1. AllThingsMagical
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    AllThingsMagical Member

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    Should the main character be perceptive?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by AllThingsMagical, Nov 20, 2011.

    From experience I find that if I am more perceptive that the main character then I can work out where the story is going and it then annoys me that the character is being too slow and stupid and hence I end up disliking the story more. However if there's a character that's too perceptive then that also annoys me as I feel like they are making random connections based on nothing.

    So my question is what are your thoughts on how perceptive a character should be and does it make a difference to your enjoyment of the story?

    I'm inclined to think they need to be perhaps a little more perceptive than the average person but not incredibly so.
     
  2. Chivalrous Tart
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    Chivalrous Tart Member

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    There's no yes or or no to this question. It pertains to the individual story. And I also wouldn't classify all perception in the same category. In the The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time the main character is has autism, and he's very perceptive about physical attributes but fails at human emotion.

    I think you're right. People typically prefer getting into the minds of an intelligent character, rather than an idiot who misses everything. Think about a story written in the point of view of an unperceptive person, it would probably purposefully bland, with the character never noticing any of the specifics, which is a thing good stories have a lot of. Good, unperceptive characters have to perceive things, but they just perceive things incorrectly
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perceptive to what, do you mean? Please, give an example.
     
  4. AllThingsMagical
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    AllThingsMagical Member

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    ^ If it was a fantasy would should the main character be able to easily see who is on his side and who is a spy or traitor. If a lot of clues are dropped so the reader knows then should the mc know too?
    If it was a murder mystery should the mc be able to just walk into the room and find a dozen clues that instantly point towards who the killer was?
    If it's a romance should the mc instantly be able to see that the person they ultimately end up with likes them? This one bugs me the most as I find romance as a genre more predictable than any other and so the fact the mc can't see who their Mr Right is straight away seemed annoying.

    I hope that kind of helps clarify. I guess I was just wondering about the balance between how much the reader can perceive in the story verses how much the mc can. And so should the mc be equally preceptive as the reader? But then every readers different so should you try and make the mc more or less perceptive than the reader? And if the reader can see things the mc can't does it affect your enjoyment of the story?
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for explaining. I wasn't sure how you meant. :) I think if he does it automatically takes away some suspence from the story. There must be a way of letting him not knowing stuff like that instantly without making him look stupid or slow. Maybe by not dropping so many clues? Maybe by being really subtle with them so that even the reader isn't sure he knows but only guesses. If the mc knew these things it wouldn't be as interesting to read. It would be like reading a romance story where the couple fall in love in the second chapter and the rest of the book is about how they live happily ever after. :(
     
  6. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    ScreamsfromtheCrematory Member

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    It really depends on the sort of character. For the sneaky, scheming, and clever sorts yeah, they might be able to know these things, even moreso if they have say pre-cognition, telepathy, dodgy sixth senses and such. Then again, even for those sorts of characters, you should avoid making them the knew-it-all-along sorts and more of the people who have to take careful guesses and paying a lot of attention to sometimes rather mundane details - knowing the true nature of something usually means a bit of pseudo-detective work and a lot of highly careful observation.
     
  7. Devrokon
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    Devrokon Senior Member

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    I agree with your original idea. The main character should be a little smarter than the average reader. Any more and it's going to look like he's playing with Newton while people are struggling with Descartes. Any less and they're going to feel let down.
     
  8. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    It really depends what kind of person they are. If they're an absent-minded scholar, an inexperienced kid, or so forth then they won't be very perceptive. If they're a street-smart kid, a trained spy, a competent detective (as opposed to a humorous Inspector Clueso type), etc then they should be perceptive.

    And if you do have them be perceptive, don't just give them hunches or 'funny feelings' that turn out right (or if you do, make them wrong as often as right). Explain the links of reasoning leading them to that solution.

    Chances are if there are enough clues for the reader to know (without giving them information the mc lacks, such as shifting perspective), your problem isn't how perceptive to make the mc, but the fact that you've got an idiot for a spy/traitor. I'd much prefer if the mc and the reader had no clue, but on rereading the reader could find stuff that seemed unimportant but was actually a clue. Or if the mc figures it out not because the spy/traitor is an idiot, but because the mc is really good at ferreting out secrets. (For example, Alianne in the Trickster's Choice books by Tamora Pierce.)

    Depends on the detective and the killer.

    If he's a rookie detective, then not unless the killer was really dumb. (My father heard of a guy who tried to disguise a murder as a suicide by hanging the guy and leaving a suicide note. But he made the rope too long and the guy splatted, and the suicide note misspelt the victim's name and was clearly not in his handwriting. In a case like that, even a rookie would figure it out pretty quick.)

    If he's experienced, then he'll spot a bunch of stuff. However, if you have a smart killer (such as most serial killers), there won't be that much stuff to go on. Some of the most entertaining mysteries pit a genius killer against a genius detective and let them try to outsmart each other.

    Again, depends on the mc. I agree with you that most romances are annoying. You can spot exactly who will get together with who, even if they're people who in real life would never get together (in real life the vast majority of opposite-gender people who hate each other on sight won't get together no matter how much time they spend with each other, whereas in romances that's one of the surest signs of a couple). I'd say the thing here is to make the pairings less predictable rather than making the mc more perceptive. And make them evolve naturally out of the characters. Maybe you could have multiple possible pairings in mind and let the characters interact (without rushing straight to romance) until a couple seems to be forming.
     
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  9. gimble13
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    gimble13 Member

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    i agree that no one wants to read from the perspective of thick person for to long
    if you can see something before they can its not as fun

    when righting what i like to do is have them miss hear things miss under stand or let there own prejudiced cloud there judgement, for example in my story i have a character who is overly whiny and because of this is often disregarded by the others despite giving important information at times. i also feel the need that characters see or be told something to understand situations i dislike story's which pull answers from thin air.
     
  10. foosicle
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    foosicle Member

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    Ha, mix it up then. Throw a little dnd dice rolling action into your story plot-lining.
     
  11. Pea
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    Pea super pea!

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    Imo it's good for the POV character to have perspective just because I don't want them to throw the book at the wall in frustration. But then again you can't go too far or you'll slide into Sue territory. Strike a balance - give your MC realistic flaws, and don't do things just because the plot demands it... i.e, something happens that the character would usually react to but he doesn't because it's to lead to the big conflict later in the story, etc.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, this is the part I wonder about. Why do you want the reader to know? Surely it's much more exciting for the reader to be surprised along with the character?

    ChickenFreak
     

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