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Is there such things as a 'stupid genius' in writing ?

For reference I'm referring to a character archetype. Most of the time they are depicted as well, not the brightest tool in the shed.
But when the chips are down, they often decide to focus down and get shit done. Sometimes with even more skill than the actually intelligent cast members.
I like these characters cause when used well (keyword, well) you can have an interesting character dynamic or perhaps a particular trigger word etc, that makes them take stuff seriously.

My protagonist Meiji, she's not very, well, bright, but she is...sharp if that makes sense? She (figuratively) only has two functional brain cells but when she rubs them together she can pull off stuff that 'more intelligent' people wouldn't dream of. And her mentor attributes this to...both her boldness and her actual lack of intelligence. With her line of thinking being, being too smart can make you too logic driven and limit your options in a given situation. This is actually reflected with the Male Protagonist, who is the opposite kind of intelligent/skilled (as in all brain and no brawn). He thinks all magic is fake and tries to logic the heck out of all of her tricks but he can't figure out how most of them properly work.
 
There's something called an idiot savant, both in real life and it's also a character type. And a perk in the Fallout games.
 
There's something called an idiot savant, both in real life and it's also a character type. And a perk in the Fallout games.
Yeah, I know those and I think both of my protags are that to a T, just in a different way for both.
The Male Protag is in a more physical sense: his skills are all things he's learned through training etc, but his personality gets in the way sometimes. When he's not busy larping as a spy protagonist he's fairly skilled at what he does.

The Female Protag is in a more metaphorical sense: She has loads of untapped potential/skill and she's at the cusp of unlocking her full might. But again, her personality kind of hinders her. Though in different ways than the male protag. Her Mentor describes her as a bit of a 'boar' after the male protagonist meets her the first time.

I'm making it so their rivalry shows their weaknesses and helps them overcome them (while letting raging hormones do other stuff) so when they start to work together they are basically unstoppable by normal means.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
I think in most cases, just because you're a genius doesn't mean you know everything. It doesn't even mean you're competent at everything. There are people who are geniuses in a narrow field, but are bumbling idiots in other aspects of life.

There's only so much time in the day. Someone maybe be a physics genius, and spend all their time in that area, but couldn't make Mac N' Cheese to save their lives.

From my understanding, polymaths are people who have a wide range of expertise in many areas.
 
I think in most cases, just because you're a genius doesn't mean you know everything. It doesn't even mean you're competent at everything. There are people who are geniuses in a narrow field, but are bumbling idiots in other aspects of life.
That's what I'm hoping to accomplish with this pair, they're both part of a 'dying breed' in my modern world (there are basically no more or very rare 'super thieves' like Bonny and Clyde who these two are kind of a spoof of) They are very competent in their field, but as a result they are substantially incompetent at almost everything else. The only difference is one of them is aware of this and works around it, the other one is kind of the 'fumbling idiot' protagonist blessed with good luck.

The fantastical things they excel at are great, but when they try to do normal every day stuff they're somewhat lacking. Meiji's reaction to being told she's pacing a hole in the floor is jumping to the bed and making sure the ground is still safe to walk on. She isn't very 'bright' but she is talented.

There's only so much time in the day. Someone maybe be a physics genius, and spend all their time in that area, but couldn't make Mac N' Cheese to save their lives.

From my understanding, polymaths are people who have a wide range of expertise in many areas.
I don't think either of them qualify as polymaths, their skill set is limited to one field in particular and they both use that field of knowledge to a 'dying' career path.
 
If you're asking if that's a trope, sure. Pretty much everything is if it's been used more than once.
I don't think it's a very common MC trope though.
Also, tropes aren't usually bad things, so don't worry if you look into it and find it's been used.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Tapping in for a second to say one thing: Let's avoid terms like "idiot savant," please? Monikers like this have long been excuses for putting people in asylums and leaving them there to rot, because they were considered dangerous or too stupid to live and incapable of living alone because of their impairment.

Instead, I'd recommend digging a bit deeper in your research and always be on watch for stumbling onto the well-trod path. What is a better term to use for them? Given their background, what are their goals? And most importantly, what do they want and what stands in the way of them getting it?
 
Yes, I know these people in real life and they’re neurotypical people. People who don’t actively think about what they’re doing with any logic but still manage to get things done. They’re the kind of person who is a shoddy driver but who can pass first time - because they’re not overthinking it. They’re the kind of person to stumble into a high paying job with zero skills just very good gift of the gab.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
I am reminded of D&D characters with low intelligence and high wisdom scores. Not bright, but capable under the right circumstances.
 
It's not on point but the question reminds me of a movie I detested... Good Will Hunting.

I'm very happy to believe Matt Damon was a mathematical genius, but the scene where he humiliates the student at the uni (Harvard?) was ridiculous. Just because you're a mathematical genius doesn't mean you've read the numerous obscure sources he quotes in that scene - in which the audience are cheering because he puts such damning shit on the arrogant student.

