View Full Version : Intelligence and wisdom

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

Pages : [1] 2 3 4 5

May 18th, 2003, 01:31 PM
Could you really write a caracter more intelligent than yourself? And when I say that I mean really make him more intelligent, not say "Oh, he is very very intelligent, and do many fancy things!" I do not think that is possible... no that is wrong .... it is not possible. I shouldn't even have asked you. But really if you want to say it is possible, i will gladly listen (and laugh at your stupidity :p ).

Wisdom, however, I think is possible to do. Anyone can think of something wise to say. Anything might sound true, that does not mean, however, that it is. But who can prove it is not. And you can write a character doing or saying the right thing, which you yourself would, might not have done.

Nevertheless, to make a person intelligent, you might want to make the others really really stupid? ;) Well it is what others think of you that really mathers... That doesn't sound very good does it...

Any thoughts?

May 18th, 2003, 02:46 PM
Sorry, double post. See below.

May 18th, 2003, 02:50 PM
Simple answer, I think it takes a highly intelligent author to realistically create and make 'alive' a character of almost whatever type.

How can an author succeed in writing a penetrating, funny character who can intelligently function on many levels if they (the author) are not capable of writing the appropriate dialogue and understanding complex nuances of human behaviour, motivation etc.

Many seem to fall back on telling the reader that a given character is highly intelligent / witty or what have you, but are unable to actually convey it believably in the actions and dialogue of the character when it comes to it.

In terms of 'wisdom', I disagree that 'anyone can think of something wise to day'. In this era of the web, with such a colossal amount of learning and the works of great thinkers available so freely, it is true that anyone can sound wise, but that's a different thing. An imbecile can quote wise men, and even memorise the words, and even live by them- but does that make him wise, or just a parrot, or a follower?

A mediocre writer can, in this vein, have 'wise' characters present seemingly original ideas for living and so on, which the authors have taken from elsewhere. Again, plagarisation and opposed to what I would term wisdom.


No 'great' author is less than brilliant.

Idiots are not capable of generating great literature, rarely even make good storytellers.

(OK, suitably controversial, where's my flame-retardant suit?) :D

May 18th, 2003, 03:23 PM
Ah.. Just bad wording on my part, about wisdom that is. I agree with you (it was actually what i tried to say (believe it or not)). One can say something that might seem wise to people, but really is just a load of crap. (Is the word crap offensive? If so, I apologize.) :p

I, Brian
May 18th, 2003, 04:01 PM
Could you really write a caracter more intelligent thatn yourself.

Simply put, no.

But suitably placed circumstance (ie, plot leads) will often make a character appear especially intelligent.

Detective novels are a case in point about this - after glutting on Agatha Christie I realised just how contrived her solutions were, how ridiculous the logic of Poirot and Miss Marple, and the remote chance than many cases would actually result in a conviction (retracted confession will get half of her murderers off straight away). But there's a great crafting of illusion in there, to make such sleuths indeed appear to be super-sleuths. Sherlock Holmes is no exception, either.

May 18th, 2003, 04:05 PM
I guess someone not very intelligent could come up with something intelligent and then craft the story to it, but would perhaps not come up with the solution if put in the situation themselves.

May 18th, 2003, 05:06 PM
What? No-one can be more intelligent than me, of course! ;)

Seriously, now...

Most writers are intelligent and imaginative people, so they have no real problem depicting an intelligent character.

BUT, the trick is to make the character SEEM (illusion as an earlier poster said; illusion of reality) more intelligent than the others in the story.

So how can someone do that?

1) Solutions. The intelligent ones find the solutions to most problems. The writer has the advantage of siting on chair in front of his laptop and thinking the plot over and over again, finding out the best "possible solusion", even when the characters are in a rush (in the story) or under physical and/or psycological presure. The intelligent one will find the solution more easily, overcoming the pressure. Actually, s/he will think of a solution that a man siting on a chair in front of his laptop would normaly think! ;)

2) Knowledge. The intelligent one knows more secrets. Example: Gandalf.

May 18th, 2003, 05:43 PM
It depends on how you are defining intelligence. Many people, for instance, would equate wisdom with intelligence. It's also perfectly possible for a person who never finished high school to write a character who is a college professor with a Ph.D. It's possible to write a character who is a scientist or a computer hacker when you are not. It's possible to write a character who has skills and mental abilities that you do not.

