Do you “see” the characters in a book?

Several months ago I was participating in a talk with other local authors at our local library. The audience seemed particularly intrigued by the concept of prosopagnosia (a.k.a. face blindness) which played a key part in my first novel, Faces, and its sequel, Duplicity. Like my protagonist, Jessica, I have prosopagnosia. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to recognize most people by looking only at their faces, yet I am able to compensate much of the time by remembering voices, mannerisms, and other details which can distinguish one person from another.

A woman in the audience asked me if I have a mental image of what my characters look like. As she explained that she forms a detailed picture in her mind of the characters in any novel she is reading, I noticed many people in the audience nodding in agreement.

prosopagnosia - face blindnessI stood there a moment, trying to picture Jessica, the main character in two of my books. I could imagine what she’d look like in terms of height, body type, hair color and style, gestures, voice…

But I have no concept of what her face might look like, other than that she is fairly attractive, but not exceptionally beautiful. I had never even tried to picture her actual facial features, nor had I ever realized that I had skipped over this aspect of the characters I create. All I can tell you is that another character, Marilyn, has a beauty mark above her mouth, and another character has a small scar above his eyebrow — both features which are mentioned for specific reasons in their respective stories. Other than that, I have no idea what they look like.

How about you? Are there characters you can picture with great detail? Are you disappointed when a film is made based upon a book and the actor doesn’t look right to you?

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