In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,
All the arts depend upon telepathy to some degree, but I believe that writing offers the purest distillation.
In all my years of writing fiction, especially in the last eight years when I’ve primarily been writing novels, I’ve never really thought of the practice as telepathy. Because for the most part, I’m telling myself the story, not talking to anyone else. A reader picking up your book months, maybe years, down the road is an act completely separate from the author’s own experience, after all.
Being an author isn’t like being a filmmaker in this regard. If you’re the director of a movie, when everything is done, all the shooting and all the intensive post-production, you get to eventually screen your movie for an audience, and see how you did. You can sit in a large theater and watch what moments make people laugh, watch what parts make them jump out of their seats.
I used to make movies, and this part of the process was always a huge thrill. I remember screening one of my dramatic movies for a crowd of 50 or so, and at the end, as the credits rolled, I heard at least five people sniffling, trying to hold back tears. A comedic movie of mine a year later got big laughs, followed by a huge round of applause at the end. Screening your own movie for an audience is something enthralling like no other, it really is.
Being an author is different, for sure. Even if you’re J.K. Rowling, when you’re fawned over and adored by millions and millions of people, you’re still not actually there experiencing someone reading your book (unless you’re the craziest author alive, I guess). You’re not sitting there in front of a young reader waiting for him or her to get to the chapter cliffhanger on page 125 to see if he or she gasps. No — you write the book, and then if you’re lucky enough to get it published, you basically are outside of any real reading experience of others. You might get e-mails and letters and Tweets and things like that from loyal readers, but you won’t actually be a part of the storytelling experience like filmmakers are.
But what I continue to appreciate more about writing fiction than making films is that writing a book is all you, as the author. The characters and the plot twists and the suspense and the language, it’s all coming from your own fingertips. Of course you have outside influences along the way, like beta readers and agents and editors… but at the end of the day, that book is yours.
As a filmmaker, even if you’re the only person behind the camera, the movie you put out to the world is a lot more than just you. It’s the actors you’ve hired. It’s the cinematography. The sound. The cuts. The music. A movie sort of becomes its own separate entity far apart from the filmmaker.
Books, on the other hand, are absolutely a great act of telepathy, I agree with Mr. King. You write the best story you can as the author, and then, when it’s out of your hands, it finds the hands of a reader, who then absorbs the words and sentences on the page that you’ve written to convey an experience that will mean something different to everyone who reads it.
You are in many ways, as the author, whispering your story into the reader’s ear, and, ultimately, you’re sharing the experience of reading the book with that person even though you’re not there.
Books are magic in that kind of way. All art is, really. Film and television and painting and music, everything. Any piece of art is a dance as some kind between the artist and the spectator.
But a story read from the page is the truest, and most wondrous, act of telepathy. It’s just another reason to keep writing, to keep getting better, as you hope one day that telepathy will be transported to a countless amount of readers worldwide.