Odd characters: creating non-realistic persons

Non-realistic characters come in four types:

  1. The symbolic character
  2. the non-human character
  3. the fantasy character
  4. the mythic character
The symbolic character

The symbolic character is one-dimensional and meant to be that way. They bring a body to one specific quality, love for example. Though one-dimensional, they do not need to be bland or uninteresting. Any number of related qualities can be used.

Examples of symbolic characters:
  • The joker (batman): evil and chaos
  • Stepford wives: the perfect wife
  • Superman: justice
The non-human character

Sometimes these are simply people inside a non-human body, but with every bit of self-awareness, intelligence and emotion has a human person. Normally, a character is strengthened by emphasizing his human traits. This does not work for non-human characters. Reminding the audience that they aren’t (human) people, distances them. The non-human character has clear traits that do not change. They are so rare to change that this actually makes them less human. For example, Lassie is more dependably consistently loyal than any realistic person ever would be. Non-human characters often derive their identity by associated personalities.

Examples of non-human characters:
  • Bambi
  • E.T.
  • Lassie
  • Black beauty
The fantasy characters

Fantasy characters have a certain romance to them in their fantasy world. They can be dark but are never pure evil. They may be dangerous but not horrifying. They are usually defined by their exaggerated quality (e.g. the giant being a huge person). They can also be defined by their magical powers.

Examples of fantasy characters:
  • Gnomes
  • Vampires
  • Giants
  • Ghosts
The mythic character

The mythic character takes bit from the other three types and adds one magic ingredient: an understanding of the audience. When the reader finishes a mythical story, he adds a reflection process to the story. The story doesn’t let go of the reader. A mythical story hooks into real life because it has meaning in the reader’s own life. It allows the reader to better understand his own existence. Mythical characters are usually heroic and undergo character transformation as they make their journey to victory.

Examples of mythic characters:
  • Marlboro man
  • Indiana Jones