Lit What is the experience of reading like for you?

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    So it's come to my attention that some people do not hear at least some of the words they read in their heads as they read, and also that some people do not get a steady stream of imagery from their reading either, as I do in both cases. Someone else I asked said they saw visualizations of the letters and words they were reading in their mind's eye, but not imagery relating to the scenes they were reading about.

    What about you? Do you hear the sounds of the words? In whose voice? Different voices for different characters? Sound effects where appropriate? Do you get a sense of imagery? When you come across something that's not described very well, do you have to pause and come up with some visualization or explanation that makes sense? Do you see the text itself in your mind as well as on the page? Do you analyze the ways the author is using language as you go along? How do any of these things affect your reading speed, do you think?
  2. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    Sep 8, 2004
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    All of the above.

    It's probably why I'm a slow reader, as I like to take my time, visualise everything, "listen" to the sound effects, the crackle and snap-hiss of lightsabers, etc.

    Likewise, I enjoy thinking about "how" the author has crafted certain scenes, so I'll often pause to think about particular lines if I really liked or disliked them.

    I'm not someone who can just speed through to the conclusion as I like to be able to remember it all, which is also probably why I'm not really fond of re-reading things, since I've always got a backlog I still want to get through, and I normally can remember exactly where things were on the page making re-reading for me equivalent to watching ANH and mouthing the dialogue the whole time.
    Last edited by Zorrixor, Dec 12, 2012
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  3. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Jul 22, 2010
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    Same for me, for the most part. Every Star Wars book is a new movie for me; some are much better than others.
  4. kataja Force Ghost

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    May 4, 2007
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    It very much depends on the writer's language. If I'm pulled in, the text becomes alive - and I stop to analyze or particularly enjoy a scene or a passage. This is what I hope for evety time I pick up a book, of course. Sadly, my time at university had me read an enourmous amount of pages, so I created a speed-though technique out of need - but unfortunately this kicks in when a text doesn't exite me. I defintely speeded through JAT, TCT and Stackpole's books that way. And I generally speed through about every space battle - no way I can visualize those [face_blush] (Not quite true [face_thinking]- both Stover and Allston have managed the miracle, actually)

    Also, I've noticed that as english isn't my first language, some authors who use a lot of words unknown to me or complicated sentences trigger that reading style too - and it's not very smart because a more difficult text requires more time - not less :p Luceno did that trick with all his NJO novels, but I really should go back and give them a new try.

    In general, I read quickly - and then return for key scenes or scenes that I liked, again and again, analyzing them through and visualizing them as well as hearing them. Particularly in a universe as SW, I can reread a dialogue endlessly if I think it's just right - and do the same in frustration if I think it was put down 'wrong'.

    I don't think I hear any particular voice in my head as I read, but definitely the expresisons and pitches in the language and dialogue. Then again. I tried my first audio novel on Youtube the other day - Vector Prime- and I had to quit after five minutes because the reader made so many 'mistakes*. His voice was wrong too, poor man. ;) So maybe I hear my own voice when I read after all?
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  5. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

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    Nov 19, 2007
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    I read words. I comprehend their meaning. I move on. There's no visualization or imagery involved.
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  6. THE PortmanLuvva Jedi Master

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    Oct 26, 2012
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    I like to read books that only have pictures. Words get boring after a whi........
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  7. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    Dec 2, 2009
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    I take my time to visualize everything that is happening. Sometimes, when I can't quite visualize a character, I substitute an image from some other fantasy, with varying results. For example, my original mental image of Roose Bolton (from A Song of Ice and Fire) actually ended up looking a lot like the actor who was cast as Stannis. My original mental image of Hagrid was the one of the hikers from Pokemon: Gold Version. And I'm pretty sure that my original mental image of Khedryn Faal (from Crosscurrent) was just Atton Rand with a goatee- imagine my disappointment when Insider illustrated him :p

    I've noticed that a novel's cover art- especially the color palette used- can have a big impact on how I visual the events of the novel. I've also noticed that Bantam-era novels conjure different visual palettes than Del Rey-era novels. Which is something that I'd like to expand on some time, if I can ever quite get my thoughts on it remotely organized.
  8. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    I'm a quick reader, but generally very visual in my reading. I imagine scenes a certain way, and sometimes not even entirely as they're described -- so to this day, when I re-read old Bantam books, I revisualize in the way that I'd visualized them when I was a kid.

    So for instance, the other day I was discussing the X-wing books and when certain scenes were referenced, my recall was to the mental images I had of those scenes. That's not to say that I don't find the words very memorable -- I can sometimes recall exact phrases of description too. Depends on how much I like the book, I suppose.

    edit: But when I recall the phrases, I don't visualize the words in my head or anything like that.
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Dec 12, 2012
  9. V-2 Force Ghost

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    Dec 10, 2012
    star 4
    How different people comprehend written words is quite interesting!

    Reading comes easily to me and I suppose I speed read. I aim for no more than 3 eye movements per line, absorbing 3 or 4 words with each glance. Whether I spend much time visualising and auralising (is that not a word?) depends on the quality of writing.

    If it's clumsy, uneconomic or inelegant then I tend to lose time on eye rolling and tutting. If it's a badly written bad story I tend to throw the book across the room, on one occasion managing to throw one into a lit fire. I'm against book burning on principle, but I got a lot more pleasure from watching it burn than I did struggling to read the rotten thing.

    I will imagine dialogue in different voices, assuming it's well written, otherwise I'll hear it in what I imagine to be the author's voice; Garth Marenghi or Comic Book Guy, usually. I'm most certainly analysing the writing style as I go.

