The Uniqueness of a Book
This post is used with permission from its author, Katherine Vick. It originally appeared in her blog.
The human imagination is an extraordinary thing, when you stop and think about it. Being as I am not of a scientific bent, I have no idea of the ins and outs of how it can possibly work, how it is that a lump of grey meat inside a wrapping of bone could possibly generate images, ideas, unheard sounds, regurgitate things once seen and create whole new universes out of nothing. Indeed, to be honest, I don’t want to understand how it works - that would destroy the magic. I’m quite happy just to have the means to play in new and never-before-seen realms in the depths of my own head.
But there is another special thing about the imagination – it is unique.
It is a strange thing to consider that no one will ever see my characters exactly how I do. Oh, I can describe them down to the freckles on their noses but one of the beauties of books and taking a world out of words rather than pictures is that everyone’s imagination will give it their own slant. Even the finest description in the world will never generate the same mental image in two different brains. No one will ever picture Dullard’s sweet, awkward smile in quite the way I do. No one will see Flirt’s weary eye-roll on quite the same face, hear the special tone that’s worked into my Shoulders’s voice, the glory of Pleasance at her imperious best, or Fodder’s best long-suffering sigh. For all my efforts to capture these moments on paper, in a way that is both sad and special, they will always be utterly unique to my head and to me.
But in many ways, that is the magic of a novel. Unlike a film, where every watcher shares the same words and images, every book is a totally individual experience to that person’s imagination. No one will ever see it exactly as they do. It gives reading a book a personal edge that a film or a comic or any other genre that creates the images for you can never quite compete with. Because every book belongs totally and utterly to that reader. It’s their one-off experience that no one else can and will ever share. It creates a connection between the reader and the words because the reader has invested their imagination to create it. The author may write the words but it’s the reader that gives it life in the privacy of their own mind.
As stated in a quote I recently posted to Facebook, no two people will ever read the same book. Everyone will see the characters I have created and cast out into the world in their own special way. They will give Dullard a smile unique to them, Flirt an eye-roll they like, Shoulders’s voice their own special whine. The rage of their Pleasance and sighs of their Fodder will come from their lives, their experience, their imagination.
As an author, it’s an odd thing to contemplate – that these characters that have been so long just mine are now out there, looking and sounding different in other people’s heads. In the depths of my control freakery, it’s hard not to feel a bit possessive. But it’s magical too to consider that I have set them free to live dozens of different lives, to be something individual to every other person who reads them, that I have given a unique gift to every person who reads my words.
And that is pretty special to me. I hope it is for you too.
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