Smart Characters: Are They Cool or Overrated?

smart monkey taking selfie

Smart Characters: Are They Cool or Overrated?

I commonly see fans of series, movies and other pop culture products, admire characters who are presented as super-intelligent. I’ve even heard discussions about who would win in a fight between an intelligent character and another with, let’s say, more direct abilities.

But… What if I told you that, as writers make you believe that a character can fly, they can make you believe that he is intelligent just as easily? And what’s more: This works, even if the author himself is not as smart as the character. Let me explain:

There are several ways in which a writer can simulate the intelligence of a character. But to understand this, first, we have to define what intelligence is. And here things get complicated because this, in itself, is already complex. Because there is not just one type of intelligence, but several. But one way to define intelligence would be: The ability to quickly access information stored in one´s memory. With this in mind, I will try to explore the possibilities that a writer has:

  • Time: The author has all the time in the world. The character may have come up with a brilliant idea to solve a problem in a few seconds or even under pressure or with some distraction, but the author could have spent months thinking of that scene.
  • The author’s hand: The author is basically God. The character ‘s antagonist may be surprised that his opponent had already anticipated his plans but, Hello… there is the hand of the author planning and setting everything up, in order to make the character look like he’s the smartest
  • Unrealistic deadlines: As a programmer, I often find it funny, how one of these characters develops, in a few hours, a software that, in real life, would take months or even years of work.
  • Poor scientific accuracy: Authors who randomly mix technical terms just to make you believe that the character who says them is intelligent. But in reality, what he is saying does not make any sense.

And if everything else fails, the mediocre writer can always use the trusty old Deux Ex Machina.

In Short: Do intelligent characters deserve the popularity they have? I leave the decision to you. Leave your impressions in the comments.

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