Hey SE Readers. Joan with you today. This is the third in a series of posts about character types. The ideas are from my personal observations or public knowledge of well-known people. The other posts are The Attention Seeker and The “I Can Top That” Person.
“Jack of all trades.” You may have heard this phrase as a compliment to someone who is skilled in several things. An everyday handyman fits the bill. He might know a bit about plumbing, how to frame a house, or do minor electrical work.
But consider the full quote. “Jack of all trades, master at none.” That doesn’t sound complimentary, does it?
Today’s post deals with the “know it all.” Consider a person who has spent years in college, jumping from major to major without getting a degree. They may have a lot of knowledge but aren’t masterful at anything.
I once worked with someone who I called a professional student. She was smart, outgoing, and likable, but she couldn’t settle on one college major. At the time I knew her, she already had two bachelor’s degrees and had decided to go to nursing school.
She was an only child, and her parents had the means to support her endeavors. I once told her sooner or later, she needed to decide on something and start to build her career. She knew I spoke the truth.
But opposite of Jane (not her real name) is the true know it all. They have a little bit of knowledge in a particular field and believe that makes them an expert. Usually their “knowledge” isn’t limited to one thing. They may have worked for a stockbroker, so they consider themselves a financial expert. At another point in their life, they dabbled in the paralegal field. Maybe they once worked in a medical office. This person is always the first to offer advice.
Writing this type of character can be fun, especially if you make them a con artist. The 2002 movie Catch Me if You Can is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale. By the time he was nineteen, Abagnale had impersonated a doctor, an airline pilot, and an attorney. After his arrest and subsequent prison time, he worked alongside the FBI and started a financial fraud consultancy company.
When I worked in banking, I heard him speak in person, and believe me, truth is stranger than fiction. Although some of his claims are said to be exaggerated and untrue, writing this type of character has lots of possibilities.
What’s your take on writing a “know it all?” Would you make them a con or do something else with the character?