Tag Archives: machiavelli

writing characters who are smarter than you

I love my new and improved hero. He’s so…unpredictable. Unfortunately, he’s also meant to be, like, the most intelligent person on the planet.

That’s a little bit intimidating to write.

It’s the same feeling I get when I want a character to be really funny. I have to dig in and find the inner comic. I don’t think there is one. But there has to be one. Somehow.

Lucky for me, my critique-partner-extraordinaire has a Machiavellian brain. Some things we talked about:

1. The reader shouldn’t have a plan explained step-by-step either before or after the fact. The plan should unfold and they should see what the mastermind gains by it.

2. The mastermind should be less impressed by the plan than the plan warrants.

3. If you intend for the reader to have figured something out by a certain point in the plot, this event shouldn’t take the mastermind by surprise – we should see them calmly accept the thing when it happens, as though of course this was obvious to them.

And of course, 4. plant your seeds carefully and well, so that things happen almost incidentally. (This is something I really love about J R Ward’s books – it feels like the goodies and baddies run up against each other almost incidentally, as though what they each want just happens to be mutually exclusive.)