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Stories Containing Realistic Genius Characters

awnlee jawking

I'm currently working on a story where one of the characters is a scientific genius when he's not blind drunk. I want to make his 'genius' credentials as plausible as possible but I'm aware of many of the pitfalls. For example, Arthur Conan Doyle's style, in which the genius relies on information not available to the reader, now seems to be a deprecated writing practice. And I'm definitely not going to expose myself to the hoots of derision merited by baldly proclaiming his IQ to be 200.

Which SOL stories do you authors consider to include the best representation of genius characters and why?

AJ

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

Which SOL stories do you authors consider to include the best representation of genius characters and why?


I don't think I've seen any stories that represent genius well, though Second Best and Strange Relationships get close.

http://storiesonline.net/series/524/second-best

It think that part of the problem is that genius level intelligence affects the personality and that's hard to replicate if you aren't a genius yourself.

Beyond that, two tips;

1. Research, research, research.

2. Try to focus the characters expression of genius into a specific are and if you can, try to find a subject matter expert to help vet any technical aspects to the story.

Crumbly Writer

Rather than focusing on his 'geniusness', I'm focus on his eccentricities. Think Sherlock's addiction or House. If the character is a blind drunk, then explore why his genius drives him to escape reality, and build the story around his fight with those around him who can't understand what drives him, and how he wants to be left alone, as well as what keeps bringing him back, when he really wants nothing to do with humanity.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son


I don't think I've seen any stories that represent genius well, though Second Best and Strange Relationships get close.

http://storiesonline.net/series/524/second-best


Thanks. I'll give them a try, although I'm rather daunted by their lengths.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

I'm writing the story from the POV of the genius in such a way as to suggest the protagonist is actually unaware that he is a genius, although his interactions with the other leading characters are intended to show the reader that he is.

I may be failing to depict alcoholism accurately since the protagonist isn't trying to escape reality. He doesn't deliberately want nothing to do with humanity but is more like a high-functioning autistic person, only interacting when necessary.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  Zom
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I may be failing to depict alcoholism accurately since the protagonist isn't trying to escape reality. He doesn't deliberately want nothing to do with humanity but is more like a high-functioning autistic person, only interacting when necessary.

The specifics of character's personality disorder isn't important, but it's easier to write about a 'dysfunctional genius' than it is to depict what being a genius is like. That's why most stories about supposed geniuses don't focus on 'being smart', instead focusing on how alienated, distant and dysfunctional the character is. (It's also been argued that these stories are more readily accepted by the majority of readers, since it paints 'being a genius' as an unfortunate curse, which makes everyone feel better.)

But the main point is, focus on character flaws, rather than the subject that's harder to portray.

Zom

@awnlee jawking

a high-functioning autistic person, only interacting when necessary

For the interaction with the rest of humanity, you might want to have a look at Sir Isaac Newton. He didn't disdain the rest of humanity so much as he just didn't seem to notice them.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Zom


For the interaction with the rest of humanity, you might want to have a look at Sir Isaac Newton. He didn't disdain the rest of humanity so much as he just didn't seem to notice them.


Not an uncommon characteristic, not only of 'intelligent people', but also of focused and driven individuals. There's also a strong possibility he's either OCDC or has Asperger's, which would mean he's either unconcerned or incapable of caring or registering their opinions.

As with any 'fantasy' world you develop, you want to figure out where you want to go, research and create the proper rules for it, and then stick to those rules, rather than tossing them out initially and then ignoring them. (i.e. whatever obnoxious traits you give him (so reader's won't notice how he doesn't seen that intelligent), you want to make it consistent throughout the story). Best of all, by making him irascible, he won't have to say much being biting putdowns and impatient explanations clearly directed at his inferiors (saving you from having to show just how smart he is).

Note: I'm not presenting this as my approach, but as the more traditional approach to the situation, which gets you out of having to delve into what sets someone apart as an apparent genius.

awnlee jawking

@Zom


He didn't disdain the rest of humanity so much as he just didn't seem to notice them.