Seriously... the implication is that MD has read every single academic source in the Harvard library!!!

When did he have the time to do that (especially given his lifestyle)?

Just because you're a cool and surly problem solver doesn't mean you're a walking encyclopaedia.

Why aren't more people calling this out?
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
Seriously... the implication is that MD has read every single academic source in the Harvard library!!!

When did he have the time to do that (especially given his lifestyle)?

Just because you're a cool and surly problem solver doesn't mean you're a walking encyclopaedia.

Why aren't more people calling this out?

It's been a while since I saw the movie, but if memory serves, it's implied that he has an eidetic/photographic memory. That's why he spouts off the author name and exact page number from which the arrogant arse is quoting from when he's taking them down. This is also implied when we see him at home reading. Each pair of pages seems to only take him a second to take in.

He's also the janitor. To me, it seemed that he either uses the library a lot or he takes up all the books that the students discard at the end of semester and reads them. It's why he spouts off to the arrogant student that his education could have been had for a few dollars in library late fees. Combine that with his eidetic memory, and he's reading almost everything the students are reading.
 

Rexenm

Inkling
I call them senchou - currently, as of nowhere else to put them. They are double negatives, or double positives, as they fit the picture. They are at the top of their discipline or game. I would agree with idiot savant as a good passkey.
 
It's been a while since I saw the movie, but if memory serves, it's implied that he has an eidetic/photographic memory. That's why he spouts off the author name and exact page number from which the arrogant arse is quoting from when he's taking them down. This is also implied when we see him at home reading. Each pair of pages seems to only take him a second to take in.

He's also the janitor. To me, it seemed that he either uses the library a lot or he takes up all the books that the students discard at the end of semester and reads them. It's why he spouts off to the arrogant student that his education could have been had for a few dollars in library late fees. Combine that with his eidetic memory, and he's reading almost everything the students are reading.
Even with an eidetic memory (and relevant processing power to make use of it) do you have any concept of how many books there are in the Harvard library and how much time it would take to get through them?

Even if he just happened to have read a half dozen relevant books for the sake of that scene, the odds are astronomical that that was the argument he blundered into.

Utterly ridiculous.

And Matt Damon made a career out of it.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
It's not on point but the question reminds me of a movie I detested... Good Will Hunting.

I'm very happy to believe Matt Damon was a mathematical genius, but the scene where he humiliates the student at the uni (Harvard?) was ridiculous. Just because you're a mathematical genius doesn't mean you've read the numerous obscure sources he quotes in that scene - in which the audience are cheering because he puts such damning shit on the arrogant student.

Seriously... the implication is that MD has read every single academic source in the Harvard library!!!

When did he have the time to do that (especially given his lifestyle)?

Just because you're a cool and surly problem solver doesn't mean you're a walking encyclopaedia.

Why aren't more people calling this out?

I almost always look down on such scenes. They almost always make me go BS.

I am not really sure what the question here is after. There people not only exist in fiction, they are also prevalent in just everyday life.

Dumb brutes have been around as long as there have been stories. I dont think you will have any trouble selling that.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
Even with an eidetic memory (and relevant processing power to make use of it) do you have any concept of how many books there are in the Harvard library and how much time it would take to get through them?

Even if he just happened to have read a half dozen relevant books for the sake of that scene, the odds are astronomical that that was the argument he blundered into.

Utterly ridiculous.

And Matt Damon made a career out of it.

The argument was about economics. The main character specializes in mathematics. Aren't the two adjacent to one another? Doesn't economics use mathematical models?

Also, wouldn't there be a set curriculum? If so, then there's a core set of textbooks that encapsulate the foundational concepts that everyone will read when building their knowledge of the subject. Usually, one of those books will be written by the prof., boosting their sales. :p

Edit: Just for the record, Good Will Hunting isn't one of my favorite movies. I'm not throwing the gauntlet down defending my baby or anything like that. It's a movie I've only seen once, maybe twice. I find it a little too saccharine in parts by about 5-10%, and the monologues are allowed to go on a little too long, without any attempts at interruption by the other person, which make those interactions feel a bit artificial.

For me personally, of things to be critical about in that movie, the characters' ability to recall in that scene isn't something that bugs me. That's all. And if it bugs you, how you feel is how you feel. I'm not trying to convince you otherwise.
 
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Letterdust

Dreamer
"Intelligent people are full of doubts, stupid people are full of confidence" (or words to that effect!).

I think this is a great character trait to write about as it's very relatable. We all over think stuff sometimes and procrastinate until the moment has passed, and we all charge in rashly without stopping to think of the consequences.

