When you watch a film, the visual is already painted out for you. The set is built around an actual location and the actors show you what the characters look like. It’s much easier to get an idea of the story when you can physically see what is going on. With a book, however, in order to become engulfed in the storyline, the author has to work a little harder. They must provide detailed descriptions that help you picture the characters and resonate with the story.
Our relationship with our favourite books tends to become much more intimate. As we take on the author’s descriptions and transform them into personal images, our brains create personalisation’s of those characters. With often only a few words to go by, it can be interesting to see how our brain’s pair together certain personality traits and features. If you were to ask a person to draw a character from a book they’d never heard of without context, you’d expect to see an eclectic mix of images potentially resembling different people. They certainly wouldn’t be as consistent than if we were to have shown people a readymade picture of what an actor looks like.
Well that’s what we did. We decided to conduct an experiment to see what people would draw having heard only a single description. We chose not to tell people they’d be drawing book characters - aside from asking them to draw the person based on the description they heard, we provided them with no context at all. The character description we chose are from famous novels and are of famous characters, not that the volunteering artists knew that. We thought it would be interesting to opt for books that had already been made into films, so we could highlight the differences between what people pieced together from the book vs what the films show us the actors should look like.