You said it far better than I did.

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


@Zom


He didn't disdain the rest of humanity so much as he just didn't seem to notice them.



You said it far better than I did.


Or perhaps he noticed them, but ignored them because they weren't interesting enough. The genius mind is not likely to be satisfied with simple entertainments, boredom is the bane of genius.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Or perhaps he noticed them, but ignored them because they weren't interesting enough. The genius mind is not likely to be satisfied with simple entertainments, boredom is the bane of genius.


It depends on how you slice it. Tech companies love to hire young people with Asperger's, because they focus all their attention on a single project at a time, and they're often labeled 'geniuses' because they see results that no one else does. However, they notoriously lack the social skills necessary to get ahead in the world.

In one view, those geniuses can't be bothered with 'lessor mortals', while on their other their 'mental disorder' doesn't allow them to pick up on the necessary social cues.

Frankly, having a high IQ point doesn't seem to make much difference, even though that's how most people define 'intellect'. The fact that the same people, taking different IQ tests, achieve such disparate results, even over a few days time, should warn us from putting too much weight behind them--especially since they're so heavily culturally biased!

It's been noted, over the last 60 years, that most child prodigies simply disappear. The expectations exerted on them cause them to give up, turning away from both society and the very fields they might have excelled at. The exceptions are the young adults who excel before anyone labels them as "geniuses".

The other issue, first noticed by Einstein, is that the term "genius" is extremely age specific. No one labels older people as geniuses, regardless of what they achieve, while they're quick to label young children or young adults as geniuses. Einstein (and people like Steve Jobs) retain the title more as an honorific, earned over a lifetime of work.

The term 'genius' is of marginal value, so most people are better off never knowing their IQ score, since it's so damaging and offer little reward.

Replies:   Zom  sejintenej
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Sorry, I meant @Zom summarised my protagonist far better than I did.

AJ

Zom

@Crumbly Writer

they focus all their attention

Very close. True genius intellect is always focussed on internal goals, that is goals that are important to the individual, not society.

It sometimes seems quite savant in nature, because of the apparent lack of external awareness.

It can be extremely problematic to motivate a true genius, because motivation always requires a strong interest/curiosity that can be vectored in ways mere mortals can't understand. Self generated motivations are never social, and are often obscured or invisible, because there is no reason for us to know. It doesn't occur to them that others might find it interesting.

Newton was not really interested in sharing a lot of his 'discoveries' and would probably not have published his calculus methods if he didn't need them to show how he could calculate rotating elliptical orbits, because a colleague said it couldn't be done.

Appearances, actions, and motivations can often appear childlike because they are so simple, and not socially modified at all.

samuelmichaels

@awnlee jawking

Which SOL stories do you authors consider to include the best representation of genius characters and why?

I realize you asked for SOL stories, but I am going to give you non-SOL examples.

Laurence Dahners has two independent series with two characters of genius-level intelligence. One, Vaz, is a functioning autistic; and the other, Ell Donsaii, is mostly normal, but at least in the beginning very shy and excessively modest.

Another author who had had significant success in portraying super-intelligent characters is Vernor Vinge.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
sejintenej
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


It depends on how you slice it. Tech companies love to hire young people with Asperger's, because they focus all their attention on a single project at a time, and they're often labeled 'geniuses' because they see results that no one else does. However, they notoriously lack the social skills necessary to get ahead in the world


AIUI Aspergers is just one form of over 40 types of dyslexia. One form allows the lucky one to "see" an object in 3D, to see it from all sides and, as one such told me, he could look at an apple (for example) and see it over time as it deteriorates and becomes mush. That is why over here the vast majority of architects are dyslexic. A famous name in this respect was General Patton who could see a battle in advance and adjust his plans. Some forms are minor and a da**ed nuisance - for example an ability to remember things with certain exceptions - someone else I know can remember faces, where he met them, what they talked about but can never remember the names.
My suggestion would be to make your character "a normal (drunkard if you wish)" until he/she gets inside a lab where suddenly all bets are off. You can thus make him/her a Jeckyl and Hyde type

awnlee jawking

@samuelmichaels


I realize you asked for SOL stories, but I am going to give you non-SOL examples.


