smarter than a super genius

by Derek

Question: Okay, so I am writing a story where my main character is a holmesian-style detective, who often relies on his cunning wit and superior intelligence and deductive abilities to solve his cases. However, I want to add an antagonist to my book that is even smarter than my main character (my MC's name is James, btw). I don't know how to make someone seem smarter than an already world-class intellect. Help?

Answer: One thing you might consider is giving your villain a different kind of intelligence -- one that is opposite to your detective.

For instance, there are linear thinkers and there are holistic thinkers.

A detective who is a linear thinker might approach a murder investigation by looking at who had (in this order)...

1. The opportunity.
2. The means.
3. The motive.

He would then pursue the most promising suspect/lead first, and only if that fails would he turn to the next most promising, eliminating them in turn until he arrives at the correct solution.

On the other hand, a holistic detective would gather a large volume of facts, many of which seem insignificant in themselves, and spend a long time trying to assemble them into a pattern that makes sense of the whole (whereas your linear detective would simply ignore facts that appear insignificant, putting his focus on those most important).

Linear and holistic thinkers often make good foils for each other because they see the world in different ways. Pit two very smart people with opposite thinking styles against each other and you can have a very interesting battle of wits. (For this reason, main and impact characters often have opposite thinking styles, as do heroes and villains.)

Interestingly, each type of thinker tends to see the other as mentally deficient in some way. To a linear thinker, a holistic thinker seems to spend an irrational amount of time worrying about trivial considerations. To a holistic thinker, linear thinkers appear single (or simple) minded, too prone to make snap decisions and to ignore the broad ramifications of their actions.

Each can also surprise the other by finding correct solutions which the other type overlooked. Linear thinkers, for instance, are very good at quickly spotting the most relevant facts and causes. Holistic thinkers are very good at spotting non-obvious connections and relationships.

Of course, it can be a challenge to write a character whose thinking style is opposite to your own, but fortunately most of us have a little of both in us, just not in equal amounts.

Best of luck.

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