edward norton in “primal fear”
One of the things I like in fiction is characters who are not what they seem.
Like all things, this sort of thing can be done well, or badly, or somewhere in between. It can be fascinating and surprising, or cliche and predictable. It can get a reaction like “Of course! How did I not see that coming?” or “Omigosh! I had no idea!”, or it can produce yawns and “I don't buy that; total ass pull.” or “Yeah, he was obviously a double agent. Knew it from his first scene.”
This idea encompasses your big twist endings, of course, like in the Sixth Sense or Shutter Island and their character-centric twists - both really well done, and had people saying “Of course! All the clues were there the whole time!”
It requires playing a little game with the audience/readers, where you might use red herrings to obscure the real clues, or do a “fake debunk” to make people dismiss the real truth, while you sneak in the real hints to the truth.
There's also the people who present themselves a certain way, who look a certain way, but are very different on the inside, with their thoughts and their actions. The classic “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie uses this in spades, with the characters who all have secrets. One of the two big examples is Vera, who presents as a pretty, athletic, true blue type, but is something quite different when we learn the truth about her.
I guess you could call that the “layered” character. Even if they're not hiding some horrible secret, they are very different than what they show the world. And discovering the truth can be fascinating as a reader/viewer!
Another way this concept is thrilling is the “hidden depths” within a character. You can see this in Protagonists, Antagonists, and side characters alike. In fact, a Hero with an arc is probably going to NEED something like this going on. They have to struggle with the challenges in front of them and find new reserves of strength and determination and other qualities in order to make it through the story.
Even characters without much of an arc will probably show hidden depths (for good or bad) to make the story worth experiencing.
What are your favorite “big twist”, “layered”, or “hidden depths” characters stories?
Have a good one!
-Banes (secretly Banes)
Banes at 12:00AM, Nov. 14, 2019
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