I believe that one book has more vivid images, more scenery, and more twists and turns than ten feature length films combined. The one thing that makes this claim possible is imagination. It has the power to create entire landscapes from just a few words. It shapes a character from a simple description. It turns a couple of eerie sentences into a horror scene. Imagination is the one true weapon that authors have over screenplay directors with regards to the audiences’ overall experience.
The strength of imagination is greatly underestimated. Unlike a movie where the scenes are already laid out, a book requires that the reader make up his or her own images inside their head. This leaves all sorts of possibilities for certain scenes in a book. The reader ascribes whatever characteristics they want, to fill gaps that the author has left, which gives a book’s characters thousands of different forms from all the multitudes of people that read it.
Imagination can heighten all of the readers senses as well, even though there is no real stimulation, the words in a book can bring back memories of certain smells of a forest perhaps, or the stink of a swamp or the damp smell after it rains. It can also work to the extent of making certain feelings more intense. While reading a horror novel the reader is engulfed by his or her own fearful experiences and this adds to the thrill of the plot. In a movie however, what might be perceived as frightening to the screenplay director, may be nothing more than childish fear to a particular viewer.
Books give the reader a chance to be original in what they perceive. There is no set guideline to follow and they can make the story come to life in their head. The reader feeds off of previous knowledge of whatever is being described in the novel, and they are able to form familiar connections to storylines; while in movies the characters and settings look like what the director feels is most visually appealing.
The aspect of solidarity is one of the most influential parts of the reader’s imagination. Not only are there no ambient sounds to distract the reader, there is also no one to influence the reader’s true reaction to the unfolding plot. They are free to experience the story as they believe it should be experienced. Whether in a dark room with a book light, or on the beach with the hot sun beating down on the reader’s head, it’s the reader’s choice.
Nothing can compare to the hundreds of different worlds that readers plunge themselves into when they open up countless books over their lifetimes. Books are the treadmill for the mind, they keep it healthy and active and promote and inspire new ideas. Just remember, a movie takes thousands of dollars to produce and many months to film, but imagination is priceless and takes only seconds to make a vivid scene in the mind of a reader.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.