On Cognition and Telepathy: Thoughts about the Impossible

Words are like an Alcubierre drive, warping the fabric of the spacetime of mind, allowing us to perform the impossible: perform telepathy.

Jenn Fir
November 4, 2021

For my continuing education at work, I’m reading a book on design (Design for How People Think, John Whalen – O’Reilly). I also previously have read the Nobel-winning Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Here are my takeaways on how following a few summarized tenets of such extra-disciplinary works can shape the way a writer crafts their tales for the better:

Contrary to popular belief, the user experience of anything happens ONLY in the mind; it does not happen on the page or screen.

This is especially true in writing. I’ve heard in various conversations and podcasts before that “writing is telepathy.” A story is transmitted from the mind of the writer to the mind of the reader through the medium of the written word.

So as a writer, it would be prudent to consider the following: how do you elicit the same reaction from the reader as you imagine in your own head? Is your your current outline or story or idea one that is designed to stimulate the senses and he emotions, or are you simply telling the movie reel you see in your mind, interpreted into plot, character, action?

Given the human brain thinks in two major ways: fast (subconscious, animal interpretation and reaction) and slow (deliberate conscious thought and decision-making), it’s easy to write from the POV of authorial slow thought: how do I see the story unfolding from plot point to plot point, through character arcs, and from rising action to denouement? Surely the presentation of these interesting points will generate a bestseller!

But while that kind of writing can be interesting, I believe it can be tiresome reading. The efficacy of a good story is presented and proven in the fast.

Stop for a long, quiet moment. Go down that mental path of your story; walk pensively along the bridges and roads of your plots and character arcs. What emotional signposts can you identify along the way? Your main character has a past. What particular thought would they have, given their background and mindset, about a lone duck in a pond? An old phone booth? A stack of faintly glowing runestones?

Write down a few signposts for your sensory and subconscious (fast thinking) moments, from each character’s POV. Those are going to be far less obvious than the conscious ones and will be way more convincing, as they will evoke a visceral, primal reaction in the reader’s mind. Add those in, replacing some slow, theatrical telling, and watch your story become alive with the authenticity of fast thoughts.

In this, you will find success in the act of telepathically transmitting a nuanced, deep story that is rich not just in imagery and deliberate plotting but unique character feelings that the “user” will experience for themselves.

(Adding links to books as soon as Amazon approves my affiliate account, but don’t wait for me! Go get ’em!)

Written on Dec 12, 2020 (migrated to new site)

Jenn Fir

Sci-fi and fantasy author with a taste for change and a love of the impossible. Fir trees rule!