I'm not sure I'd call your character stupid though, maybe she just has to use her intelligence in a different way because of how she has been raised, her environment and experiences? Like if she spends all her money now, rather than saving some for later, that might be construed as stupid by those around her, but then maybe they weren't raised in an environment where if you still had money on you at the end of the day, a big bully would come along with a club and beat you until you gave it all up? There's a Stanford experiment on delayed gratification that is used as an example of how children from different socio-economic backgrounds react differently to the experiment because of their life experiences. The children from lower socio-economic backgrounds had learned to take what they could get when it was offered, even if it meant eschewing a greater reward later. Stupid in the moment, perhaps, but when looked at holistically, and with compassion, actually very wise!

Maybe as others have said it's about really getting to know your character well and understanding why she makes the choices she does, and then letting the read see that so that they can relate and decide for themselves?

Great idea though, and very interesting characters to write about!
 
The argument was about economics. The main character specializes in mathematics. Aren't the two adjacent to one another? Doesn't economics use mathematical models?
It was about economic history and MD is able to debunk the arrogant student by outquoting him - referring to a series of (for a non-academic) very obscure texts - even listing page numbers. Being good at maths and having a sound grasp of several academic texts are two VERY different types of intelligence. What's more it is inconceivable he would have had the time to read so many books to be able to participate in that scene UNLESS he was also a student and had taken that course.

It's actually a real cheapshot - the writing to set up that scene. Damon and Affleck (I think) wrote the script and deliberately created a divide between Townies and Gownies for the sake of a strong reaction from the audience, knowing the vast majority of the audience at that time were non-academics and had some level of resentment, suspicion or jealousy of academics. (This is underscored by the arrogant student's comeback: "But at least I'll have a degree and your friend will serving my kids burgers on their holidays to the snowfields." Or words to that effect.)

And that reveals the true insidiousness of the scene - it's a dog whistle to engage that anti-intellectual / anti-elite sentiment described above and set up through absolute bullshit. Why did they even go to Harvard but to set up that scene? It added nothing to the plot.

As you can see, I feel strongly about this.
 
Why aren't more people calling this out?
It's a trope. In movies and TV shows, geniuses are good at everything. It's like spies always being able to tell if someone is following them. Or people in chases never losing the person they're chasing unless the plot demands it to happen. It happens all over the place. Computer genius arrives in alien base, sits behind a terminal, and after punching a few buttons at random can get a whole computer system up and running and use all functions without issue. Doesn't matter that he doens't know the language, or the interface, or even has the correct number of limbs to make the thing work. He's a genius after all. I could find hundreds of examples like this, and the good Will Hunting example fits the same category. He's a genius, so he knows everything there is to know about math and all vaguely related topics.

As for the original post, I think the main challenge you have to solve is to make the readers believe it. If your character is stupid throughout the book, but then at the climax suddenly pulls something genius out of thin air, then your readers will feel cheated and disappointed. That will simply look like the author stepping in with "I don't know how to make my character fix it so I'll do something completely against their nature."

So throughout the story you have to show your character posessing this ability, even if she's dumb in other areas.
 
It's a trope. In movies and TV shows, geniuses are good at everything. It's like spies always being able to tell if someone is following them. Or people in chases never losing the person they're chasing unless the plot demands it to happen. It happens all over the place. Computer genius arrives in alien base, sits behind a terminal, and after punching a few buttons at random can get a whole computer system up and running and use all functions without issue. Doesn't matter that he doens't know the language, or the interface, or even has the correct number of limbs to make the thing work. He's a genius after all. I could find hundreds of examples like this, and the good Will Hunting example fits the same category. He's a genius, so he knows everything there is to know about math and all vaguely related topics.

As for the original post, I think the main challenge you have to solve is to make the readers believe it. If your character is stupid throughout the book, but then at the climax suddenly pulls something genius out of thin air, then your readers will feel cheated and disappointed. That will simply look like the author stepping in with "I don't know how to make my character fix it so I'll do something completely against their nature."

So throughout the story you have to show your character posessing this ability, even if she's dumb in other areas.
To be clear, she's more...socially clueless than anything. By all appearances she's a bit of an airhead, but people who can naturally read others could tell that it's either an act that she's leaning into naturally or that's just how carefree she is. She can apply what she knows of her field to solve a problem, provided she has enough 'juice' to pull off whatever stunt she's trying to pull. But when it comes to interacting with others (especially people of authority) she's a bit of a boar.

In the first chapter she slows down time to a crawl for a small area, roughly a city block, but then goes on to explain that she can only do it for such a small area because she's a one tail. A two tail would be able to do the same trick with much greater range and ease, more so with a three tail and so on, where she struggles to maintain the spell for a few moments in such a small range. She has much more knowledge and skill than an average one tail, she just lacks the magical juice to pull it off. The crux of her character growth is overcoming this shortcoming and being clever with using what she has.
 
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