I worked on a story this weekend that had a split character in it. I read an article a few weeks ago about this kind of character, and I think it’s been on my mind ever since. There’s probably a technical name for this, but I can’t remember where I saw the article, and I can’t remember what they called the type of character in the article, which makes it awfully hard to look up.
Anyway, split characters are like the two mains in Fight Club.
In the article, they talked about movies where the movies goes along like there are two characters, but what you’re seeing is so tightly inside one character’s point of view, that you don’t realize that two characters are really the same person. An imaginary friend. A dead twin. Then they explained why this kind of thing usually pisses them off. Well, I get it. Twist endings are hard to pull off right.
The work for hire book I finished recently was about cancer, and while doing research, I found out some things that were just utterly fascinating, and I really just wanted to write a story where I had a plot that supported me dropping in these facts. Yes, this was not a story inspired by plot or character, but by trivia.
I ended up using the split character in the story to represent two sides of a character’s personality, despair and hope. I still don’t have the balance right–hope is a nobody, at this point–but it was interesting to try to write, and in the end, the character never figures it out: the fact that one half of her personality has been excised is used as a healing technique (and yet this is a horror story).
I end up thinking about this kind of thing a lot when I’m writing some stories (but not at all on most). How are the characters related on a thematic level? Is the smartmouthed sidekick really just the personification of the hero’s id? Is the villain what the hero fears becoming? That kind of thing. The more mythic the story, the more I think about this kind of thing, or maybe it’s the other way around.
If you happen to know that article, drop me a line. And if you’ve written a story like this, let me know how it came out.