Geeking Science: Too Smart

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One of the harder things to write well is someone smarter than you. The top 2% of humanity can be as hard to decipher as a teenager – “What are you thinking? – and yet, we love to write about them. Kind-of like middle-grade and Young Adult (YA) likes to read about people one or two years above them; how do these people who have a slightly different view of the world interact with it?

So many romances feature a super-smart female who falls for the Alpha male. And Urban Fantasies love the tech-genius sidekick trope. With the added time allowing to think things out, a writer can create a portrayal of someone able to think a few steps ahead of those around them. And yet, is this how such a person will act?

Not necessarily.

Dr. Kohlenberg reposted an article from his old website on June 23, 2017: Understanding Very, Very Smart People. It’s been widely shared on educational and entertainment websites including Medium.

Some things to think about when writing the Very Smart are:

  1. The Very Smart are not allowed to talk about it. – In the age where everyone gets to talk about their neurological divergence, talking about the trials of a 140 IQ sounds like bragging instead of problem-solving like when one talks about being on the Spectrum. Thing is a mental outlier is still being a mental outlier even when it is “positive” – trying to figure out how to fit into the larger society doesn’t just happen even when one can process information faster than normal.
  2. Failure is very frustrating. – After twenty years of being the brightest, entering the job market and running into peers can be crazy intimidating. In addition, if one is in a job to push the brain limits, failure becomes real for the first time and the very smart have no experience with this. Often they start avoiding the problem and dumb down their job until failure isn’t going to happen. This is how doctorate holders flip burgers. It isn’t just because the doctorate is in Medieval English Literature.
  3. Depression is more common. – Not only because the difference of being a mental outlier, but because of seeing Too Much, the Very Smart are more prone to depression and hide it a hell of a lot better for a lot longer than most. Because it starts early. They understand more than their age indicates. While a normal eight year old just sees a sunset, a Very Smart eight year old understands the light refraction and sometimes wonders about the pollution adding to the colors. And then starts thinking about how to fix pollution and gets angry when most of their solutions are not possible at their age. Then tired and depressed the older they get when they realized they don’t have the pull to fix all the problems. By age 18, not 40.
  4. Very Smart isn’t knowing All the Things. – Especially among males (who are always more likely to be outliers in anything genetic thanks to less averaging factors in the X against Y DNA), intelligent specialization occurs. Great at Math and Music, not so hot at Social. Political genius can’t figure a checkbook or morality. Know all things Pre-Historic in flora and fauna, but don’t have time to study Current Events.

This is the most common issues seen in books and television – the Genius of Everything – hacker, history expert, and auto mechanic! If you are writing a genius, choose one specialization topic for work and one side interest per decade old.

For example, Computer Hardware Specialist – forty years old – also dabbled in medical field, brain studies, for an AI he was interested in, then again for muscles when he was into robotics. He had taken the violin middle school through college and continues to love classical music and has tickets to the symphony – and can name every Vivaldi piece within the first minute of hearing it. Recently, because of the woman he is dating, he has come to an appreciation of Roller Derby especially the architecture and crowd distribution to maximize sound and fan-fever.

Don’t do all the things. Go deep, not wide in subject matters.

Tony Stark did machines, while Bruce Banner does radiation. And Natalia Romanavoa, languages.

If you want to read the article, you can find it here: (or maybe not, it looks like it has been removed again)

WRITING EXERCISE: Review your body of work. Have you ever written about Very Smart people? How were they realistic, and how did they diverge from reality?


In Is the Sky Blue?, we met one of the Ranlo brothers, Eugene, for the first time. We see his failure at work, his emotional quagmire leading to depression at not being able to please his boss like he had his teachers, and his problems with his relationship with Jordan and both of them working at the mental outlier issues. By the way, Eugene is brother to Joe from the what I have nicknamed “the Joe and Cheryl Show,” and Eugene and Joe’s younger brother is mentioned in Memory of a Lifetime. Eugene is the eldest; Joe is the middle. Little bro prankster is unnamed as yet.

I really should return to this family and write out the three romances of the genius brothers and the women who have to deal with them.