The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Monday, December 6, 2010


          Visualization is something that has become in more recent decades something that is part of New Age thinking.  It is often associated with prosperity or success philosophies which say if you picture something long enough and strong enough in your mind it will eventually come into being. 

            One of the early American proponents of this technique is  Wallace Wattles (1860–1911), who wrote The Science of Getting Rich.  His philosophy is rooted in some of the beliefs of the Hindu religion. Since then many success and self-improvement movements and books have continued in this similar school of thinking.  In the 1970s there were many new religious movements that embraced these thoughts.

              I am not here today to advocate any of the religious connections to visualization, but to approach the topic from a more logical viewpoint related to writing.  Although before proceeding I will say that in my own life there are things that I have visualized with a strong focus and they have come to pass.  This has been sometimes with good results and sometimes bad.  It is an illustration of be careful what you wish for because you might get it, but that's another topic for another time.  The real point that I'd like to make though is that the act of creative visualization usually has its results through logical explanations.  I'm not saying there can't be supernatural consequences to creatively visualizing something, but let me return to this aspect on my post tomorrow.

             Today let's look at the act of vividly visualizing as a part of the creative process of writing.  When I am reading something I try to picture what I'm reading.  This may be one reason that I often have a difficult time reading something that deals with concepts or things that are more related to thinking than seeing, or that is thinking in the sense of reasoning and contemplation.  This is me, and may be some you, and there are probably some complex reasons for this and I certainly wouldn't want to delve into those reasons here.  The bottom line is that I do better reading a story and story is my current topic.

            When I am writing, I am attempting to create a world, characters, and a series of events that the reader can become a part of.   In order to do this most effectively I see it as imperative that all of these things become real to me.  This must be done through vivid visualization. 

             Some writers take a very organized and detailed approach in creating outlines, character sketches, and other recorded details about aspects of the story with which they are dealing.  This is probably the most sensible approach.  My approach is much more internalized in my imagination.

             When I begin a story I start with a particular component which is usually focused on plot, character, or setting.  I start by thinking about it and organizing the basics in my mind.   Sometimes I will write down a few notes, but mostly I essentially start daydreaming or going through a process of visualization. 

              I will picture the characters and imagine as much as I can to make them real.  They become almost as real to me as the people I actually encounter in my life.   I can see in my mind in detail the places where the story takes place--I am there and I know what everything looks like.  The settings of my stories become places that are absolutely real to me. 

            Being unable to visualize what I am going to write is when inspiration is labored.  At that point I may have to look at a map or research what I want to write about.  Inability to understand inhibits being able see a clear image of my writing subject.

              Call it what you will, the ability to see the movie in my mind allows me to write the screenplay for whatever I am seeing.   Whether a short story or a  novel, I need to be able to drop myself in the midst of that story's world and become an observer in that world.  

               Success is when I find myself thinking about that world at random times during the day or relating my story to things I hear about or witness.   At times I may be experiencing life in a duality of existence--I am here where I am, but part of me is living in the level of my story.  In some ways this might sound a little crazy, but I think everyone in every pursuit does something very similar.  We are who we are and who we want others to think we are.

               My ultimate visualization victory is when I begin to dream the characters, setting, and story.  At that point I realize that the writing that I am working on has firmly placed itself into my subconscious and is now an absolute part of me.  Once I have achieved the ability to dream about my story I am often able to find solutions to aspects that have perplexed me, new understandings about characters or story concepts, or even new directions for the plot to take.

            What approach works best for you in creating your story and its elements?  Do you lean more toward a structured and practical approach?   If so, why do you think that works best?   How intensely do you resort to visualization?   What are the hazards of relying on vivid visualization?   If you are not a writer, do you use visualization in your own pursuit?

          Tomorrow I will be addressing the topic of creative visualization.    On Wednesday I will have a special post with a scheduled stop on Tamara Hart Heiner's book tour appearing on Tossing It Out.   Then on Thursday I'll be pulling something out of my hat.



