1. Tallandboring
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    Tallandboring Member

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    Mind Reading

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tallandboring, Sep 13, 2011.

    Do any of you have any experience writing characters with mind reading abilties?
    I am working on a character with it and I'm looking for some tips and pointers.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I've never written a mindreading character, but there's a bit of advice I always give to people writing characters with any given superpower.

    Give their power(s) limitations, disadvantages, etc. Don't make it just a walk in the park. I've seen and heard about way too many stories where the MC has an awesome, perfect life PLUS superpowers, and it's extremely irritating because they just use the powers to get out of any bad situation they're in. Nothing is a threat to them, ever, and nothing can present real obstacles.

    I'd recommend that you either..1) Give your MC limitations on when they can and cannot use mindreading, or a certain quota of how much they can use it in any given time period before running out. This way they have to choose wisely and pick their battles, or 2) If the MC can do it whenever, there should be a negative side effect, one bad enough to balance out the positives of the mindreading. This also would force him/her to use good judgment and not always get his/her way.

    Hope I helped and good luck writing. :)
     
  3. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    Well in my experience there are two types of mind reading, passive and active. Passive is pretty much just ambient thought reception, like a radio you can't switch off,active is like being able to tune in to a specific station or person. In both cases you should consider what level of mind reading you're aiming at, like does the character just get surface thoughts and emotions or is it more like reading a book, the character gets specific thought processes. If you're going for realism you're character will end up with something along the lines of "Hungry, bored, tricycle, ooh cute kitten, food, no not food, horses, are horses food? Oooh bubblegum!" in a realistic story, thoughts don't tend to flow in easy to follow threads, you don't get "Hmmm I'm hungry now, I might go to that place by the pet store, or not. I don't think their 'food' is fit for human consumption, I'll go buy some bubblegum instead". It can be hard to write and gets even more complicated when you consider emotional connections an whatnot. The only 'mind reader' I ever wrote about was insane due to the constant bombardment of other peoples emotions, thoughts, desires and needs, he couldn't filter out what he was feeling and what others were feeling. It got quite messy in the end.
     
  4. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suggest you read up on the Sookie Stackhouse novels. She has to focus greatly to block out most of the thoughts she reads, and as a result the people in her town think she's mentally deranged. She also reads people differently sometimes. Some people don't "broadcast" as well as others, and some people she can only pick up on emotions and such.

    I've always found telepathy to be a stupid, illogical power, though. It makes no sense. People don't (at least, I don't) think in perfectly logical sentences.
     
  5. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't have any real mind readers but I do have psychic characters, and they occasionally are bang on correct about what people are thinking, which can be fun when they aren't the main character, because you can work on reactions from the MC to such a thing rather than a narrative mess. Seeing as my series changes point of view I've had to write from the POV of both psychic characters recently. The first one was more able to read magic and auras so she just picked up on moods and made lucky guesses about the contents of someone's mind from the surface stuff she could read. The other probed a lot deeper, for example working out the plot twist that one character was the long-lost, supposed-to-be-dead father of another from what he was thinking and feeling. I had to stagger the introduction of all this information, and she knew basically the whole plot most of the time and even in her narration was having to lie to the reader a bit to make it less predictable. In that character's case, someone who was literally capable of mind-reading you like an open book, I made it something she turns on, or otherwise only gets the same sort of ambient extra credit information another psychic character would, e.g. when she's not plumbing someone for information, she, for example, knows exactly how many hidden people are approaching because she can sense them, or can predict and outmanoeuvre her friends in casual conversation because she can feel how each thing she says and they say to each other makes them react. When writing teenage girls that's an EXTREMELY handy skill.:p
     
  6. Timothy Giant
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    Timothy Giant Member

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    I have sort-of-mindreading people, but it's not really clear they can read minds. I mean, the MC suspects they can, but sometimes the mindreaders don't know what she is thinking and why she does things. Thus far (in for about 1/3 of the story), I've only explained it as them being extremely empathical, sensing emotions and making guesses. One is an accomplished psychiatrist because of her empathic skills.
    I don't really like superpowers, but if done properly, I think they can be a lot of fun. And 'properly' means 'keep it vague and treat it like it's as normal as needing to breathe', or something.
     
  7. jo epic
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    jo epic New Member

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    ...... i agree with most of them you need draw backs to every power no matter what there is a drawback
    and the character whats it like mean spiteful helpful ect. is this affected by the power??
     
