I've heard a lot of people ask how to properly depict intelligence in a written work, but I'd like to go in the opposite direction.

I want to know how to write a moron/fool without having them be the over-the-top, in-your-face "Patrick Star" type character who spews non-sequiturs and stumbles mindlessly into every trap he can find.

A character in my story is naive and dim, and I want to know how I should write her so that she can be believable and, while making some facepalm-inducing decisions, genuinely tries her best to make the best decisions possible.

4 Answers 4


Interacting with people who think differently is a good way to start. Using the word 'moron' is a bad place to start.

I have very strong spatial thinking skills - I can imagine things in 3D and can intuitively understand how mechanical things work, but I'm very bad with numbers and math. My wife is nearly the opposite. She thinks in words and logic, but has problems understanding things spatially. She struggles to understand things that are obvious to me and I struggle to understand things that are obvious to her.

In other words, while we both are very intelligent, we're also different.

You might try understanding this by imagining thinking about something that's difficult for you to understand - take for instance the relationship between gravity and time (look it up... it'll blow your mind.) Then imagine what it would be like if listening to someone give directions to the nearest bathroom were just as difficult to understand. Then imagine if everything were just as difficult to understand.

Imagine the emotions you'd feel if everyone else could understand things easily while you can't.

And then you can probably start writing your character.


By being one.

Putting yourself in someone else's shoes and thinking like them is an integral part of writing fiction.

It is essential that the character comes to life. If you can’t identify with a simpleton, err sorry, learning disabled, differently-abled person; don’t bother to write one, or a novel for that matter.

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but just on top of my head use decision making based on your childhood, and adult moments when you where drunk, sick, or half-asleep.


By not backing off from bad ideas and stupid questions.

We all have these. We have them countless times every day. The only difference between a moron and a smartass is the speed and ease in recognizing shortcomings of these ideas.

So start off writing the character like a normal smart character. Then whenever you have a wrong idea about what the character would say, conclude, understand, do - take a step back, evaluate if the shortcomings are something your "moron" could miss, and then apply them. Follow normal logical (or emotional) track, but trim all non-obvious contributions to the decision-making process.


By having the 'moron' use faulty logic, nonsensical assumptions, and idiotic conclusions. Though you have to make sure it isn't silly, unless you want to write comedy.

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