Wednesday, 18 January 2012

ESP - what can we see?

C - Clairvoyance
In supernatural thrillers and horror stories one of the parapsychologies will usually figure somewhere along the way.  Clairvoyance is one of these.The dictionary says clairvoyance is ‘the ability to perceive things that are usually beyond the range of normal human senses’.  But I think many people associate it with the power to ‘see’ into the future.
Second sight or ESP is one area of clairvoyance and it can be a particularly helpful plot device; remembering, of course, that we are talking about fiction and a willingness on the part of a reader to suspend disbelief.
The idea of being able to ‘see’ (or sense) something that is not within the bounds of normal is not a new one. It has been used from the early beginnings of the written word and tales from the classics and mythology are steeped in them.
The main areas of second sight seem to be Remote Viewing, where a person can ‘see’ something that is happening a long way away, Precognition, where a person can ‘see’ and foretell something that is about to happen, and Visions where a person simply ‘sees’ something (it may only be a flash image) but has no idea if it’s from the future, past or present.
Telepathy, premonition and telekinesis are also closely related to second sight.
Of course the scientific community does not accept any of this stuff as it requires proof that is just not available. The various researchers into the area are of the view that most of it is fraud, self-delusion and guesswork. But that doesn’t stop the believers and it certainly doesn’t stop the notion of second sight being fertile grounds for the imagination in fiction writing.
I used the notion myself in my latest book 'The Witcheye Gene'. (Now available on Amazon kindle) The main protagonist had a latent hereditary gift of second sight.

One does not have to believe these things to enjoy a good story that uses any these ideas. If you asked the population in general how many believed in the paranormal you would get a much lower number than those who read the fiction books and watch the films. This is what suspension of disbelief is all about; in that, just for the period that you are immersed in a good story, you are willing to step into a universe where all things are possible. This is the nub of all good plots and fiction in general. How else would we enjoy Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings?
The other interesting thing for me is that if you have one character who believes in the paranormal and one that doesn’t then that sets the story up for even more conflict and tension, quite naturally without having to work at it.
What do you think? If you make a world ‘real’ enough for the reader, can you suspend disbelief?


  1. In one of my books due out next year, one of my characters has the ability to read the thoughts of those she loves. Well, not "thoughts" exactly, but is empathic, like Troy on Star Trek.

    I've been told my grandmother had second sight, and I believe it. Sometimes I know when something is going to happen. Nobody believes me but when it does, I just smile.

  2. Oh, it's definitely possible to suspend belief to immerse yourself in a story, even if you don't believe in the world. Thank goodness too, or we'd miss out on so many wonderful stories :-)

  3. Oh, definitely. I'm all about suspension of belief, if it makes sense within the world.

  4. Good post. Yes, I agree about the suspension of disbelief. For example, I watch and read the Trueblood stories but I don't think for a second that any of it's possible. Doesn't stop me enjoying them. And I love that conflict you talk about and have used it in my fiction. I sometimes have people who don't believe in the supernatural experiencing weird stuff and arguing with themselves about it too. That can be fun.

  5. I think a lot of reading needs to be undertaken while suspending belief. Even if the story is realistic, there will always be parts that need to be stretched to make the story more interesting or exciting. I can easily suspend belief and enjoy a great book.

  6. Thanks for the comments. They are so appreciated.

  7. Absolutely! If the world you create is "real" one can believe everything that happens in that world. Or, at least I do!

  8. Isn't that what fiction is all about? And even the non readers suspend belief whenever they watch Spooks, Sherlock, or Midsomer Murders or ET. The extra sensory is just a step up from that. I'm not into being creeped-out, but love to read Susanna Kearsley's time slip stories.

  9. I can suspend disbelief anything as long as its written well! I love stories - unbelievable ones - that make me believe!