Outsmarting Yourself: A Writer’s Guide to Genius Characters

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Character Creation, Writing

Outsmarting Yourself: A Writer’s Guide to Genius Characters


Writing characters who are smarter than you can be a challenging but rewarding endeavor. Whether you’re aiming to create a mastermind like Kaz Brekker from Leigh Bardugo’s “Six of Crows” or a brilliant detective akin to Sherlock Holmes, the key is to strike a balance between intelligence and relatability. In this blog post, we’ll explore some tips and tricks to help you craft brainy book characters with wit, charm, and an authentic genius.

Do Your Homework:

Before diving into character creation, it’s essential to research and gain a solid understanding of the kind of genius your character will embody. Study the traits, quirks, and thought processes of real-life geniuses in the field your character is passionate about. Reading books, articles, and watching documentaries can provide valuable insights into their world.

Flawed Brilliance:

Even the smartest characters must have their share of flaws and vulnerabilities. A genius protagonist who is too perfect can come across as unrelatable and, frankly, quite dull. Create imperfections that make your character more human, such as social awkwardness, obsessive tendencies, or personal traumas.

Give your Genius Characters Distinctive Voice:

Smart characters often have a unique way of speaking. Whether it’s their extensive vocabulary, quick wit, or sharp sarcasm, their dialogue should reflect their intelligence. Make sure the way they communicate sets them apart from other characters.

Craft Intriguing Puzzles for your Genius Characters

One of the best ways to showcase a character’s intelligence is to place them in challenging situations. Develop intricate puzzles, problems, or mysteries that your character must solve. This allows you to demonstrate their brilliance through their problem-solving skills and intellect.

Show, Don’t Tell:

Rather than explicitly stating that your character is a genius, let their actions and decisions speak for themselves. Showcase their intelligence through their choices, how they approach problems, and how they outwit their opponents. Kaz Brekker’s intricate heists and Sherlock Holmes’ deductive reasoning are excellent examples of this.

Play the Long Game:

Genius characters often think several steps ahead. Plan out your plot in a way that allows your character to reveal their brilliance gradually. Set up situations where readers can see them strategizing and making connections that others might miss.

Create Complex Relationships:

The dynamic between your genius character and other characters in the story is crucial. How do they interact with those who might not share their level of intelligence? Explore the challenges and opportunities that arise when different intellects clash or collaborate.

Empathy and Relatability:

Don’t forget that intelligence doesn’t have to mean a lack of emotional depth. Even the smartest characters can struggle with personal issues, relationships, and moral dilemmas. Adding a layer of vulnerability and empathy will make your character more relatable.

Dialogue with Substance:

Smart characters should engage in meaningful conversations. Whether it’s debating philosophical ideas, discussing complex scientific theories, or trading witty banter, their dialogue should be thought-provoking and contribute to the story’s depth.

Conclusion to A Writer’s Guide to Genius Characters

Creating characters who are smarter than you can be an exciting and challenging adventure in the world of storytelling. By doing thorough research, developing flaws, crafting distinctive voices, and showcasing their brilliance through actions, you can write characters that rival the likes of Kaz Brekker and Sherlock Holmes. Want to learn more about how I craft compelling characters?

Remember to balance their intellect with relatability and emotion, making them well-rounded individuals that readers can root for and admire. Happy writing!

Up Next: Tips for Writing Fantasy Festivals

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Hey there, I´m Leah

Welcome to my little corner of the internet. If you adore young adult fantasy books, creative writing tips, and watching authors chase their dreams, then you’re in the right place.  I’m currently in the trenches of writing my first young adult fantasy novel. One of my favorite hobbies is searching out and reading new books that will take me on my next adventure. I love diving into immersive world-building and experiencing characters that nestle their way into my heart.