Assumptions Risk

Because it doesn't matter who's knocking, it's Batman opening the door.

I have new neighbors. They speak a lot of Spanish whenever they see me.

Apparently they don’t realize that the “white” guy across the hall understands them.

Some people and their assumptions…

I was thinking about characters last night (yes, I said I was going to slow down for writing… doesn’t mean I’m stopping, though) and was wondering why writers almost never seem to make anybody but the main character incorrect in their assumptions. Very rarely do I read something that isn’t blatantly (“Oh, I never knew that black/Hispanic/Asians were so versatile”) politically correct (“and now you know”) and have the assumptions of someone other than our hero/heroine be faulty. Even some of my favorite books have this flaw.

But is it a flaw, really?

Sometimes we want the flawed hero. I know I hate reading about Superman, primarily because Mister Goodie Two Shoes never seems to be conflicted (except for in Superman II, when he dooms hundreds and thousands of people to death just to save Lois Lane… plot hole, or Super-apathy? You decide) or have any flaw to speak of. In fact, he hides himself to look… normal. I mentioned this in the past and how Supes’ costume is… Clark Kent, and not the other way around like Batman/Bruce Wayne.

But Batman… now there’s a flawed character.

Think about it. Psychologically, every single Batman villain is the extreme version of a part of Batman. The Joker is his insane side taken to the extreme (hey, a grown man dressing up as a bat to fight crime? sounds crazy to me), Ra’s al-Ghul is order and control, the Riddler is psychotically self-defeating and has a pathological need to be caught (hence the “riddles”). Each one of these villains are the extreme offshoots of what a normal person (Bruce Wayne ain’t normal, kid… just reminding you about the man in spandex fighting crime as a bat?) has in their psyche: the need to control things around us, the desire to be a little crazy, etc.

So these villains… they all have master plans, and it’s the heroes goal to thwart them every time, right? But what if…

Assume that the villain knows that the hero is going to (not try, but succeed) in thwarting him and he assumes that there’s nothing more for him or her to do but wait for the inevitable and twirl their ‘stache (yes, the Bearded Lady counts). What if the assumptions of the villain were wrong? Oh, we don’t want to redeem him or her. But imagine, for a moment, that if the villain actually hoped for victory but planned for defeat?

By the way, I did this in Corruptor. Stupid Apollo thought he was the man in charge. Oops. Assumptions led to his downfall while the primary villain, <redacted>, had planned for everything to be stopped and escaped. The villain assumed everything would go to plan but made preparations for it all to fail.

Other than that, what sorts of assumptions can secondary characters make that breaks the “mold”?


2 thoughts on “Assumptions Risk

  1. My main character is wrong. Often. But my secondary characters aren’t wrong quite as often, though they do make assumptions of the main character. I think the reason authors shy away from their secondary characters making such mistakes is that it’s easy to see those as purposefully written in mistakes to make the main character look good. It can happen, it just has to be subtle.

  2. Dang, and when I’ve got a plate full, you hand this jem of an insight out which turns all kinds of my trains onto new tracks…

    Wicked good post. Thanks.

    As for assumptions and errors in knowledge, most of my characters have no clue what’s truly happening until somewhere near the end of the story, if then, so I’m not sure that this applies so far. As noted, now I’ve got some serious re-thinking to do.


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