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Thread: One problem in writing literature about intelligent characters...

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Default One problem in writing literature about intelligent characters...

    In writing my GUNDAM fanfiction, there's one great limitation that I think many fiction authors face when they are writing about characters who are extraordinarily clever and intelligent: the character *can't* be more clever or intelligent than the author because, after all, it is the author who enables that character to devise his/her clever plans and schemes. Take Jin Yong's Wong Yung from LOCH/ROCH, for example: he characterizes her as perhaps among the most intelligent people to have ever lived, but to bring this character to life, Jin Yong must be *at least* as clever as Wong Yung; otherwise, he could not describe her thought processes (and results thereof).

    I find myself running into this problem as a fiction writer because I don't consider myself extraordinarily devious or cunning, but I'm trying to write about characters who are. Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    Senior Member yittz's Avatar
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    This is what I notice about people like HR, WXB etc.

    They say the right things and do the right things at the right moment and it pulls off what ever they wanted. Like HR was excellent at reading people's thoughts and intentions - something that the author can easily do for HR. Hence she can respond appropriately, making her look intelligent.

    When a smart character tricks a dumber character, it works because the author lets it - via a bit of luck, the dumber not recognising the trick, the smarter perfectly designing the trick which happens to be the bane of the dumber.

    So for your character:
    Make sure he/she never gets tricked or fall into a trap
    Pulls off tricks/manouvers with ease
    Says/acts before peers in an appropriate fashion
    Have good observation skills
    Have good people psychology
    Well knowledged (this is tricky in Gundam for you, since unlike JY it's set in the future, but it's all about comparison - smart one knows the inner workings of a robot, dumb one doesn't etc.)
    Learn stuff rapidly (like ZWJ)
    Be multitalented

    Imo, the difficult part is thinking up tricks for him/her to pull off. e.g. I wasn't impressed with HR's swap the horses trick in the heroes meeting, only because I've read it before. HR capturing OYF was ok, but nothing impressive - the author could easily have made it fail if his intentions were to elevate OYF's reputation.

    Gl with Gundam
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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yittz View Post
    This is what I notice about people like HR, WXB etc.

    They say the right things and do the right things at the right moment and it pulls off what ever they wanted. Like HR was excellent at reading people's thoughts and intentions - something that the author can easily do for HR. Hence she can respond appropriately, making her look intelligent.

    When a smart character tricks a dumber character, it works because the author lets it - via a bit of luck, the dumber not recognising the trick, the smarter perfectly designing the trick which happens to be the bane of the dumber.

    So for your character:
    Make sure he/she never gets tricked or fall into a trap
    Pulls off tricks/manouvers with ease
    Says/acts before peers in an appropriate fashion
    Have good observation skills
    Have good people psychology
    Well knowledged (this is tricky in Gundam for you, since unlike JY it's set in the future, but it's all about comparison - smart one knows the inner workings of a robot, dumb one doesn't etc.)
    Learn stuff rapidly (like ZWJ)
    Be multitalented

    Imo, the difficult part is thinking up tricks for him/her to pull off. e.g. I wasn't impressed with HR's swap the horses trick in the heroes meeting, only because I've read it before. HR capturing OYF was ok, but nothing impressive - the author could easily have made it fail if his intentions were to elevate OYF's reputation.

    Gl with Gundam
    Thanks for the advice. I've actually tried doing many of the things you've suggested, but I don't know how successful I've been. Because I'm judging her from the author's perspective, she doesn't look as clever to me as she *should* to the other characters and to readers. That's why I'm constantly looking for feedback.

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    Senior Member MysteriouX's Avatar
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    Here's another tip, people expect someone intelligent to use clever and brilliant tricks and since old and simple tricks have been used too much and they think they know them all and can easily recognize them, they tend to overlook them.

    Simplicity is most of the times the best way to go. Do the unexpected, if they expect complicated tricks, use simple ones and vice versa.

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    Senior Member pemberly's Avatar
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    it's easy for an author to be smarter than the smartest character. the author knows what's going to happen in the story.
    nytimes: Every hr you have 10 minutes where youíre not doing anything productive at work, & you canít look at porn. So you make a comment & fulfill this desire to show yourself off as a smarty-pants.

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    Senior Member mawguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    I find myself running into this problem as a fiction writer because I don't consider myself extraordinarily devious or cunning, but I'm trying to write about characters who are. Any suggestions?
    read koo lung's mo-lam ngoi see and his depiction of the "perfect" sum long. :P
    nostalgic for wuxiasociety? http://wuxiasociety.freeforums.net/

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemberly View Post
    it's easy for an author to be smarter than the smartest character. the author knows what's going to happen in the story.
    True. What's not so easy is for the author to convince the reader that his character is smart when the author is not of extraordinary intelligence in the first place.

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