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A composite character is a character in a work of fiction or non-fiction who is based on two or more real-life or fictional individuals.[page needed] Two or more fictional characters are often combined into a single composite 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.
Examples from fiction
- Major Frank Burns as portrayed in the 1970 film M*A*S*H, is a composite of Captain Frank Burns and Major Hobson from the original novel. The composite character was carried over into the TV series.
- Chico as portrayed in the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven, is a composite of the samurai Kikuchiyo and Katsushiro from the film Seven Samurai, which Magnificent Seven was based upon.
- The musical version of Les Misérables features an adaption distillation with composite-type characters, such as how charismatic revolutionary Enjolras dies waving a flag at the top of a barricade when the original novel by Victor Hugo had a character named Mabeuf die in such a way.
Examples from non-fiction
- The character Bobby Ciaro in the biographical film Hoffa.
- Several characters in the movie 21.
- The character Henry Hurt in the docudrama Apollo 13 is portrayed as a NASA public 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.
- Many of the characters in the film Black Hawk Down are composites, including the lead character Matt Eversmann.
- 1st Lt. (later CPT) Colleen McMurphy on the television series China Beach was a composite of several real-life Army nurses who served in Vietnam.
- Marshall Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke is a composite of several Old West Kansas lawmen.
- Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs is a composite based on the serial killers Jerry Brudos, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Gary M. Heidnik, Edmund Kemper and Gary Ridgway.
- 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.
- Chris's siblings Drew and Tonya from Everybody Hates Chris are actually based off Chris Rock's 7 siblings from real life.
Use in journalism
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."
- John Hersey is said to have created a composite character in a Life magazine story as did Alastair Reid for The New Yorker.
- Vivian Gornick in 2003 said that she used composite characters in some of her articles for the Village Voice.
- Gutkind, Lee (2011). Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393077896.
- "The Magnificent Seven (Film) - TV Tropes". TV Tropes.
- "House of cards - The Boston Globe". Boston.com. 6 April 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- Lovell, Jim; Kluger, Jeffrey (1994). Apollo 13. New York: Pocket Books. pp. 118, 209–210, 387. ISBN 0-671-53464-5.
- "25 years later, 'China Beach' earns your respect". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2016-05-24.
- News, ABC. "'China Beach': Cast Reunites, Reflects on Series' Impact". ABC News. Retrieved 2016-05-24.
- Barra, Allen. "Dodge Vs. Deadwood | American History Lives at American Heritage". American Heritage. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- "'Silence of the Lambs' at 25: The Complete Buffalo Bill Story". Rolling Stone. 2016-02-14. Retrieved 2016-05-24.
- "Ex-aide's Book Alleges Kennedy Used Drugs The Senator Called Allegations About Orgies, Drugs And Alcohol "Bizarre And Untrue"". Articles.philly.com. 27 September 1992. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
- Isaak, Sharon (30 October 1992). "Tales of Ted Kennedy". EW.com. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
- "Journalism Example 4 - Against Dishonesty". Macloo.com. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
- Shafer, Jack (12 June 2003). "The fabulous fabulists". Slate.com. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- Carduff, Christopher (3 November 1992). "Fish-eating, whiskey, death & rebirth". New Criterion. Archived from the original on 6 March 2001. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
- O'Rourke, Meghan (29 July 2003). "Literary license". Slate. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- "Unethical writers love the power of creative non-fiction - WTOP.com". Wtopnews.com. 13 January 2006. Retrieved 13 October 2013.