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. 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. A composite character may be modeled on historical or biographical figures.
The character Henry Hurt in the docudramaApollo 13 is portrayed as a NASApublic relations employee assigned to the wife of astronaut Jim Lovell, and who also is seen answering reporters' questions. This character is a composite of the NASA protocol officer Bob McMurrey assigned to act as a buffer between the Lovell family and the press, and several Office of Public Affairs employees whose job was to actually work with the press.
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.
Creating composite characters in journalism is considered a misrepresentation of facts and, without appropriate notice to the reader, unethical. Some writers who are considered journalists or who describe them selves as journalists have on occasion used composite characters.
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." Mitchell assigned his composite character his own birthday and his own love for the Bible and certain authors. 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."