Thinking in words? Not so much

I’ve been tracking comments on a friend’s post and how she and another writer think in words. In the comment thread the question came up of how people think about writing if not in words. I’ve always thought visually; in images.

I can see the view out the window, the look exchanged between characters, and the choreography of action in short, vivid vignettes. Then comes the work of fitting words to those images and scenes. The words always come second and as a writer that’s a problem. Always it’s the problem of not satisfactorily translating what I see. Dialog and characters’ feelings and interior lives are that much harder to work with because they don’t lend themselves to visual thinking.

Out of curiosity, I’d be interested in hearing how some of the other writers think out their stories; in words or images.

4 thoughts on “Thinking in words? Not so much”

  1. Not just words but … shapes. Rhythms of language. (It gets silly sometimes — I can look at a story and know that for it to read right it needs a three-sentence paragraph to go there, and that the middle sentence will need a semicolon. But what those sentences are supposed to say … well, that’s the puzzle for me to figure out.)

    Next time we have a writer’s retreat (or at a con, or wherever), maybe we should talk about freewriting. Freewriting is what made me aware of these rhythmic language quirks (or perhaps created them?), and shaped how I approach the sound and feel of my fiction.

    1. Yeah, I get the rhythm too. For example, the dream I woke up from last week with one line in my head: “For years after, (something four beats long), they did not put the place on maps.” I have no idea what that bit in the middle is, but it’s four beats long.

      The kind of story I get lately, the hard kind, comes in a tone. A specific emotion/feeling that I can almost get my hands around. And then I am left to decide who and what and why and how and put it into words.

      Also…arcs. Shapes and falls of structure. Where the story needs to go down or up.

      I notice, free-brainstorming this, that all these things are kinesthetic to me. I feel them all in my hands.

    2. That would be interesting to talk about. I’ve never really given freewriting a try.

      Rhythms and shapes; I think I remember a post you wrote about the shape of stories. It’s a very cool way to think about stories. And there’s probably an analogy to music somewhere in that.

  2. Totally a words guy. I’ll sometimes write entire first drafts with almost no description or imagery. This is one of many, many reasons I have to rewrite everything several times before it’s ready 😛

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