Recently, I've realized that when I read, I don't create continuous imagery. Instead, when I first encounter a new element, whether it be a character or a location or a particularly complicated tapestry, my attention shifts to build a mental image. At the same time, I create kinesthetic associations with the character, place, etc: the feeling I get when reading about them. It is that wordless package that I manipulate throughout my reading, like a game piece on a board. In most cases, I could probably unpack the original image from the kinesthetic handle, but I don't often go back to it while reading.
If this sounds very technical / difficult to explain, it is - precisely because there aren't concrete words for the way I access elements during reading. I am very much a full-body person, and when I think of a book or story, I immediately get an impression of how it "feels" to me. A light, comedic novel feels different than a heavier, formal story. The book that is absorbing but dense to read has its own kinesthetic coding.
I do this as a writer, too. I pay special attention to my descriptions and the array of senses, but once they're in place, I do my writing on a less visual level. It's probably why as a writer, I try to describe characters - especially the main character / narrator - as early as possible, even if I have to tweak the flow a little: it's what I prefer as a reader. Otherwise, my kinesthetic handle supercedes the written appearance.
It's also why I have such trouble with illustrations or doing "casting calls" for characters. (A casting call is where you imagine what actors would play the characters, and/or try to find images that fit - the latter being more broad because you could pick a random model. Dark Beauty is full of eye-candy that shouts "story" ...) Even if the image is technically correct, it is almost impossible for that image to also evoke the same feeling as my invisible kinesthetic handle.
The final odd quirk that this method of handling fiction causes for me is that I often need a specific font to write with. If it doesn't look right on the page, it doesn't feel right in my brain. Luckily, this need has faded and I'm much less picky - but I will consciously only use Trebuchet MS, for instance, for lighter-hearted or modern projects. And don't get me started on the fact that I write in 8 - 10 pt fonts because I have Word blown up to 150% so it fills up more of the screen ...
When it comes down to it, I'm doing all my creating with my body. It has to get translated into words, but it has to go through that channel first and come back the same way.