    I don't imagine the words appearing in my mind's eye, as they're already printed on the page! I think I'm a little peculiar with words, a spelling mistake or sound-alike word doesn't register properly and takes me right out of the experience. Americanisms do this too, but to a lesser extent.
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  10. V-2 Force Ghost

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    Dec 10, 2012
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    I find pictures can sometimes be distrac
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  11. jedimaster203 Force Ghost

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    Dec 19, 1999
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    My answer, like many of you, is that it depends on the writer. Some authors I tend to just, well, read. There isn't any visualization or imaginiation involved. I'm just reading something in my head, the same way as if I was reading it aloud. Its kind of like an audiobook that I"m reading to myself.

    In my voice.

    Some authors, however, bring it alive for me. People like Matthew Stover or John Scalzi create universes that I can exist in. One of the reasons I'm such a huge fan of Stover is that he is literally the only author that has written something that has given me chills. When I read his Caine novels, i hear and see Caine talking.

    This is also a huge reason why I love audiobooks. I'm not a "reader", but I love stories. I'm a slow reader, and working full time, going to school full time, being a soldier part time, and having an infant daughter means I have absolutely no time fun reading.
  12. cthugha Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 24, 2010
    star 3
    Reminds me of what Dorothy Parker said about Atlas Shrugged :p
    Sometimes I would so like to have an open fireplace... but then most of the really bad books I've read were e-books, so no use anyway.
    Though there are times when I'd like to tell some of my students that my trash bin ate their homework...

    I read quickly. On the toilet. 5-10 pages per sitting. Usually without too much imagery; even at Stover I usually marvel more about the polished quality of his prose (and then leave the bathroom smiling like silly) than visualize what he's writing about.
  13. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    Sep 8, 2004
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    As an avid fan of the audibooks, I'd say it definitely depends on the narrator, yeah. I see Vector Prime is by Anthony Heald who, yeah, is a bit of an acquired taste. I know others speak highly of him, but I disliked him too, so you're not alone in finding his accent perhaps a little too strong? Mark Thompson is generally good though.

    At the other end of the spectrum, I forget the name of the dude who did the first few X-Wing books, but he was dreadful as he may as well have just been an automated recording with how hard it was to follow lines of dialogue and differentiate new speakers.
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  14. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    Sep 2, 2012
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    With the Thrawn Trilogy I can see the story in my mind's eye and hear the music. I do the same for ROTS as well at times.
  15. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I read in my read at the same speed I read aloud. I've come to discover that this is drastically slower than most people. [face_dunno]
  16. Manisphere Force Ghost

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    Aug 25, 2007
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    Do you have a soft reset button?
  17. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

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    Negative. Such a weakness might imperil the continued operation of this system.
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  18. Manisphere Force Ghost

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  19. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    I'm not sure how that would be entirely possible for something like, say, Gormenghast. Not that any Star Wars work compares to Gormenghast in terms of pure imagery, of course. Of course, that book was written by a landscape painter, so maybe that's not a totally fair comparison...

    Yeah, I'm finding I have a hard time enjoying audibooks sometimes because I read along with them, and read so much faster than the narrator even on double speed.
    Last edited by instantdeath, Dec 12, 2012
  20. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

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    Gormenghast? It's quite possible. Has been done, even.
  21. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    If you read Homer without visualizing his famous epic metaphors, then you are inhuman and worse, a philistine.
  22. V-2 Force Ghost

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    Dec 10, 2012
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    I hate those books. I had to read them in school... Believe me, I read the words in order and assimilated the knowledge for the exams because I was forced to. I got nothing from those books except mind-crippling boredom.

    I'd score them highly for elegance, but marks down for economy, memorable characters and plot. I realise I'm probably in a minority here.
  23. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Jul 22, 2010
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    I'm definitely not what you'd call the world's biggest Mervyn Peake fan either- though his words are never dry, they're not always incredibly engaging- but just in terms of pure visualization, no other writer that I've read compares. This is probably because of his background in landscape painting, but it made for some interesting ideas; I for one found the concept of describing by likening it to a mountain range very interesting.

    But yeah, not the best novels to read if you want focus on characters or plot. I found it almost like walking through an art museum; it can be boring, sure, but man, it's pretty.

    So, I'll rephrase: I know how you could easily read Gormenghast without visualizing anything. I do not know how you could do that without being bored to the point of contemplating suicide.
    Last edited by instantdeath, Dec 12, 2012
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  24. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Mar 4, 2011
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    I read really fast, but I also visualize a lot while I'm reading. I really like historical fiction and I count a book in that genre as good if I feel like I've been transported into that time period.

    With Star Wars books, I have to be able to visualize established characters and I like to be able to "hear" them as well. I need to be able to hear Han Solo's lines coming out of Harrison Ford's mouth or the book will seem "off." And with unknown planets, I need a good enough description that I can feel like I'm there with the characters.
  25. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    It depends. I need to be in the right frame of mind to sit down and really enjoy a book. But, once I get into it, I'm seeing what the characters see, hearing what they hear, and smelling what they smell. Every character has their own unique voice and cadence, and if the author describes it well enough, or gives me enough frame of reference, the environments can become quite vivid. Again, that was what I liked about Death Troopers; the descriptions were great. The story had atmosphere. It had sounds, smells, and tastes. It described surfaces and textures and the setting was tactile. It was quite possibly the most atmospheric EU that I've read.

    Going back through some other books, I noticed that most descriptions are based on sight and, to a lesser extent, sound. Smell is used very rarely. One of the things that made Death Troopers so atmospheric were the smells. Things had a smell. The setting engaged all the senses and it drew the reader in. Writers should consider engaging the sense of smell more often.