  1. Oh Lee, thanks for the slap upside the head! I have so missed the obvious. I have a problem with book to movie because I "see" everything I read. Why wouldn't I do the same with my work? I will now. Thank you again and I'm looking forward to the next post.

  2. I create detailed outlines and character sketches, but I also visualize my story as well. The outline comes from a 'fast-forward' version, but before I write each scene, I play it out in my mind. Often this is where it will change from the 'fast-forward' version.

  3. I'm all for visualization, that's why I always say that books should seem like films when the readers read them.

  4. I like visuals. I always select actors or actresses who best fit my characters so I can 'see' them clearly.

  5. When I write a poem I visualise what I am writing about as much as possible, If I can't see what I am writing how can I expect readers to see.
    Enjoyed the read very much Lee.
    Enjoy your day.

  6. I have to see it in my head or forget it. But then there are six other senses you have to account for as well. :D
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  7. I love watching scenes play out in my mind like a film. When I was an athlete, visualisation was a technique we were encouraged to use.

  8. I do enjoy visual images...that's why I love reading books with vivid descriptions. I try to do the same when I write, but, of course, I have to have the images in my mind first. I do some character sketches, but from there, I have to imagine them in real life settings. Sometimes I choose settings that are real in my life, and then embellish them with imaginative details.

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

  9. I do visualize, but I think in a sort of vague way. I really get bogged down in over description from the author because as the READER I want freedom to interact and create some of it myself. A couple physical details of the characters, but not a ton (and DO NOT put them on the cover!!! and REALLY don't make a movie before i read it!) I just can't quite engage if there is nothing left to imagine.

    And when I'm CREATING, I have only a vague image for most at first, until I get a personality down--emotions, processing. This is probably all because I am a psychologist by training and interest, and because I am verbal before I am visual (or musical or tactile). The emotional analysis is key. What makes this person tick?

  10. I think a lot of writers see things in their head like it's a movie or TV screen. Makes sense, that's how we were brought up.

  11. When I'm reading, I like being able to expand on an image the writer describes at least a little bit--if it's too detailed, there's less room for being creative as a reader. When writing, I find that having a vague visual image (in my head) is the easiest to work with--I can expand on it, but I also have the ability to change things around if I need to for the story, so it's not concrete.

  12. I like to visualize. I usually find pictures that help me and there's nothing like putting yourself in a similar situation as your characters to really give the scene more depth. When I wrote my first published book there was a lot of karate in it. My son is a second degree black belt. He walked me through the motions of the fights. I had several fans ask if I knew karate, so I think I was successful.:)

  13. Mary -- Oh! Sorry, I just visualized that slap. That wasn't very nice of me. Thanks for your kind comment.

    Alex -- I'm thinking that your more organized approach might help me, but old habits are hard to break.

    Dezmond--I'm with you on this as far as visual novels go. The ones that are mostly internalized and stream-of-consciousness would be more difficult to create as something to visualize.

    L. Diane -- I try to attach a real person's appearance to my characters, but sometimes I don't try hard enough on this aspect.

    Yvonne -- Often your poetry is very visual.

    Jules -- For me visualization includes the experience of all senses--you are right about not forgetting the others.

    Talli - When I was researching about the topic of visualization I saw mention of athletes using visualization. I think the process acts like a mental rehearsal.

    Laurel-Rain -- Using real places does help a great deal. I do the same.

    Hart - Are your stories primarily psychological? The type of story or the author's stylistic approach would have a lot to do with how visual the story is.

    Lisa-- The generations the came after movies and television came into being certainly would tend to have a habit of seeing what they read or write.

    Golden Eagle -- Good point. While I may visualize a great deal in my mind about setting, etc, I may not include it all in what I write unless I have a reason to include more details. Having everything in my mind helps me to get into the character and the story a lot more.

