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Interesting question. We all keep different images in our heads while reading, even though the story is familiar to everyone. A nice experiment would be to have several of your friends read some of 'IT' (or some other character driven piece), and have them privately describe the people to you (and possibly their motivations and surroundings as well). For some reason, when I read the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, Bill Hodges was a black man.
I wouldn't think so. In my experience it is just the mind subconsciously filling in spaces and adding nuance. Assumptions are made while the trek begins. If anything it would be because of my always rushing (being pulled) through the Stephen King stories I read.
Lost in translation? LOL