It may sometimes require a certain amount of research to do this, which would bring up the point that the character is not more intelligent than you because you now know what the character knows from your research. Certainly, the actions, words, and possibly thoughts of the character are going to come from you, so you could say that there was a limitation there. But a character who was, say, a geneticist, would not be displaying all his knowledge in the course of the story. He would probably be displaying what knowledge is relevant for the story that you had researched. But his character would still be presumed to have knowledge of genetics not displayed, to have received advanced education and to be intelligent enough to hold the job -- more intelligent in this area and in education than the author may be. Certainly, we are able to read about characters who are more intelligent than ourselves, so it seems to me perfectly conceivable that we can also imagine and write about such people.

And as much fun as it is to pat ourselves on the back and say, oh aren't we such intelligent, creative people being storytellers, I would say that it doesn't take an enormous amount of intelligence to tell a story. An excited five-year-old can tell a story. People tell each other stories every day. Many writers work primarily from intuition, not through the conscious application of their intellect. And a lot of wonderfully intelligent people who attempt fiction write hardily awful, unbelievable or stupid characters, so it's not exactly a direct correlation. :)

Anyway, I'd argue that you can write a character who is more intelligent than yourself, but that it requires a bit more of an effort to make that character believable, at least with main characters who have larger roles in a story.

May 18th, 2003, 07:36 PM
Well before I say anything, I would like to relate what my ideas on wisdom and intelligence are. I already know some people have different ideas to me.

I think of wisdom is mostly to do with how much you have already learnt. A wise person is someone that has already learnt many things and is wise because his/her knowledge has given him/she insight. I also believe a person may be wise on one area, but not be wise in a different area. However, I think when most people use the word wise they refer to "living life". When people call someone wise I think usually they mean that person has learnt from many experiences during his/her life.

I think intelligence is more to do with ability to absorb knowledge. An intelligent person will learn things more quickly than others and hence be able to apply the knowledge that he/she has learnt. This is usually noticed when an intelligent person figures out a problem that was not obvious to other people. He learnt the information available by simply looking or poking around just like everyone else, but absorbed the information faster and came to a solution before the others because he understood the information first.

As for a writer writing about a character more intelligent than themselves. I believe it is possible. The only catch is often those that are more intelligent than you know you're faking it especially if you try and do it through dialogue. The trick to avoid readers being annoyed by it is to not actually call your character intelligent. Simply write on the premise that he is. People will nit pick things you tell them directly, far more than things you only subliminally suggest.

It's possible to write a character who is a scientist or a computer hacker when you are not. It's possible to write a character who has skills and mental abilities that you do not.

It's possible, but you'll be surprised at the number of mistakes some writers make with the things they say. I know a few of my friends have sworn off sci-fiction, because all the engineering/science/computer mistakes that is so prevalent.

Of course this doesn't mean that writers should simply give up. Readers often make allowances, and will often gloss over your mistakes for you so they can enjoy your story more.

My Three Cents


May 18th, 2003, 07:43 PM
Not to sound haughty, but your tone kind of brings it on.. the very definition of intelligence makes it impossible to write a character that is more intelligent than yourself. (Intelligence is roughly defined as the ability to GATHER and USE knowledge) Knowledge != intelligence.

However, if you are unable to make me believe a character is more knowledgeable (and I daresay intelligent) than you are.. quite frankly you need more practice.

I have never been the President of the United States. I can only hazard a guess as to what the President's day is _really_ like. (I'm not talking about the President as depicted in "West Wing" or "24" for those of you who watch television.) Yet I think with a little research I could easily write a believeable President within my story. A lot of research if he is a major player in my tale. Is he more intelligent than me? I hope so - I'm an aspiring writer who distributes automotive crash parts, he's the frickin (love that word) President!

I am not a politician. In fact, I am only remotely interested in politics. Yet I can easily create a believable political system for a story, and create a "leader" or group of men who know that system inside out - even though I might not. They are both more knowledgeable and intelligent than me (again, they are political leaders, I am an "auto parts guy" - they better be more intelligent.)

The reason this IS possible was suggested first by KatG in the post above mine: The character does not divulge all of his/her knowledge on any given subject. They do reveal bits and pieces of their knowledge, in essence proving their "intelligence".

In fact, they can appear more intelligent, as suggested by Bardos, for a very simple reason: the character may come up with the solution to a problem in a matter of minutes --> the same conclusion it may have taken you weeks of brainstorming to find. He came to the same solution as you in a much shorter time! (Kind of like Einstien would have, and I'm willing to bet he was more intelligent than you.)

After all, the characters ARE make believe - their intelligence is just an illusion, and that is the writer's job: make the reader believe in illusions.