Composite character

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For Unicode composite characters, see Unicode#Ready-made versus composite characters.

In fiction, a composite character is a character composed of two or more real life[1][page needed] or fictional individuals, appearing in a fictional or non-fictional work. Two or more fictional characters are often combined into one upon adaptation of a work from one medium to another, as in the film or video game adaptation of a novel or comic book. A composite character may be modeled on real historical or biographical figures in either type of work.

Fictional examples[edit]

Non-fictional examples[edit]

Use in journalism[edit]

While creating composite characters for a fictional work is a useful tool, doing so in journalism is considered to be like any other passing off of fiction as fact and is, in general, considered to be unethical.[9] Nonetheless, writers have been known to employ this type of creative non-fiction. In 1944, The New Yorker ran a series of pieces 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."[10] Mitchell assigned his character his own birthday and his own love for the Bible, Mark Twain and columnist Heywood Broun.[11] Similarly, John Hersey is said to have created a composite character in a Life magazine story as did Alastair Reid for The New Yorker.[12] More recently, Vivian Gornick admitted in 2003 to having used composite characters in some of her articles for the Village Voice.[13]

It remains a somewhat open question to what degree journalistic standards of newspaper reporting apply when one is writing for a magazine.[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."[12]

War and propaganda[edit]

Composite character may a real or fictional person to effectively immortalize this person. One legendary example is the case of Spartacus, a commander during the Third Servile War, where all captured slaves admitted to be him.[citation needed] A modern example is the sniper Juba of the Islamic Army in Iraq during the Iraqi Insurgency who claims to have killed 143 US soldiers.[citation needed] With the arrest of two men claiming to be Juba and the high kill rate, Juba is considered[by whom?] to be a fictional person composed of several snipers.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Gutkind, Lee (2011). Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393077896. 
  2. ^ Canby, Vincent. "Hoffa - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  3. ^ "House of cards - The Boston Globe". 2008-04-06. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  4. ^ Lovell, Jim; Kluger, Jeffrey (1994). Apollo 13. New York: Pocket Books. pp. 118, 209–210, 387. ISBN 0-671-53464-5. 
  5. ^ Barshad, Amos (2013-09-05). "If It’s Cool With Everyone, Paul DePodesta Would Really Rather Jonah Hill Not Use His Name in Moneyball - Vulture". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  6. ^ Barra, Allen. "Dodge Vs. Deadwood | American History Lives at American Heritage". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  7. ^ "Ex-aide's Book Alleges Kennedy Used Drugs The Senator Called Allegations About Orgies, Drugs And Alcohol "Bizarre And Untrue." - philly-archives". 1992-09-27. Retrieved 2015-10-25. 
  8. ^ Isaak, Sharon (1992-10-30). "Tales of Ted Kennedy". Retrieved 2015-10-25. 
  9. ^ "Journalism Example 4 - Against Dishonesty". Retrieved 2015-10-25. 
  10. ^ Shafer, Jack (2003-06-12). "The fabulous fabulists". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  11. ^ [1] Archived December 11, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ a b c O'Rourke, Meghan (2003-07-29). "Literary license". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  13. ^ "Unethical writers love the power of creative non-fiction -". 2006-01-13. Retrieved 2013-10-13.