Composite character

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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. An amalgamation or amalgam, when used to refer to a fictional character or place, refers to one that was created by combining, or is perceived to be a combination of, several other previously existing characters or locations.[citation needed] To emphasize the origin of their creations, authors or artists may use amalgamated names.[citation needed]

An example of an historical composite character is the three Herods in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Herod the Great (Luke 1:5), Herod Antipas (Luke 3:1; 9:7-9; 13:31-33; 23:5-12), and Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1-23) are three separate historical rulers. Yet they are portrayed as a single composite character who functions in Luke-Acts "as an actualization of Satan’s desire to impede the spread of the good news though his ["Herod’s"] rejection of the gospel message and through political persecution", for example the execution of John (Luke 9:7–9), Jesus (Acts 4:24–28), James (Acts 12:1–2), and the attempted execution of Peter (Acts 12:3–5).[2]

Composite characters are also found in apocalyptic literature, for example the Book of Revelation. The two witnesses of Revelation 11 are an amalgamation of several character traits taken from Jeremiah, Elijah, and Moses.[3] The composite characterization of the two witnesses represents the Christian community as a whole (the church) in their specific vocation as witnesses.[4]:505–506

Use in film[edit]

Use in musicals[edit]

  • The musical version of Les Misérables has the charismatic revolutionary Enjolras die while waving a flag at the top of a barricade; in the original novel by Victor Hugo, a character named Mabeuf dies in such a way.[citation needed]
  • The musical Wicked has the character of Fiyero who fills in the roles of both himself (the love interest of the Wicked Witch of the West) and another minor character from the novel.
  • In the musical Legally Blonde, the character of Professor Stromwell from the film does not appear. Her storyline is split up between Vivian and Professor Callahan.
  • Billy Flynn in Chicago and its numerous adaptations is a composite character based on two real-life lawyers in Chicago, William Scott Stewart and W. W. O'Brien. The musical version of Chicago consists mostly of composites of their original characters from the play with vaudeville legends.

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 Ted 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.[21][22]

Use in comics[edit]

Use in journalism[edit]

Creating composite characters in journalism is considered a misrepresentation of facts and, without appropriate notice to the reader, unethical.[citation needed] Some writers who are considered journalists or who describe themselves 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."[24] Mitchell assigned his composite character his own birthday and his own love for the Bible and certain authors.[25] 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."[26]
  • John Hersey is said to have created a composite character in a Life magazine story as did Alastair Reid for The New Yorker.[26]
  • Vivian Gornick in 2003 said that she used composite characters in some of her articles for the Village Voice.[27]

Amalgamated places[edit]

Places may be amalgamated in fiction by taking districts, landmarks, or characters of real-world locations, or previously created locations of another work of fiction. For example, a sample fictional city could contain the Eiffel Tower a block away from the Forbidden City, where Bill Gates may be living after having bought a nearby clacks tower from Albus Dumbledore. Usually, if the author or artist desires the city to be more believable, he or she will amalgamate it only from real places, whereas if the story is more fantastic, fictional places may be better.

An author or artist may choose to amalgamate a city rather than imagining all of its aspects from scratch in order to be humorous by referencing other works and/or real places, or to avoid having to name his or her city altogether, such as when shooting a film in several existing cities, while the city portrayed is supposed not to exist.


See also[edit]


  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 978-0393065619.
  2. ^ Frank E. Dicken, Herod as a Composite Character in Luke-Acts, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament II 375 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014), 7.
  3. ^ James L. Resseguie (2009). The Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary. Baker Academic. pp. 161–163. ISBN 9781441210005.
  4. ^ Koester, Craig R. (2014). Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300211030.
  5. ^ "House of cards". 6 April 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2013.(subscription required)
  6. ^ Lovell, Jim; Kluger, Jeffrey (1994). Apollo 13. New York: Pocket Books. pp. 118, 209–210, 387. ISBN 0671534645.
  7. ^ Grow, Kory (14 February 2016). "'Silence of the Lambs' at 25: Inside Buffalo Bill". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  8. ^ Alexander, Bryan (20 July 2017). "'Dunkirk': How historically accurate is Christopher Nolan's WWII battle film?". USA TODAY. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  9. ^ Bruemmer, René (2 August 2017). "Inspiration for summer blockbuster Dunkirk an unsung Montreal hero". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  10. ^ "Unsung hero of Dunkirk evacuation a former McGill student". McGill Reporter. McGill University. 7 August 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  11. ^ "This war hero was forgotten in Canada and portrayed as a Brit in 'Dunkirk.' Now he's finally getting his due". Washington Post. 21 September 2017.
  12. ^ Broich, John (20 July 2017). "What's Fact and What's Fiction in 'Dunkirk'". Slate. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  13. ^ Kaufman, Michael T. (13 August 1999). "John D. Lewis, 84, Pilot in 'The Great Escape'". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  14. ^ Bishop, Patrick (30 August 2015). "William Ash: The cooler king". BBC Online. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  15. ^ Foley, Brendan (29 April 2014). "Bill Ash obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  16. ^ "William Ash - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. London. 30 April 2014. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  17. ^ Goodykoontz, Billy (28 May 2013). "25 years later, 'China Beach' earns your respect". USA TODAY. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  18. ^ "'China Beach': Cast Reunites, Reflects on Series' Impact". ABC News. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  19. ^ Barra, Allen (July 2013). "Dodge Vs. Deadwood". American Heritage. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  20. ^ "Emily Watson on her new TV drama, Chernobyl". Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Ex-aide's Book Alleges Kennedy Used Drugs The Senator Called Allegations About Orgies, Drugs And Alcohol "Bizarre And Untrue"". The Inquirer. 27 September 1992. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  22. ^ Isaak, Sharon (30 October 1992). "Tales of Ted Kennedy". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  23. ^ Weiner, Robert G. (2008). Marvel Graphic Novels and Related Publications: An Annotated Guide to Comics, Prose Novels, Children's Books, Articles, Criticism and Reference Works, 1965-2005. McFarland. pp. 228, 385. ISBN 97807864-25006. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  24. ^ Shafer, Jack (12 June 2003). "The fabulous fabulists". Slate. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  25. ^ Carduff, Christopher (3 November 1992). "Fish-eating, whiskey, death & rebirth". New Criterion. Archived from the original on 6 March 2001. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  26. ^ a b O'Rourke, Meghan (29 July 2003). "Literary license". Slate. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  27. ^ "Unethical writers love the power of creative non-fiction -". 13 January 2006. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2013.