Monday, November 11, 2013

Mirror Characters

Mirror characters aren't a concept I've read about before, but I wouldn't be surprised if this idea is out there somewhere else.

This is a thought I've been tossing around for some time, so I Googled it the other day.  Because that's what teens in the 21st century do.

According to WikiAnswers, a Mirror Character is,
"A character through which a narrative is told. You see through the eyes of the mirror character, perceiving the world in the story like they do."
 They're talking about the POV, or point of view, character.  That's not what I'm talking about.

Let's use an example, because authors love examples, right?  We'll use the the movies and books Lord of the Rings.  In this book, you have two characters on a similar path,  Frodo Baggins, and Smeagol.

Both of these characters are hobbit like, both find the ring.  The ring starts working on Smeagol (a.k.a. Gollum) right away.  He murders his friend withing hours of discovering the ring.  It turns him into a poor, pitiful, half-human creature.

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Frodo, on the other hand, didn't make that initial choice of greed, instead it is a war within him for the entire series.  This leads to some really wonderful things, as far as Frodo's internal battle.  On one hand, the power of the ring is very alluring to the young hobbit.  On the other hand, look what that power did to someone very similar to him.  This fight is the main internal battle of the series, and having Gollum around just capitalizes on that.  It allows Frodo to show his fear of becoming a monster, turned by the ring.  He is frequently very kind to Smeagol, always hoping for a chance to redeem him.  Because if Smeagol can be redeemed, than so can Frodo.

Three other brief examples are Ender and Peter in Ender's Game, Eragon and Murtagh in Eragon, and Patrick Jane and Red John in The Mentalist, (both are sociopaths.)

Basically, mirror characters are two sides of the same coin.  We see them everywhere in fiction.  Mirror characters have something in common: a shared experience that shaped them differently, a common goal that they go after using opposite means, or a personality trait in common that one embraces and one squashes down.

These can be some of the most powerful characters, because they are both so real and so human.  You can't love one without having your heart strings pulled on by the other.  These characters conflict your reader.  And a conflicted reader is one who will burn the midnight oil to get to the end of the conflict.

Thanks for reading!  What do you think about Mirror Characters?  Can you think of other literary examples of them?  Do you have them in your writing, or have you never thought about it before?


13 comments:

  1. Interesting, Sarah! I'd never heard of mirror characters, but I think I get it now. Thanks for the helpful post!

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    1. Yes! They are a perfect example of mirror characters. They're both really intelligent and Conservative, but Moriarty used his knowledge to further crime while Sherlock uses it to stop crime. In the end though, they're both really sad characters that not many people understand.
      ~Sarah

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  3. That's a really fascinating concept. I'm going to have to think about it more....

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    1. I've really liked the idea recently, too! Glad you found it thought provoking.

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  4. I like your blog so far! The mirror concept is intriguing.
    Peter and Captain Hook might be an example. Both have the worst sides of adult and childishness in them (the darkness of Hook and the cockiness of Pan), which is why they make the perfect opposites.
    But then, I'm on a LONG post series about Peter Pan on my blog... so I've been noticing a lot of interesting things about the different versions of the story.

    http://emilynwriter4christ.blogspot.com/

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    1. Glad you like your blog. I guess I can see your point with Peter Pan and Hook, but I think that's a little different, as they don't both have the SAME flaw. They're both extremes, though.
      Thanks for reading!

      ~Sarah

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  5. I've just stumbled upon your blog, but already I feel slightly enlightened upon reading this.. I've used mirror characters in my stories before, but never understood them in this way.. Thanks for posting this, very informative, and great blogging :)

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    1. So glad you found it helpful! What are fellow writers for if not to add our own bits of insight to the mix. :) Thanks for commenting! Hope you come back.
      ~Sarah

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  6. Really nice post. I've never thought of this, but I do indeed have some mirror characters. Thank you. ^ ^

    Stori Tori's Blog

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  7. It made me think of Merlin and Morganna from BBC Merlin. Sure, Morganna was practically a princess and Merlin was just a servant, but they both had magic and struggled to help themselves an others accept that and figure out who they were...I'm horrible at explaining, but hopefully I made a bit of sense

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