Help! My main character is too smart!

What is an author to do when they receive a critique that their main character is too intelligent to be “believable”?

The “Fifty Shades” trilogy is perched in the upper reaches of the charts, and my main character is criticized as being too smart? That’s the best compliment I could ever get! 😆

Frankly, Jack’s voice does not give me the sense that I am listening to a person with Down Syndrome. Jack sounds too intelligent and too cognizant  to have the problem you gave him. You need to present Jack in a way that is believable to most of your readers.

What am I supposed to tell my co-worker of twelve years, who inspired me to create the Jack character?
[sarcasm font] “Oh, I’m sorry, you’re just too smart, I’m gonna have to make Jack dumber than a rock.” [/sarcasm font]

What the O.P. fails to realize is that people with Down Syndrome are individuals. The degree of cognition varies with each individual ( just as it does for “normal” people 😉 ). Jack, like my co-worker, has an IQ in the 90 range. Close to the statistical norm of 100.

A person in that IQ range does not have problems with “basic” word comprehension.
If you say, “Hi, how are you?”, they reply, “Fine, how are you?”
But things get interesting when another speaker uses a fifty-cent word.

Jack, from “Vampire Syndrome”, Chapter 22:
Zetania says, “Remember, our kind protects you Normals from the Pures. We are the rope tied between man and super-beast. A rope forever dangling from the precipice.”
I tap Zetania’s shoulder and ask, “What’s a precipice?”
“A cliff’s edge,” she whispers.
Precipice. Must be a French word. Venators like Zetania use all those foreign words to impress people.

Just like authors paraphrase Nietzsche to impress people. 🙄 😆

  • Jack’s viewpoint is wisdom embodied in a more basic level of perception.
  • Quick wit, cunning and a high IQ do not equal wisdom.
  • In our lifetimes, almost all of us will all know at least one “smart” person who makes bad choices.

The O.P. who made the observation about Jack also said:

I also think you have stuck your neck out by rejecting many of the traditional, and time-honored, myths about vampires.

The “Twilight” saga rejected or re-interpreted many items of classic folklore, and it did okay commercially. 😈
Whatever else one might think about the “sparkling skin” conceit, that idea was wholly original. Sparkling vampire skin is now to be forever associated with Twilight, for better or worse.

Even if one was writing a vampire novel purely for commercial gain, it would benefit you to dismiss or re-work at least one major piece of folklore, just to make your story stand out from a very crowded pack.

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2 Comments

  1. This is what I tried to do. I didn’t want to be tied down to the Vampire Folklore! I wanted my novels, “The Light-Bearer Series” to be something unique! Thanks, Emily

  2. And your novels are unique, Emily. The “light-bearer” and “blood-hunter” mythos of yours is a clever take on “angels” and “vampires”.


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