Thank you. I've never heard of either of those. Are the stories available on-line or dead tree?

AJ

Replies:   samuelmichaels
awnlee jawking

@sejintenej


My suggestion would be to make your character "a normal (drunkard if you wish)" until he/she gets inside a lab where suddenly all bets are off.


Thank you, but I already have an outline of the plot. It's not a case of my wanting to write a story about an alcoholic genius scientist and not knowing what to write about.

If you, or anyone else, would like to further your idea, please let me know when the story is finished because I'd like to read it.

My story starts with the scientist having been fired from his latest job for turning up drunk to give a crucial client presentation.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

AIUI Aspergers is just one form of over 40 types of dyslexia. One form allows the lucky one to "see" an object in 3D, to see it from all sides and, as one such told me, he could look at an apple (for example) and see it over time as it deteriorates and becomes mush. That is why over here the vast majority of architects are dyslexic. A famous name in this respect was General Patton who could see a battle in advance and adjust his plans. Some forms are minor and a da**ed nuisance - for example an ability to remember things with certain exceptions - someone else I know can remember faces, where he met them, what they talked about but can never remember the names.

That's interesting. I've never heard about that particular distinction (just as I've never heard anyone connect dyslexia and autism before). But ... I've suffered from similar symptoms. I don't see mental objects in 3D, but I do see maps that way as I figure out where I am while driving. I've also had problems, not only with names, but also faces. I'll remember almost every detail about encounters, but won't remember the person's face. With my first girlfriend, I could never remember her name (though I subsequently learned to memorize it, despite how difficult it is for me).

Do you know of any studies linking Autism and dyslexia that I could look up?

@awnlee_jawking

Thank you, but I already have an outline of the plot. It's not a case of my wanting to write a story about an alcoholic genius scientist and not knowing what to write about.

Sorry about that. From the way you initiated the initial question, I was under the impression you were still struggling with how to write the story. Still, that's the type of thing I might add to the revision phase, but again, that's just me.

That said, my point about few famous authors tackling the issue still stands, as it highlights just how difficult representing genius can be. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's a difficult topic, even for experienced authors.

I'm not suggesting that you change the story, but like I typically do, you may want to sit back and consider how to approach the project, so you can avoid any potential plot holes (such as readers having difficulty connecting emotionally with the character). Planning out your approach generally makes for richer, more detailed stories than just charging ahead.

I'd stick with your idea of him as a drunkard, but it's always better going into a story with your eyes open to potential problems, rather than simply writing and seeing where you end up.

With that said, I'll shut up and quit repeating my advice, since it doesn't seem to fit your story in the least. 'D (Note: I've had issues with 'unlikable' characters in the past, so I've had experience with the issue and can relate to what you're facing.)

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Sorry about that.


No, it was good advice and hopefully others will benefit from it. Thank you.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son


I don't think I've seen any stories that represent genius well, though Second Best and Strange Relationships get close.

http://storiesonline.net/series/524/second-best


Just finished 'Second Best' Not quite what I was looking for although I don't regret reading it.

As the story progressed the technical quality improved somewhat but it seemed to change from a character-driven erotic story to a stroke story. I preferred the early style so I probably won't bother with the sequels.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

As the story progressed the technical quality improved somewhat

Not unusual, as the author grows and gets used to their own particular writing style.

but it seemed to change from a character-driven erotic story to a stroke story.

That's a bit more unusual, as traditionally, once the author gets into the heart of the story (and establishes the characters) many authors cut back on the sex. It's been a while since I've read it, but he may have been building to a harem style context.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

It's been a while since I've read it, but he may have been building to a harem style context.


