The term might not be familiar, but the phenomenon is. Pareidolia is that weird thing our brain does when it recognizes the familiar pattern of two eyes, a nose, and a mouth on inanimate objects.
Suddenly there are faces everywhere.
It's a form of apophenia, which is "the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data," according to the Wikipedia definition.
It occurred to me as I was working on my story the other day that this is a skill writers have in abundance. Only instead of using apophenia to see faces in hardware and household appliances, the writer adapts the ability to find meaningful connections in their storytelling.
I'm mostly a pantser, meaning I don't plan out my novels in advance of writing them. I tend to jump in the deep end and see how long it takes me to either drown or swim. Knock on wood, I've managed to swim back to shore with my last two novels. But one thing I believe holds them together as one coherent story to the end is this ability to see connections and patterns as they crop up. Usually it's when I'm researching some benign subject that I'll notice how the information I'm learning dovetails perfectly with some other element of the story I've already written. I'll have that "Aha!" moment when I'm able to spot the connection between images, or symbols, or character speeches, or whatever. Finding those connections in the novel is sort of like seeing a pair of eyes followed by a nose, and by the end of the scene or chapter I know right where to put the mouth to complete the illusion of something meaningful.
When it works it's like getting a big hug from the novel. :-)
Anyone have any clue what I'm talking about? Are you one of those people who sees faces in ordinary objects? And why do you find that last photo so creepy?
Creative Commons photos by:
1. David Goehring
3. Rob Faulkner
5. Hernan Gonzalez
6. A viral net ripoff