How to Write Genius Characters When You’re Not A Genius Yourself

How to Write Genius Characters When You’re Not A Genius Yourself

We can't all be geniuses, but we certainly love to write about them. Here's a little guide about how to write a genius character from a certified non-genius (yours truly). Spoiler: you don't need to spend 3 hours on researching a niche topic, so get off google and start writing! 



Give Evidence

The worst thing is when other characters go on about how smart the genius is, but the reader is left Let them be the expert in a topic, or devise a clever plan that works. Let us see with our own eyes how smart they are instead of just insisting that they’re super special.



Have a character attempt the genius’ methods, only to fail. The genius makes it look so easy. The clever protagonist has a go at the genius’ method of invention/analysis and fails miserably. This contrast sets the genius up as smarter than a clever person, all without you having to write too much...smartery. Geniuship. Cleverism.


You Don’t Need Techno-Babble

There are different ways to be smart. They don’t need to launch into a paragraph of techno-babble (the ol’ “Okay, and now in English please?” cliche). There are other ways to make a character sound smart than to make them use extremely niche vocabulary all the time.



Knowledge Gaps

It’s very rare to be smart in every way. If you want your character to read as a little more realistic (and less potentially cartoonish), give them something they’re bad at too. They may be a physics genius with rubbish spelling, for example. Or they may be a great writer who can’t do maths (LIKE YOU 🫵.)



There’s a fine line between a detective who’s able to piece things together from limited evidence, and one who’s basically a psychic. They’re smart because they were able to draw conclusions from limited data, not pull correct conclusions from thin air.


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Work Backwards

You know the conclusion you want the genius to draw. Now plant subtle but perceptible clues that most people would miss, but a very sharp person could pick up and interpret. Start with the conclusion, go back and plant clues, then have the genius pick up on the clues to reach your desired conclusion.


Creative Problem Solving

The kind of characters we remember as geniuses don’t just memorise things and recite them. They make unique connections or process information in unique ways. They may think laterally, outside the box. And they probably do it pretty quickly, but the fun thing about being a writer is that you don’t have to.

Whenever the genius character is put in a predicament, think of all the ways they can get from A to B. Spend some time on it. Think creatively. Brainstorm all the unique and unexpected ways they can solve the problem.

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