Writing Hacks: Building Characters with Other Characters

Posted on May 16, 2017

Have you ever had that feeling when reading a book where you are introduced to a character and you feel like you’ve known the character for a long time? Their personality seems familiar. Their actions are quite predictable. You’ve even already predicted their fate. In fact, they don’t feel like just one person. You feel like you’re dealing with two characters. You feel like you’ve read about them before, but you’re sure that this is the first time you’ve encountered them in this particular story.

building characters

Well, you may have encountered a composite character.

A composite character is a character that is the amalgamation of one or more characters, both fictional and nonfictional. Simply take aspects from already-existing personas, give the character a new name (or pick from the characters you used), and voila! You have a (not really) brand-new character.

Composite characters are a great tool for writers who feel stuck. When you do composite characters, you simply have to take aspects of already-existing personas.

Composites are also a great editing tool. After a story is completed, some characters may seem like clutter. The best way to solve this is by taking all those side characters and making a composite out of them.

Moreover, composite characters are a great tool for those who like adapting real life into fiction. You can use aspects of different people and place them into one or several characters. Legally, a person you may have based a character off cannot sue you if they wish to, simply because they have no proof and you are protected by artistic license. Just be careful not to let things get out of hand, legal-wise.

Composites are also used in nonfiction. When used here, it is often to protect identities of real people and to avoid legal trouble. If you plan to use composite characters in memoirs, make sure to mention that you took some artistic liberties in the characters in the memoir. Otherwise, this could lead to legal trouble or questions regarding your research methods and writing integrity.

There are many composite characters whom you do not notice, simply because you don’t know what they’re called. In comics, for example, composite characters are popular. Aspects of two or more superheroes are often combined to make a new superhero who lives in a parallel universe.

Another popular use of composite characters is in Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe. Many of the characters in the cartoon show are the names of gemstones and precious rocks. When the characters combine, they take on the characteristics of the gemstones/rocks they are made of.

Steven Universe Wiki at http://steven-universe.wikia.com/wiki/Steven_Universe_Wiki

While composite characters can be very interesting, it’s important not to rely on them too much. The best characters will always be the ones you created yourself because no one else knows your story better than you do.


Disclaimer: Images are not ours. Credit to the owner.

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