bit familiar… like someone I’ve seen before. That is until a movie is made of the book and all of a sudden all I can imagine is the actor taking the role of the character. Sure I try to resist, particularly when the casting choices have been terrible. But every now and then that actor’s face creeps in to the story unfolding in my mind.

Some times when I am really resisting using faces I know, really trying to create a new face, I’m almost positive these faces are blurry, like they are being seen from a distance. I seem unable to give full detail to the face as though my resistance to reusing faces I’ve seen means I cannot fully form a new face. I can think about individual features fairly clearly but it’s when I try to put them all together to complete the face it gets blurry or strangely familiar…

Now this got me thinking. I write science fiction at the moment. Does this mean I can’t create an alien face too? And I’ll admit sometimes I have difficulty. I think the more human the aliens look the more difficult it is for me to imagine what they look like.

I’m also wondering if that 30% of the world’s population that think almost solely in pictures have this same difficulty. Let me know what kind of a thinker you are and how you feel about imagining new faces.

If you aren’t sure what I mean about kinds of thinkers check out my post Thinking Pictures.

S. Hansen


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