What effect would telepathy have on writing? Especially creative writing?
Seriously. One of the best descriptions I’ve read of why writers bang their heads against keyboards and kill trees (or at least seriously inconvenience electrons) is, that writers want to be understood.
How would telepathy change that?
One of the first things that comes to my mind is, what would be the limits of telepathy?
Distance is the first factor that comes to mind. If telepathy is pretty much touch-only, then writing might not be affected much at all. Any driven writer would still be trying to communicate with people they might never see or touch. OTOH, if we have a world like Anne McCaffrey’s Talents ‘verse, where it’s possible for telepaths to reach across the galaxy, we could potentially have situations where one telepath holds a “mass dream” like the Internet holds live concerts.
Another factor would be permanence. Is it possible to record telepathic impressions, so distant times and descendants can know what you tried to communicate? If so, then that might well be another kind of writing. If not – well, you can only juggle five to seven things in your head at once, people are going to want some way to write down a to-do list, and I firmly believe intelligent creativity that can write a list, can adapt that to write a story.
But there’s a third factor that strikes me about telepathy, that I’m not sure gets touched on enough. And that is, how well does telepathy actually communicate who you are?
Sure, you can read someone’s thoughts all day long. Does that actually tell you much, if you can’t see how someone acts on those thoughts – or not?
Let me posit two scenarios. First, think of the most mentally cantankerous person on the planet. Hates people, hates kids, even hates puppies and fluffy kitties. But if that cantankerous curmudgeon is a moral person, he never acts on those impulses of loathing. He just tries to get away from the things that bother him. Does telepathy show you the immoral thoughts, or the moral actions?
Second, and brr… think about villain headspace. One of the scariest things I find as a writer is considering the motivation of villains. Because a lot of the time, they don’t think what they are doing is wrong. So – for one nightmare example – does telepathy show a warm and fuzzy, “I love her so much, I never want her to leave”? Or does it show the psychopath strangling her to death?
I’m going to go think about puppies and kittens now. Or at least harried vampires and giggly Bride of Frankenstein types!