I cannot not read minds, though I sometimes wish I could. And there are times I wish I were an open book, as easy to read as an engrossing novel; it would be easier than to risk saying, openly, what’s on my mind. But that could be problematic, too, because of the inappropriateness of my thoughts in mixed company. My thoughts might cause another person to recoil in horror…”how could he THINK such a thing?!” For reasons I cannot explain, the sentence I just wrote brought to mind something a fellow blogger wrote several years ago, something to the effect that an idea he had was “vaguely disreputable, like consorting with the livestock.” OK, that being said, I’ll continue my idea-fest.
These odd, early morning thoughts about human interactions and relationships give me an idea for a story about the ramifications of thought manipulation. A man—for the moment I’ll call him Sombra—is able to plant thoughts in someone else’s mind. He then “listens in” on the person’s internal responses to the implanted thoughts.
Sombra is not power-mad; he uses his unique ability not to control others, but to test their responses to him. For example, he finds a woman highly attractive; he might implant in her mind a thought about him kissing her. If she responds to the thought in at least a mildly positive manner, he can comfortably make overtures without fear of outright rejection. If, on the other hand, the woman finds the idea offensive, he dismisses the idea of pursuing any romantic involvement; his risk of embarrassment and rejection disappears.
The story, as described thus far, is too formulaic and two-dimensional. Something’s missing, I think. So, I’ll make Sombra a married man attracted to another woman. No, he’ll be a divorced man who is trying to enter the world of dating after twenty years. No! Sombra will be a woman! She will be attracted to a married man who, she believes, is attracted to her. Her ability with thought manipulation will allow her to explore the attraction, and whether it is mutual, without risk.
The absence of risk in human interactions has an appeal, but it also might tend to flatten the emotions that make human interactions so rewarding. Well, there is risk, of course, in that the man is married, but with the ability to control thoughts, that risk is effectively removed.
I’m thinking Sombra may need to have the ability to cancel her uncanny thought manipulation capability. But it cannot be switched on and off at will. Once the decision is made to switch it off, there can be no way to restart it; the finality of the decision and the way in which Sombra will wrestle with making it should inform the story’s central theme. Will Sombra reveal her ability to the target of her desires? Once she learns whether the attraction is mutual, will she flip the switch? At this point, I don’t know, because I cannot read her mind. Maybe she’ll implant a thought that will give me a way forward.