Composite character

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In a work of media adapted from a real or fictional narrative, a composite character is a character based on more than one individual from the preceding story.[1] Two or more fictional characters are often combined into a single character in the course of an adaptation of a work for a different medium, as in adapting a novel in the course of authoring a screenplay for a film.[citation needed] A composite character may be modeled on historical or biographical figures.

Use in film[edit]

Use in musicals[edit]

Use in television[edit]

Use in books[edit]

  • The Senator: My Ten Years with Ted Kennedy, a memoir by Richard E. Burke allegedly exposing various activities of U.S. Senator Teddy Kennedy featured several composite characters associated with Kennedy's alleged drug use and sexual dalliances; the inclusion of such became a point of criticism for the book.[8][9]

Use in journalism[edit]

Creating composite characters in journalism is considered a misrepresentation of facts and, without appropriate notice to the reader, unethical.[10] Some writers who are considered journalists or who describe them selves as journalists have on occasion used composite characters.[citation needed]

  • In 1944, The New Yorker ran a series of articles by Joseph Mitchell on New York's Fulton Fish Market that were presented as journalism. Only when the story was published four years later as the book Old Mr. Flood did Mitchell write, "Mr. Flood is not one man; combined in him are aspects of several old men who work or hang out in Fulton Fish Market, or who did in the past."[11] Mitchell assigned his composite character his own birthday and his own love for the Bible and certain authors.[12] In his introduction to Mr. Flood, Mitchell wrote, "I wanted these stories to be truthful rather than factual, but they are solidly based on facts."[13]
  • John Hersey is said to have created a composite character in a Life magazine story as did Alastair Reid for The New Yorker.[13]
  • Vivian Gornick in 2003 said that she used composite characters in some of her articles for the Village Voice.[14]


  1. ^ Gutkind, Lee; Fletcher, Hattie (2008). Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. p. 39. ISBN 0393065618. 
  2. ^ "House of cards - The Boston Globe". 6 April 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Lovell, Jim; Kluger, Jeffrey (1994). Apollo 13. New York: Pocket Books. pp. 118, 209–210, 387. ISBN 0671534645. 
  4. ^ "'Silence of the Lambs' at 25: The Complete Buffalo Bill Story". Rolling Stone. 2016-02-14. Retrieved 2016-05-24. 
  5. ^ "25 years later, 'China Beach' earns your respect". USA TODAY. 2013-05-28. Retrieved 2016-05-24. 
  6. ^ "'China Beach': Cast Reunites, Reflects on Series' Impact". ABC News. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2016-05-24. 
  7. ^ Barra, Allen (July 2013). "Dodge Vs. Deadwood | American History Lives at American Heritage". American Heritage. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Ex-aide's Book Alleges Kennedy Used Drugs The Senator Called Allegations About Orgies, Drugs And Alcohol "Bizarre And Untrue"". 27 September 1992. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  9. ^ Isaak, Sharon (30 October 1992). "Tales of Ted Kennedy". Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  10. ^ "Journalism Example 4 - Against Dishonesty". Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Shafer, Jack (12 June 2003). "The fabulous fabulists". Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Carduff, Christopher (3 November 1992). "Fish-eating, whiskey, death & rebirth". New Criterion. Archived from the original on 6 March 2001. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  13. ^ a b O'Rourke, Meghan (29 July 2003). "Literary license". Slate. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  14. ^ "Unethical writers love the power of creative non-fiction -". 13 January 2006. Retrieved 13 October 2013.