First Rule of Telepathy: Use it Wisely
By Karina Fabian
Did you ever see Friday the 13th: The New Blood? I haven't, but my husband likes to tell me about the scene he most despises: Jason is chasing the psychic girl, and as she flees, she mentally knocks things in his path, throws a tractor at him, does everything she can to stop him… Except the one thing that makes sense.
"If she can pick up a tractor, why can't she pick him up?" Rob demanded even a decade later. "Just hold him at a distance; or, if she doesn’t think she can concentrate that long, slam him against the trees."
This illustrates to me the key to writing convincing telepathy--or magic, or science fiction: If you are going to establish a power, then think about the logical uses and consequences!
I had to give this a lot of thought in my novel, Mind Over Mind. What did telepathy mean to my character Deryl. He could read minds--what about emotions? What about memories? Could he project as well as receive; and if so, how "real" could he make his illusions and for how long? What did all this cost him in terms of energy and concentration? Most importantly, how and how well could he control his abilities?
Whatever "power" you use in your story--psychic, magic, or technological--you need to establish overarching rules--what can the person do or not do with the power? What are its limits and why? What does the power cost? The easiest way to answer these questions is to explore what others have done and to keep asking yourself questions: What if this? How does that work? When does this fail? When you get an answer, follow-up with why.
As it turns out for poor Deryl, he had little control over what he received and the confusion led him to attempt suicide and get committed--good luck convincing the psychiatric staff that the voices in your head are real. Mind Over Mind, the first book in the trilogy, he basically comes to terms with his ability. In the second book, he'll learn what he's meant to do with those powers.
I promise: If he's ever being chased by a madman, he'll either know better than to toss a tractor--or his buddy will call him on it.