Would like advice re: psychics and head-hopping
One of the "themes" of the story I'm working on is maintaining your sense of self through trauma. I've done two other very short stories in this series (30K words each) from human POVs and it's worked very well. However, the third story is from an alien POV and I'm hitting trouble.
One thing I thought would be interesting was to explore how well a person could maintain his sense of self when he and the other people around him are psychics. The alien race I'm playing with are psychic and can read their own species's minds pretty much thought for thought, unless the other psychic is really good at sheilding, and not thinking about pink elephants (aka whatever it is he's trying to hide). It's a race where identity itself is something you earn. They start off with no name and have to earn everything from pay to name to position in society through their deeds. They can also read human emotions (more specifically, the chemical reactions that feed human emotions) so while they can't read your mind and know you're about to shoot them, they can pick up on the emotional spike right before you turn to fire, and are fast enough to shoot you first.
A side effect of this is...I'm head-hopping. A lot. I know some of it is going away during the future edits, but some of it is going to be a part of the story. The bounderies between individuals here are blurred, and the climax is going to be this alien character finally finding a way to balance himself and (more or less) stop invading the other person's head every three seconds.
Given this (probably really confusing) bit of info...how much head-hopping would be acceptable? And is there any advice for how to make this less confusing?
There shoud be none at all...
However, the question you are asking is not 'how much head hopping should there be' but rather 'how can I represent the unique nature of this race in an appropriate manner'.
Basically, if something is happening in the text, in the style of your writing, that is there for perfectly good reasons then it does not break the rules. The trick is to write it in a way which makes this clear. If you are randomly shifting from character to character in the middle of a scene or having a character know or see something they shouldn't then this will be seen as bad PoV management rather than a clever conceit,. If, however, you make it clear that this is happening because they are psychic, for example the use of italics or some other formatting change to indicate the psychic bits, then it becomes less of a problem...
At the moment I am reading Charles Stross's The Jennifer Morgue and in that two characters get 'destiny entangled' which means they can communicate with each other psychically and also see and feel what the other is experiencing. It may be worth you reading this or a book where something similar happens to see how it is handled there.
You say you're headhopping with a telepath, that just tells me you're doing it too much. Gentle, gentle.
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I would not see psychic reading as 'head hopping'. It is just another sensory channel. It can be a little harder to format and keep clear. But the MC is still the one having the experience.
So is your MC one of the aliens who's earned his sense of self? In that case, wouldn't the MC also have his own unique voice? If he did, then he would be observing other alien's minds, but not necessarily be the other aliens. What you'd need to do in this case is focus on your MC's perception of the other aliens.
Originally Posted by christwriter
If your MC hasn't gotten to the point where he's earned his own identity, then I think it could be compelling to have his consciousness merge with that of the other alien. Start talking in first person plural (I think that's what it would be?) or something. "We walked down the street" instead of "I walked down the street". And then your character struggles to find himself by extracting himself/herself from the other alien's mind. Is that what you mean by "finally finding a way to balance himself and (more or less) stop invading the other person's head every three seconds"?
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I have human psychics in my fantasy. One of the things I did was consider the effects from birth. The ability is there at the beginning and develops with the characters - baby can't read mama's mind unless mama lets it. Even when mama does, it doesn't understand more than the base emotion that infants can sometimes intuit assuming that mental path is clear of clutter.
Perhaps considering how the psychic society evolved and the personal development of each character from its origins will help you get more of a handle on this as well. I realize you may have done so already.If so, sorry I can't be of more help.