Stories are more than just words

I love reading books, magazines, news articles, facebook, etc… I just finished reading a book called Armada. While reading this book I found myself making inferences as I created the scenes in mind. What is an inference you ask? An inference is when we use the knowledge we already have to go beyond the meaning of what is printed in the text (Goldstein, 2011). In the book Armada by Ernest Cline he starts off the book with the sentence “I was staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure when I spotted the flying saucer.” When I read this sentence I began to infer that the teacher was still teaching the class while this was occurring. This story is a narrative story which means that it is an account of progressive events but can include flashbacks. As I continued reading I noticed I began making more and more inferences. There are more than one type of inference and I used all of them with this book. An anaphoric inference is when a person or object is connected by an inference from another sentence. This occurred numerous times just like this example, “The Sobrukai and their Glaive Fighters were fictional videogame creations. They didn’t exist in the real world-they couldn’t”. They in the second sentence was referring to the Sobrukai and Glaive Fighters which we made the inference from the previous sentence to figure out what the word they referred to. These types of inferences are fairly easy for us to make. Another type of inference that I used while reading was the casual inference which it can be inferred that the events described in one sentence were caused by events that occurred in the previous sentence according to Chapter 11 Language in our textbook (Goldstein, pg. 310). “When I finally lowered my fist I glanced at Casey and expected him to offer me a nod of thanks. But he was still cowering at his desk like a whipped dog, and he wouldn’t make eye contact with me.” This is an example from the story that you can make the casual inference that Lightman, the main character, frightened Casey when he had his fists raised and stood up to the bully that was bullying Casey by the reaction that Casey had from Lightman. Reading involves much more than just understanding the words and sentences and using inferences help us create the connections we need to help create the coherence, representation of what we read in our mind that relates one part of the text to another, and piece everything together. Next time you read a book, story, article or whatever it may be stop and really look at what you just read and I am sure you will find that you have been making some inferences yourself along the way.




Cline, E. (n.d.). Armada: A novel.

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Wadsworth: Belmont, CA.


4 thoughts on “Stories are more than just words

  1. Margaret Elsa Lesser

    The beauty of reading is that we automatically create these inferences and use our imagination to create this world in our minds that the words are laying out for us. As great as wonderful descriptions in books are, sometimes the beauty comes from leaving the space for us to fill in these inferences for ourselves. Leaving this space open, where the writer knows we will create these inferences is their way of making the story our own and a way for us to connect to it more, because when we picture this world for ourselves, and are essentially creating part of it ourselves in our mind, it become more familiar for us to connect to. I even find Ivan and Sasha’s comments intersting, about how 5 people can read the book and get something different out of it because of how each person fills in these inferences, and how the author has a responsibility to make sure that these inferences don’t start to contradict or interfere with what the readers have already started picturing for themselves. The story has to stay believable, and if the inferences they want us to make start not matching up, it is going to be harder for readers to connect to the story.

  2. Jamie Lucas

    I am also an avid reader and I can absolutely relate to this post. I think that making those inferences and filling out the story in your imagination is part of the fun of reading! It is interesting to think about how much of the story is actually written by the author in words and how much of it is inferred by us, the reader, based on what we read. These inferences account for what can amount to great debate by scholars and even fanboys and fangirls over the “implied” truth of a story or action of a character. Just think about the hours spent in comic book stores arguing over what is inferred by the minutia of the story or book groups arguing over the reasons behind a characters behavior. In a we we are active participants in the telling of the story in any book we read in the sense that our inferences construct the missing pieces of the plot and can be up for interpretation by other. Very interesting post!

  3. Ivan David Rogers

    I feel that this is one of the best parts about reading. It almost reawakens your imagination so you are able to picture the environment based on a description given by the author. What I always found interesting is that five people can read the same book, but most likely have completely different ideas of what the environments look like. For example, when I read the “in the classroom” part of your blog, I pictured my old High School. I am sure you probably imagined a school more familiar to you. My school was brown and green, also has different scenery outside the window. I feel that reading books allows us to mix our own experiences and familiarity of the world around us and allows us to place ourselves wherever the author dictates.

  4. Sasha Lorraine

    This is so true! I’m an avid reader and I constantly find myself making inferences in order to “fill up” the scene. For example, back when I was reading the Harry Potter books I often caught myself adding information to each scene that was not actually described in the text. I would imagine the students walking the halls of Hogwarts or that, because of the location of the castle, the day outside looked gray and wet.
    In fact sometimes I find myself backtracking what I’ve just read because it clashes with something I had previously inferred. For example, if I had thought the halls must be full of students and suddenly the author describes them as deserted this would obviously create an incongruence in my story line. I think this serves to demonstrate how much we (or at least myself) rely on inference while enjoying a good book.
    I’d never really given this much thought, great post!

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