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Writing Wise Folk

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 1, 2020

Wise men are like valuable spice for a story. They are also a wonderful plot device, or an extremely cheesy one, depending on how the character is used and written.

Wise men (and women) are often the moral compass to the main characters, or hold some kind of answer to conundrums that vex the characters or halt their progress in their efforts to reach their goal. On the same note, they are very often the author's mouthpiece. What they say is what holds true for the world and the story, as the author has constructed it. It's only natural- if they weren't right on the money with their advice, they just wouldn't be wise! Only posing as such (but that's a different type of character)

The big risk with a character like that is that they might come across as preachy and somewhat disjointed from the story. They rarely are main characters, and so they can also look like they're the deus ex machina if the advice they offer is so tremendous or so complete they sound like they could have resolved the story on their own.

The way to avoid this, is to make the wise person wise, but not all-knowing. Though the wise person might be a secondary character, give them an actual reason to be part of the cast other than being there to offer advice. Also, give them a personality. Don't make a wise person flawless.

Wise people tend to be eccentric or peculiar, but they are not necessarily flashy about it. Their quirks and particularities must make sense. They're not all hermits, nor do they wear weird clothing or think phones are the devil. They might look completely ordinary or fully adjusted to society, and their special streak might become apparent to the way they interpret things, or the way they react to them.

Give a wise person a motivation to offer advice, support, or guidance. Usually, wise people don't step forward to offer advice just because they're wise- mainly because they tend to have knowledge that unsolicited advice is rarely appreciated. So, find a way to compel them!

Is it their job, maybe? Do they have any special stake in what's happening? Maybe they care for a character specifically? Do they want to shut someone up, or is their pride hurt? Are they personally trying to achieve something, and the goals align with the main character's?

Lastly, a wise person doesn't mean is wise in everything. They may be very wise in, say, politics, but completely blind to love matters.

Wise people can be so much fun and so much more than just a mouthpiece or the necessary cutscene for the main characters to advance!

Have you written wise people in your webcomics or stories? How have you designed them?

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Kou the Mad at 1:04AM, Feb. 2, 2020

Iroh is one of the best written characters I have seen in any media. Him along with others such as Vivi from Final Fantasy 9.

bravo1102 at 7:18AM, Feb. 1, 2020

You can have a lot of fun with the "wise sage" character in a military setting. See the John Ford Cavalry trilogy and Victor McLaughlin's character. There's also the movie "The Immortal Sergeant ". The sergeant character in "Big Red One" is another version. Lee Marvin was perfectly cast because he really was that character and much of the experience the character was supposed to have.

Tantz_Aerine at 6:06AM, Feb. 1, 2020

I'd say that qualifies, he has enough experience to offer what Kaida needs and knows how to offer it.

usedbooks at 5:40AM, Feb. 1, 2020

I love that your (and Banes's) newspost always make me pause and consider my cast and story. Like, I always question "Do I have one of those? Have I done that?" (Which tells me my writing is kinda choatic and not well-studied. lol.) I have a character whose story role is similar to my mother's. Kaida calls him when her life in in shambles, and he makes her feel better without fail. Is he a wise man character? Honestly, I couldn't say. He's an old friend, a peer not a sage. He went through a similar situation to her, been in jail, was a victim of a serious attack, but he is always smiling. He's a writer, and he mostly stays at home. He doesn't take an active role at this point. But he's a safe oasis of calm strength. Again, it's my mother's role in my life.

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