    Kathi -- Pictures and experience are both a big help in creating our fictional worlds.

  14. I definitely don’t lean toward structure and practical - though I think adding a bit of both to my routine would be helpful. Visualization works well for me because I need to “see” what I’m writing.

  15. Intriguing post, Lee!

    I am not a structured writer. I tend to see one or two scenes in my head (often the first and last) then I write. The planning takes some of the fun out of it for me! :)

  16. Because I have a background in art, visualisation comes somewhat easily to me. I write best if I can "see" the scene (whether I have an outline or not).

  17. Random things will cause me to daydream about something. If it sticks in my mind, it may become a movie in my head (I didn't know anyone else thought of it this way!) and I'll just watch it for a while, see how far it will go before I take it and try to see how much more I can add.

    Since about middle school, when I read, I picture either tv/movie stars or people I know as the characters....

    With nano, I needed to have a mental pic of the MC's home and I collected magazines and put together rooms for the family. All the other stuff I just have in my head....

    Really interesting post and I look forward to tomorrow's!

  18. ARLEE BOID ~
    Off topic but...

    I'm just sitting here with a glass of Grand Marnier in egg nog and thinking of you, and wondering if you've ever tried this.

    Yeah, most everyone has had rum in egg nog. Some prefer bourbon. My favorite was brandy in egg nog. However, believe it or not (this is going to hurt my "booze hound" reputation, but here goes anyway...), I always liked egg nog best when "spiritless". If I were inclined to "spike" it, I thought brandy mixed with it best, but egg nog alone was, I thought, pretty much unbeatable.

    But all that was until my brother, Nappy, tried some last Christmas Day with Grand Marnier mixed in. Hokey-Smoke and Hoo-Wee, Lee! That was great. But I forgot just HOW great until about 30 minutes ago:

    I poured maybe a shot and a half of Grand Marnier into a glass, filled it up with egg nog, stirred well and... purrrrred.

    Now I'm on my second one. Yeah, it's sweet but... dang! Lee, now I'm totally convinced: NOTHING is better than Grand Marnier and egg nog! Not even just plain egg nog.

    If you haven't tried this yet, "give it a shot". If you don't like it, send it to me - I'll drink it!

    I happily sacrifice my sobriety on the altar of the egg nog god, Grand Marnier!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  19. Jane -- sounds like you and I take a similar writing approach.

    Jemi -- When it comes to writing fiction I like to just write rather than plan. I want to have almost the same experience as a reader of my writing would have.

    Lynda -- I think you touch upon a good point: some of us may more visually oriented, while others like Hart may be more internalized with thought, and still others may take a writing approach that mirrors the kind of person they are and the talents they have.

    Words Crafter -- You also sound similar to me in the way you approach your writing. Compiling pictures to create a picture of the home is a good idea. This time with NaNo I drew a diagram of my MC's apartment and the building it was in and kept that diagram on my desk in front of me while I was writing.

  20. I was tempted, while I had egg nog in the house, to spike it with Grand Marnier, but I didn't. I used a combo of Amaretto and brandy instead, which was good. In the past I have always used just brandy, but I think the plain egg nog is probably best.

    Don't drink too much though. Sounds like a dangerous thing to drink too much of. My sister Joy got so sick off of plain egg nog when she was like 5 years old that she's never touched the stuff since. Getting sick from spiked egg nog doesnt' sound like much fun at all.

    Maybe I shouldn't have said anything cause now you might visualize getting sick.....maybe I should just shut up.


  21. My characters walk into my head as complicated people, so I can't just plan them. I get to know them using interviews and by seeing how they react to situations they run into...


  22. Hi Lee .. just lost my comment .. I'm learning loads from being here and seeing how you authors put things together .. I'm sure I'd visualise - I know I mull things over and work through some things .. just so much going on around me - coherency is tricky most of the time .. but when I have time I can see visualisation playing a major part .. thanks .. Hilary


Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.