Character Trait Entry: Clever

Definition: Resourcefulness marked by inventiveness or originality

A higher intelligence; growing up in an environment where one must be resourceful to survive; an intuitive need to know how things work; learning quickly from one's mistakes; a desire to make things more functional and efficient; a strong imagination; being an independent thinker or innovator

Characters in Literature:
Master Kronos (The Cabinet of Wonders); Nin Redstone (Seven Sorcerers); Hansel & Gretel (Hansel & Gretel)

Clever people are creative thinkers and often see what others miss or dismiss. While others are content to follow along, Clevers are interested in 'the how and why' something is done and like to pursue their ideas on how to how to make things better. Clever people may not always be the smartest or fastest, but they have a gift for seeing and taking advantage of opportunities. Clevers also have an uncanny ability to assess a situation quickly and focus on a solution that may be simple yet innovative, leaving those around them to wonder how they had not thought of the same solution long ago.

Clever people have a hard time being told what to do and often balk at performing a task in a specific way. Many flout the rules or ignore instructions if they view them as inefficient or flawed. They also can have a strong opinion of themselves and their ideas, believing them to be the best. Because of this, they may be judgmental and dismissive to those who also want to have their ideas heard. Some manipulate in order to get what they need. Clever people can also sometimes get caught up in their own cleverness, and by focusing too hard on a single facet, lose sight of the big picture.

Common Portrayals:
Thieves, inventors, lawyers, criminals, pick pockets, con artists

Cliches to Avoid: 
Clever antics bordering on either risky or absurd, yet they still succeed

Twists on the Traditional Clever:  
  •  Trip your Clever up by using his ego and focus level against him. Have the antagonist direct his attention to a red herring task in order to distract him from the real danger.
  • Nothing stirs up trouble like a little competition. Great things happen when two clever protagonists friends face off with only one winner...but what if losing means something dire or dangerous, something neither wants the other to pay? 
  • Is cleverness innate, or learned? Put your amnesiac Clever character in a situation where free thinking is discouraged and find out! 

Conflicting Characteristics to make your Clever unique or more interesting: Thoughtful, Responsible, Charismatic, Eccentric, Loyal, Impulsive


Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post about the positives and negatives of a clever person. I always love your suggestions for twists on these character traits. Thanks so much for all of them.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great list! My mom always uses the expression 'clever hands' - which apparently I don't have! - for people who can sew, fix things, knit... Good descriptions :)

Laura Marcella said...

I like clever characters! Great round-up of what it means to write one. Awesome post!

Kelly Polark said...

I always thought of clever as being only positive -not thinking of the negative aspects! Way to make me think! Great post!!

Mirka Breen said...

It’s actually tricky to make the clever ones lovable. Some have gone about it by making them not show their cleverness, but the reader is privy to it via inner-dialogue.

Angela Brown said...

This character description puts me in the mind of Artemis Fowl as well.

Kelly Hashway said...

Ooh, I really like this one. Clever can be very fun.

Mary Witzl said...

Those negatives don't just apply to clever people: I felt my cheeks burn, just reading your descriptions. I'd be a lot further along in this process if I just listened and learned -- and followed a few of the rules.

What you wrote about clever people getting caught up in their own cleverness reminds me of the protagonist in 'The Social Network', who becomes so obsessed with outthinking everybody else he really loses sight of the big picture.

Traci Kenworth said...

Oh, I just watched the Hansel & Gretel episode of Once Upon a Time last night. Definitely clever children.

Gwynneth White said...

I think of Hermione Granger, and I just love her as a character. She embodied all the wonderful aspects of being clever with a delightful quirk of being a little dumb too - like leaving hats for the house elves. I also agree that writing clever people is difficult because they can end up seeing stuck up and full of themselves.

Leslie Rose said...

I loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret because both its main kid characters were both clever and full of heart. Great story to show kid readers their potential.

Diane Carlisle said...

I see clever people as somewhat lonely and I'm not sure why. Clever puts you out of the realm of normal people. I can see a clever person being a bit socially misfit and therefore somewhat lonely.

Medeia Sharif said...

I've always enjoyed clever characters. Thanks for the breakdown and what to avoid.

Khaalidah said...

I like clever, but I like quiet taciturn and deep even better.
I think I'm pretty clever and I see myself in a lot of the above description, especially the part about not wanting to be told how to do things. I have my own way to get a thing done.
Clever = stubborn(ish)?


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