10 mind control clichés (and how to avoid them)

Mind control yarns are a staple of science fiction, but they tend to fall back on the same tropes. Fortunately for you, I've developed a character that blows all those tried-and-true formulas to smithereens. Join us as we reinvent the mind control tale.

1.) Mind controllers compensate for a lack of physical prowess

More often than not, the mind controller is written such that his or her abilities overcome a lack of physical strength — other times they're a placeholder for physicality.

The Non-Stereotypical Way: For the express purpose of showing you all how to write a different kind of mind-controlling hero, I'll be discussing a real cool guy I've invented for this writing exercise. He offers significant emotional depth and nigh unlimited plot possibilities. His name is Dick Apex, Psychic All-American Quarterback.

2.) Fingers on forehead
Whenever psychics attempt to control someone, they tend to place on their forefingers on their skulls. During particularly strenuous tasks, the psychic will grimace as if severely constipated and his or her nose will bleed. It is not flattering in the least.

The Non-Stereotypical Way: Whenever Dick Apex thinks hard, his brain heats up like a furnace. To cool his head down, Dick's salivary glands kick into overdrive and he drools uncontrollably. This is extremely dangerous for Dick, as a professional athlete of his caliber can't win the big game with cottonmouth.

10 mind control clichés (and how to avoid them)S

3.) Psychic manipulation, mind-warping drugs, hypnosis, and subliminal nudging
In fiction, these are the most common methods of making another do your bidding. With the exception of mind control helmets, of course (see below). The Puppet Master (a.k.a. one of George R.R. Martin's least favorite Fantastic Four foes) is one such outlier.

The Non-Stereotypical Way: For Dick Apex, Psychic All-American Quarterback, the "psychic" part of his name is there just to scare crooks. In reality, Dick Apex has no psychic powers but possess a doctorate in rational choice theory.

Whenever he mind controls someone, he immediately draws a game tree and convinces them that they'll maximize their utility by cooperating with his demands. Again, Dick's persuasive powers are limited by his salivary glands. The constant drool makes him hard to understand.

4.) Brainwashing henchmen
Even mind controllers on the side of angels love to test drive a bad guy's villainous peons. Why put yourself in danger when you can use a drone?

The Non-Stereotypical Way: Out of pride and principle, Dick Apex will only brainwash the mastermind. Why go for a lateral pass when you can score a touchdown? No, he'll only use his honeyed tongue on the queen bee. It's unsporting not to.

10 mind control clichés (and how to avoid them)S

5.) It's poor form to mind control non-villains
Virtuous mind controllers generally avoid influencing friends and innocent bystanders. They tend to get hung up on that twee conceit of "free will."

The Non-Stereotypical Way: Dick Apex mind controls friends and strangers out of love. If you have a drinking problem, he'll brainwash you to rehab. If you're slacking off before finals, he'll mind control your procrastinating ass to the library. He'll regularly brainwash passers-by into scheduling colonoscopies.

10 mind control clichés (and how to avoid them)S

6.) Blank stares
Whenever someone becomes a psychic marionette, his or her eyes tend to become limpid pools of DUHHH. I'm guessing it's caused by eyes rolling back in the head.

The Non-Stereotypical Way: Whenever Dick Apex mind controls using game theory, they weep tears of joy, for he has shown them the truth.

10 mind control clichés (and how to avoid them)S

7.) Mind controlling hats and helmets
Due to their proximity to the brain, chapeaus tend to be a favorite amongst nefarious mind controllers.

The Non-Stereotypical Way: Dick Apex hypnotizes people wearing a special hat, but it's not because of the hat's intrinsic properties. The hat just looks extremely good on him.

10 mind control clichés (and how to avoid them)S

8.) Mind controllers are creepy
They're often depicted as perverse or at least mildly twisted souls. After all, controlling someone's will requires a certain moral flexibility.

The Non-Stereotypical Way: Dick Apex is an Eagle Scout with multiple badges in "Good Manners."

10 mind control clichés (and how to avoid them)S

9.) Everything's more awesome on the astral plane
Mind control battles frequently use the astral plane as the visual manifestation of a psychic struggle. More often than not, the astral plane looks like a Yes concert on some primo Molly.

The Non-Stereotypical Way: The astral plane isn't all that exciting of a place to visit. I mean, it's nice, but not "like riding the Magic School Bus into God's mind's eye" nice. Sort of like a highway rest stop with unanticipated, better-than-average restaurants. Maybe a Cinnabon.

10.) Mind control battles end with everyone's brains exploding and faces melting

See: all of the best scenes in Scanners.

The Non-Stereotypical Way: Whenever Dick Apex wins a mind control battle, it ends with firm handshakes and constructive criticism.

Master collage via Edokter.