Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Friday, October 1, 2010

Telepathy and Romance

Telepathy and romance are two great tastes that ought to taste great together. So why is it that, so often, a telepathic heroine or hero--finds true love with the one person whose mind can't be read?

It's part of a romance novel's plot, of course, for a couple to get to know each other better. There need to be obstacles in the way. If one person can read the other's mind, a lot of the tension is gone from the story. If one of the partners is immune to the other's ability, that creates tension and can also serve as a signal to the telepath that here is someone special.

But what if the telepathy did work? Usually, in those cases the plot tension arises from the non-telepathic character having secrets which the telepath might accidentally--or purposely--uncover. The telepath might learn things that complicate the relationship further.

But there's another way to use telepathy in romance, I think, a way that I've seen more often in science fiction or fantasy novels that happen to have a romance. Telepathy can be used as a kind of leveller, a new way of looking at how two people interact. "Normal" humans are isolated from each other in many ways. Their intimacies are negotiated and can never be total as we can't see another person from the inside. What if they weren't isolated from each other? What happens then?

If one or both characters can read the mind of the other, most of the simple romantic conflicts can be eliminated. The writer has to delve deeper for plot conflict, perhaps specifically engaging with gender roles in a relationship, or other power differentials. The writer could explore how their characters would interact on another level entirely.


  1. It would be more of a challenge to write conflict if the hero/heroine could read minds. In the Undead vampire series by MaryJanice Davidson, the hero & heroine can read each others minds. In fiction, telepathy eliminates "natural" conflict. In real life, it would cause conflict. ("Who are you calling an asshole!").

  2. It would make a fun novel to have them NEVER get together because of reading each others' minds too much.

  3. You must really like to torture your poor characters....

  4. omgosh those images are priceless. i agree that mind reading is more difficult to write. however, i think a lot of people keep coming back to it because it is such a fantasy: to have someone know you that deeply and intimately and still love you. perfect communication and acceptance--that's an intense scenario.

  5. Robert Silverberg wrote 'Dying Inside' which is a great sci-fi and philosophical period piece (1960s) on telepathy. Yes your post is right, telepathy is underused

  6. I have read DYING INSIDE, but I admit it isn't one of my favorites.