Monday, August 9, 2010

Pattern Geniuses

I imagine that really intelligent people are really good at putting together subtle patterns from otherwise random events. I'm not talking necessarily about those who score high on the IQ tests or those who are gifted with street smarts, but those who have an intellect that lends itself well to either side of the law enforcement spectrum—con men/women or FBI agents. Seeing the details and how they connect would give you a subtle advantage, enabling you to predict future actions better.

In the con man, this means you'd be able to read your mark more clearly, understand what they're feeling, what motivated them in the past, and be able to manipulate them into the future action you desire. This ability to read the subtle patterns would work much like charisma, or what I feel is often mistaken for charisma: the ability to read people's micro- and macroexpressions really well, enabling you to react to things people think they're only thinking, not telegraphing with their body. In the FBI agent, you'd be able to look at a criminal's profile, the choices they make, and predict where they might be next, thus, achieving what you desire: their capture.

To an extent, authors get to play this genius person. We see into everyone's head, and we get multiple rounds of edits to add in those subtle clues for the reader and the protagonist/villain to notice. Even at that, most authors require a secondary voice or five to help them recognize the missing pieces, the parts of those patterns that they either didn't supply or, often, the parts that don't pertain to the current pattern (i.e., the current story).

From the outside, this genius pattern-reader operates with what appears to be magic. They seem almost psychic or in some way superhuman. Clearly, this genius archetype appeals to our culture. One merely has to observe the popularity of such characters as Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot, such TV shows as Psych and Castle.

I'm not really sure where this is going. I started out this blog to write about names, but my opening line sort of got carried away, and then this tangent happened. I guess the point could be this: this pattern-reading genius is not some innate gift you have to be born with—with practice, anyone will get better. Certainly, some people are born with more of a knack for it, and they'll probably also enjoy it and excel at it faster (because don't we all like doing things that make us feel smart), but that doesn't mean another person with a lot of hard work behind them couldn't achieve the same level.

Writing's a lot the same. Some people seem to be born with a silver keyboard in their hands, and some people have to struggle harder to create those seemingly effortless masterpieces that work magic for the reader.

1 comment:

TikiBird said...

Totally agree about the patterns! Anyone who can pick up on seemingly random things and put them together to help them solve problems has a great gift. Like doctors and nurses, or teachers, or car mechanics!

I was just reading a book about earthquake prediction (The Myth of Solid Ground, that talks about how people love patterns so much, we often make the mistake of seeing patterns where there aren't any. Or seeing patterns in our small frame of reference that don't hold up in the big picture.

It was really interesting--and made me appreciate the skill it takes to identify patterns and also to identify when they aren't.