characters / descriptors / writers resources

How to Describe a Genius Character

This is harder than is sounds. Geniuses–far above the ‘gifted’ that qualify

students for GATE and Honors, and in excess too of the .25% over 145 who qualify for MENSA–are people who don’t think like the masses, and they expect us to be like them. They don’t have the tolerance for mistakes or open-mindedness that 99% of the people around you practice. Think of them as the opposite of a dog: To a dog, everything is OK. No sweat. Hakuna Matada. Geniuses have neither of those ambiguities.

So, if you have a genius in your book, let your readers know early by showing us how oddly superior they are. If you yourself aren’t a MENSAN, you may have difficulty conceiving of how that might appear, so I’ve included information in several prominent MENSA members. Everything I’ve included is from the internet, without a lot of searching, so I’m assuming I’m revealing nothing that many others already don’t know.

As this list suggests, Mensa is a remarkably diverse organization.  While some of the MENSANS noted here are well known, many others lead interesting lives out of the public eye.


Former chairman of Ford Motor Company.  Has B.S. degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA from Stanford University.  He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi (honorary engineering society) and Sixma Xi Scientific Research Society (natural sciences).  During his career at Ford, he was involved in the development of two of Ford’s most successful cars–the Mustang and the Maverick–as well as the Mark III and the Fairlane.  He is also a high-performance driver, having trained at the school run by retired racing champion Bob Bondurant

Petersen was born on a farm in the Midwest and raised during the Great Depression.  Influenced by the hardship and economic instability his family endured, he used his intelligence to pursue a secure life in the corporate environment.


Played Douglas Brachman in TV hit “L.A. Law.”  He left the Wharton School of Finance against his father’s wishes to pursue an acting career.  During the ’60s he was in the cast of “Oh Calcutta,” a highly controversial play where cast members appeared nude on stage.


Professional domino toppler.  As a high school senior, he originated the “domino toppling” category in the Guinness Book of World Records.  He travels internationally doing domino shows and races and has appeared on network TV programs and in commercials.  An accomplished athlete, Specta is a veteran of 12 triathlons.


Radio personality and subject for the move “Good Morning Vietnam.”  Started his radio career at 12 in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, where he hosted a children’s amateur hour.  Worked as a DJ at various radio stations and in Saigon during the Vietnam War.  He is also a lawyer.  Cronauer was originally attracted to Mensa because of the work they do for gifted children,


Listed in the Guinness Hall of Fame for having the world’s highest recorded I.Q. (228).  She is the wife of Robert Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik 7 artificial heart.  She also writes “Ask Marilyn,” a weekly column that appears nationally in “Parade” magazine.


A boxer and a scholar, 1983 National Amateur Heavyweight champion who fought and won against Olympic heavyweight gold medalist Henry Tillman.  He once fought Mike Tyson in a televised fight.  Milligan recently worked his way through NYU Business School acting in commercials (e.g., for “Sports Illustrated” sneaker phone promotion).


University of Virginia law professor who specializes in international law.  The Kuwaiti Ambassador to the U.S. hired him to help the emirate recover damages inflicted since the August 1990 invasion by Iraq.


Draws syndicated newspaper comic strips “Momma” and “Miss Peach.” President of national Cartoonist Society, he has also published two novels and is now writing his third.


Nicknamed “Maximum Morphonios” for her strict rulings in Florida.  Former model and beauty queen (Coconut Harvest Maiden and Miss Southern Florida) and local radio personality, once said she “enjoyed being a sex symbol.”  As a young mother and a legal secretary, she passed a Florida exam that allowed her to enter law school without an undergraduate degree.


Pianist with the Pittsburgh Symphony.  She is the symphony’s first black member and has performed internationally.


Author of the world’s top selling job-hunting book, “What Color is Your Parachute?”  Revised annually, the book has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 228 weeks.  Bolles has two new books in progress–one on relationships, one on spirituality.  He is an ordained Episcopal priest who graduated from Harvard University cum laud with a physics degree.


She is a retired attorney who graduated fourth in her law school class at age 47 and was one of the first women partners in a major Oregon law firm.  She is a grandmother, a working standup comic, and currently chairwoman of Mensa International.


Best-selling author of “Clan of the Cave Bear,” Valley of Horses,” “The Mammoth Hunters,” and “Plains of Passage.”  A former technical writer, she turned her attention to fiction, buttressed by much historical and anthropological research, touring areas she was to write about and teaching herself to make stone-age tools.

For more descriptors for characters and settings, click here.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voicebook reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachersan IMS tech expertand a weekly contributor toWrite Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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6 thoughts on “How to Describe a Genius Character

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  3. I think that Mensa’s are wonderful and I think that if you are gifted than you should pursue your gift and reach for your star. Wherever God sends you to work with the people weather you are a Missionary or not or a Teacher or a Movie Star , it makes a difference to be a good person regardless. I Believe in the Spiritual aspect of loving God and He loves you as His Child . If you are gifted you owe Him , your Creator to be the Best that you can be no matter what you are and then Thank God for that Gift and do the Best to be a Good Witness and Serve God with all of your heart , soul or mind. So, do that and let that be a reward, Mensa is just a place to be with someone in whom you can relate to on the subject of What God has for you and that is important for all of us is to be what God wants you to be no matter what your IQ is… and that is Mensa too….He is there as well…


  4. I don’t agree with your MENSA’s paradigm.

    In psychology, person with IQ scores above 120 is defined as a superior. Only if the person has found new ideas that can change paradigm of scientific communities radically, such as a community of scientist and engineer, in handling their jobs, will be included in genius group.

    Richard Feynmann, a nobel prize in physics, has IQ score of 125. Owing to the nobel prize, I group him in genius group. But, the people whom you tell in your writing, I think that they are out of the genius group, even though their IQ score is above 150. What did they find that have change the paradigm of a community?


    • My designations are statistical rather than qualitative. There are criminals I’d consider geniuses, but I’d never say their crimes ‘change the paradigm of a community’. I like the concept, though. It adds a level of responsibility to brilliance I didn’t include.


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