Take the 2-minute tour ×
Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

If my character had seen all that he had seen, is it possible that a person of sufficient intellect could draw the conclusions that he has, or am I just handing him answers and giving him "magic powers?"

John has seen the other character's home, decorated with various (Lovecraftian) images and statues, and has been talking in his study for a few minutes.

John sighed, and thought for a moment, but the conclusions were fairly obvious. "You're an occultist, and a remarkably mature one for your age. You've progressed from tacky trappings to real artifacts, that I imagine are greatly desired in your circles. I'd guess that you've had a mentor of some esteem. Also, the reason for my being called is all tied up in it. You've had something stolen. Something is missing from that shelf over there, and your eyes keep flickering to it. The dust is still disturbed, and the other objects around the empty space aren't nearly as orderly as on the other shelves. But you're not only angry at it being taken, whatever it is, but you're also nervous about it being out from under your nose. Your feet are tapping and you haven't slept in some time. You've had something stolen that reveals your status as an occultist, and fear blackmail."

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers 2

Maybe not a real person, but with a little storytelling sleight of hand, Arthur Conan Doyle made Sherlock Holmes do that stuff all the time. You'll probably have to explain the chain of logic for the reader at some point, perhaps by having John explain it to a bewildered onlooker (a la Watson).

share|improve this answer
    
Thank you, your comment is doubly encouraging because I'm trying to emulate Holmes. –  KJ Longuski Nov 2 '11 at 2:40
add comment

I would say that the conclusions are not necessarily the problem, rather the delivery. You don't have to spell some things out so matter of factly, you can infer them through conversation. Also, you should be more specific with your delivery, rather than being vague. For an example consider the first part of what you've written:

John sighed, and thought for a moment, but the conclusions were fairly obvious. "You're an occultist, and a remarkably mature one for your age. You've progressed from tacky trappings to real artifacts, that I imagine are greatly desired in your circles. I'd guess that you've had a mentor of some esteem.

First off, why mention "the conclusions were fairly obvious"? This should come out from the way the character talks and behaves. Unnecessary.

I get the impression you want to show that he finds this "explaining" to be tedious, because he considers things to be obvious. So why don't you show it? He's a man of intellect, and when people like that think things are obvious, then they can be condescending. If he finds it obvious, he probably assumes other people do, too, so why should he bother telling them what they should already know?

Also, the things he reveals are not that earth shattering, and are rather vague. What makes this person he's talking to mature? What real artefacts? Why would he "guess", when he clearly knows?

Consider this dialogue instead (okay, it's definitely not perfect, but I needed something to illustrate the point).

"I'm curious if you know why you're here?"

"I don't play games, Miss Pollock."

"Humour me."

"And then what? Shall I juggle? Roll over? Fetch?"

"Come now, Mr. Peel. I'm just interested in what you think."

"Judging by that volume of Reading the Mind - which, if I'm not mistaken, is only given to members of the Red Sash - you should be fully capable of knowing what I think."

She tilted her head in acknowledgement. "I consider that to be bad form. And bad for business. Unless requested."

"Young, gifted, and mature. A rare combination, no doubt thanks to your rather wealthy benefactor."

"Good guess. You know, you could get yourself a crystal ball and set up at a flea market, you'd make a killing."

"I never guess, Miss Pollock. I observe, and what I can see is that he has infinitely better taste than you in artwork." He pointed at the oil painting hanging off the wall, the black and white crow seemingly trapped within the canvas. "I'm not sure I would hang a Raphael next to your cheap Dali fakes."

See the difference? You're demonstrating his in-depth knowledge, his intellect, his disdain i.e. his character. Also importantly, you're helping introduce conflict, and you're creating a specific scene rather than just referring to vague things like "shelves", "objects", "tacky trappings", "real artefacts" etc.

The logical conclusions reached are based on his intellect and his character, so you should show us that character so we know how and why he reached those conclusions.

share|improve this answer
2  
This is excellent. –  justkt Nov 2 '11 at 13:56
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.