I have a character who's supposed to be a talented tactician. Because of the setup of the story, this character is contrasted with another character by means of giving them contradictory or complementary traits. It's meant to both generate conflict and also allow them to more effectively solve problems together.

Specifically relevant to my question here, their decision-making style. Since the other character is primarily analytic: in order to arrive at a conclusion she must pay attention to each piece of information available to her and then put them all together. By contrast, I want her friend to be a more intuitive type, where if one would ask him how he arrived at his conclusion he would not necessarily be able to explain it.

At a certain point I became suspicious that this characterization conflicts with the tactical aspect of his story. Aren't tacticians supposed to be highly analytic in their thinking? I feel like including both might leave readers confused or frustrated with the seeming inconsistency.

2 Answers 2


Let's call your characters Dave (the intuitive tactician) and Kate (the analytic) so we have some way to refer to them.

Kate can be so analytical, so dependent on data, that she feels like she can't ever commit to a decision. But what if there's one more supply train coming? Did we think of every single possible scenario and prepare for it? Do we really know how much the enemy has in munitions? These two intelligence reports conflict; which one is right? And so on.

Dave totally gets how armies move. He couldn't call a pincer movement by name, he can't articulate why he'd want light cavalry over heavy, but if you put him in front of a battle mockup board he will totally plan out your strategy by moving counters around and saying "Okay, these guys here, and that troop there, and when the enemy comes in we do this, and Bob's your uncle."

This makes Kate insane, because Dave can't connect his intuitive understanding of mass movements to any data she has on hand. Sure, if you point out that foot troops can cope with marshland better than mounted troops he'll agree with you, but he couldn't come up with that sentence on his own. Kate makes Dave insane because she takes so much time wibbling over the data and refusing to do anything that the enemy decides the battle for her. He's already figuring out how to take the highlands and she can't decide whether to attack at dawn or at noon.

While it's not typical to have an "intuitive tactician," you might be able to pull it off if you consistently show that he knows what he's doing. The "over-analytical analyst" is more common.

  • 1
    This is very helpful, but it means more work since the burden of proof is on me. Up until now I'd been focusing on other traits but I think it's time to bring this to the fore.
    – lea
    Jun 27, 2014 at 7:00
  • @lea You're the writer creating the character. The burden of proof is on you for everything, I'm afraid. :) Jun 27, 2014 at 10:44

Someone with a tactical bent quickly "resolves a problem into its clearest, simplest form" (Conrad Hilton). Someone of the other kind "overthinks."

The second person is actually more analytical, but the first person "gets to the point" faster with less "circumlocution.

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