  8. Tallandboring
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    Tallandboring Member

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    Thanks everybody!
    The insight was really helpful
    My character is able to read minds continuously, she sort of sees their thoughts as her own.
    The downfall to it is that she gets headaches often, and has trouble focusing and making sense of the thoughts she is contstantly hearing
    (This is somewhat similar to The Noise from Patrick Ness's 'The Knife Of Never Letting Go")
     
  9. Pyraeus
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    Pyraeus Member

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    ^ That makes sense. I can't remember the name of it, but in one show this family gets superpowers-dad gets super strength, mum has superspeed, brother super intelligence, and daughter has telepathy. She often has music on becuase she is continually being bombarded with other peoples thoughts.
     
  10. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    My best advice is to not make a big deal out of it. If you think about Superman, he don't spend a lot time thinking "weeeee, I can flyyyy!" He just does. Flying is as natural to him as walking is to us. Likewise, Aquaman can breathe underwater, but it's as natural to him as breathing air. Why would he make a big deal out of it? So if your character can read minds, it shouldn't be a big deal to her. The trick is to make sure the reader knows what's happening without explaining it more than absolutely necessary. Listening in on someone's mind shouldn't be a bigger deal than listening in on someone talking. It's difficult to pull it off properly, but that's what seperates good writers from average writers. ;)
     
  11. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    I have always found it funny with telepathy portrayed as talking. People don't think in words all the time. Many thoughts are purely visual. I'm writing urban fantasy right now with a vampire that just turned a human. They have a mental connection that let's them see one another's thoughts (as if through one another's eyes) but NOT hear any internal monologue. It' s more interesting since the master might know the newbie is in a dark alley, but doesn't know if she is scared or just relaxing in the dark. They can see what another sees, but won't necessarily know how that is interpreted. Much more room for imagination.
     
  12. JessWrite
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    JessWrite Word Nerd & Proud! Contributor

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    Oh, I LOVED that show, No Ordinary Family. They portrayed Daphne, the mind reader, very well I think. She did have a hard time tuning out the thoughts, especially when walking in the school halls. Too bad it got cancelled after a season. :( If you can find the show on Youtube, it might be helpful.

    I've written a mind-reader before, making her shy and afraid of crowds of people. That can be a big draw back, since people/family can think the character is secluded or depressed, and have to push the character to do things.
     
  13. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    That's an interesting concept. Though thoughts aren't just what one sees either, wouldn't the newbie's current feelings/actions taint the visuals? For example, I'm a very visual person, so if I'm walking through the backyard at night to put the trash out and something scares me then the whole time I'm spending looking int he shadows swearing to goodness I see something. This was horrible as a child because there was a scary stories book that had hands in it... and I swear to goodness, every shadow had moving hands in it. But same situation and nothing's managed to peak my fears and I'm staring up at the stars, trying to find the sound of the cow. While it's not in actual words, my thoughts are directed at something.
     
  14. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    If you are looking for profound impact on the live of the mind-reader read Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. It started of as fun in the beginning like as a child he would know what the neighborhood woman think contrary to what they were saying, and later, his body sort of started crumbling (he became sickly and old in his thirties) due to the sheer pressure of knowing too much. The author uses the body crumbling as some sort of metaphor/symbol in the story, but it is worth reading. Warning: The story is literary and may be a difficult read in the beginning.
     
  15. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I do. But maybe I'm weird.

    I have many mindreading characters, and I work out the strengths/drawbacks differently in each kind. I don't just go for the standard 'trouble with crowds' thing, I add a different twist each time.

    One type, the main drawback is that it only works on supernaturals, such as vampires. They have a bit of trouble with crowds that have a lot of supernaturals in them, but most of their problems come from people it doesn't work on.

    Another type feed on emotions, and have very powerful mindreading. They like crowds, but tend to get disoriented and spaced-out in them, so they're vulnerable in crowds.

    A third character can only read minds when she choses to do so, which means no issue with overload, but she does often miss stuff that a non-stop mindreader would get. Plus when she does read minds, she can't control whose mind she reads, and it can be hard for her to match thoughts to people.
     
  16. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I just finished a rough draft with a MC who develops telepathic abilities as the book progresses. She starts out with spotty empathy. Then she starts having thoughts, words and images, invading her thoughts. It's involuntary, causes headaches and threatens her peace-of-mind. Toward the end of the book, she begins getting proficient at filtering unwanted thoughts and focusing in on individuals.
     

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