By: Oren Ashkenazi
Everyone loves a character who solves their problems with brains instead of brawn. We want our characters to figure out the solution to an intractable problem at the most dramatic possible moment! Favorites like Sherlock Holmes, Hermione Granger, even the magical
badass Harry Dresden all solve
their problems by thinking through them. But if you’re not careful, your
solution might come off as cheap or unrealistic. Ask yourself these questions
to make sure your characters stay on the right side of the line.
1. What Obstacles Does Your Character Face?
In the Star Trek episode, The Naked Now, Wesley Crusher takes over the ship by recording Picard’s voice and then playing it back to give the computer commands. Trekkies watched that episode with one eyebrow raised in disbelief. No one believed this “clever trick” would actually work. Are there no access codes required to control the ship’s vital systems, no override the adult characters can use to get control back? These
missing obstacles set the stage for all the Wesley hate that was
Think over similar scenarios in your head a few times. Consider what safeguards would be in place to prevent the protagonist from doing what they’re trying to do. How would their enemies stop them? Imagine the actions of each character from their own point of view and not as the creator trying to move the story forward.
In The Game, Wesley again takes on the adult characters with his intelligence, but this time it’s believable. Instead of taking over the ship, he avoids being captured by brainwashed officers. He uses phaser decoys to confuse the internal sensors and emergency transporters to escape pursuit—technology that’s already established. His goal is different as well: he’s buying time rather than taking over the ship.
With The Game, the writers thought about how Wesley would overcome the obstacles before him and created credible ways for him to do so. If that had been our introduction to Wesley’s cleverness, maybe he wouldn’t be so hated.
2. Why Hasn’t Anyone Done This Before?
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If you missed my writing & marketing tweets and retweets yesterday, here they are again:
- Ask Jami: Why Isn’t There One Right Way to Write? | Jami Gold, Paranormal Author http://ow.ly/VUUjt
- Writing 101: The Fundamentals of Story - Ink and Quills http://ow.ly/VUG3o
- Hannah Heath: Writing Awesome Male Characters: What You're Doing Wrong http://ow.ly/VUGLY
- The Essential Guide To Nailing Your Character's Appearance (plus a character sketch template) — She's Novel http://ow.ly/VUH5o
- How Long Should My Blog Posts Be? | Beth Hayden http://ow.ly/VUUPa
- Spotlight on Development - The Editorial Department http://ow.ly/VUVnd
- Seriously Write: Sparking Story Ideas by Amber Schamel http://ow.ly/VYhp1
- Self-Published Author Sales Season is Jan & Feb | BookBaby http://ow.ly/VYii3
Questions to Ask When a Character Is Clever |
- How To Build Your Author Brand From Scratch (And Why You Need To) - The Book Designer http://ow.ly/VYjJZ
- Writer Unboxed – about the craft and business of fiction http://ow.ly/VYkb5 "It may be time to kill one of your characters..."
- Writing 101: The Fundamentals of Story - Ink and Quills http://ow.ly/VYkw6
- How to Write a Book Series - Part One — She's Novel http://ow.ly/VYkNb