Nope, It starts with a couple of nerds and a jock who hangs out with them for academic help looking for prom dates and devolves into saving two sexless marriages and putting 4 or 5 additional teen couples and at least two adult couples together.

With a dozen or more couples total, there is a lot of sex to be had.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

And there is at least one trio. Instead of just AB, you need AB, AC and BC. Just one scene each gives three times as much sex. Also the BDSM takes longer, most of the time. To write about, at least.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

And there is at least one trio.


Your right, but the trio involves one of the saved marriages.

So you have

The trio.
ABC (AB, AC BC)

Three main couples,
CD
EF
GH

Second saved marriage:
IJ

Additional adult couples
KL
MN

Additional teen couples
op
qr
st
uv
wx
yz

That's a lot of sex, even if each group only got one scene.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

I guess that's why he is THINKING Horndog. He had to think about all the permutations and combinations and avoid unnecessary duplication (and pregnancy.) One of the signs (other than 136 chapters) that it took extra effort was the absence of bestiality.

He saved that, and a lot more, for "The Pact". 229 chapters arranged in five books, with a whole high school of characters and selected parents and adults. Maybe not the whole high school, but more than a football team and their girlfriends.

samuelmichaels

@awnlee jawking

Thank you. I've never heard of either of those. Are the stories available on-line or dead tree?

Dead tree, so to speak. Ebooks on Amazon, B&N, and I assume other places are available, but not for free.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@samuelmichaels

Thanks,

AJ

awnlee jawking

In last night's episode of the TV drama series 'Scorpion', the principal genius character said, "I solved Fermat's Theorem when I was nine."

My second reaction was that the line wasn't that awful bearing in mind the show's target audience, although it wouldn't work for a more discerning audience like SOL readers. Thoughts?

AJ

Replies:   Zom  Crumbly Writer
Zom
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

wouldn't work for a more discerning audience

Correctamundo. Wouldn't work for any audience with any discernment at all.

Replies:   graybyrd  awnlee jawking
graybyrd

@Zom

"I solved Fermat's Theorem when I was nine."


So, you wouldn't buy that the very next year he discovered the unifying force behind Einstein's theorem?

Replies:   Zom
awnlee jawking

@Zom


Wouldn't work for any audience with any discernment at all.


Yes, that sums up the target audience ;)

AJ

Zom

@graybyrd

So, you wouldn't buy that the very next year he discovered the unifying force behind Einstein's theorem?

Not for one femptocent.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

In last night's episode of the TV drama series 'Scorpion', the principal genius character said, "I solved Fermat's Theorem when I was nine."

No, that simply reflects how insipid TV 'geniuses' (like Donald Trump or the Kardashians) are. I'm sure he was convinced he solved it when he was nine, but I seriously doubt anyone else (other than his mother) would concur.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

I presume he meant Fermat's Last Theorem, but it's a moot point because you can't 'solve' a theorem - it is a solution.

'Scorpion' ran out of realistic plots early in the first series. Now they're just using maths and scientific jargon to prop up a brainless action/adventure series. I seem to recall 'Numb3rs' went the same way.

AJ

Replies:   Grant  Zom  tppm
Grant

@awnlee jawking

I presume he meant Fermat's Last Theorem, but it's a moot point because you can't 'solve' a theorem - it is a solution.

True, you can't solve it.
A Theorem can be proven, or disproved.

Zom
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

Fermat's Last Theorem

Also known as Fermat's conjecture. A proof was released in 1994 by Andrew Wiles. Sir Andrew Wiles won the 2016 Abel Prize "for his stunning proof of Fermat's Last Theorem ...". Up there with Nash.

tppm

@awnlee jawking

Scorpion' ran out of realistic plots early in the first series.


Sure you don't mean "early in the first episode"?

Note, I think it's fun anyway, but it's "science" and even some of it's "engineering"....

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