Names of characters that didn't exist, or were hidden in plain sight
November 14, 2014 12:33 AM   Subscribe

I don't really know how to phrase the question, but I'm trying to remember or find examples of names of characters who were either complete fabrications or were presented under the guise of another identity all along (in fiction). Also does this trope have a name?

For example, and I hope this isn't too spoilery, but they are old examples: Keyser Soze, Rollo Tomassi, and Tyler Durden.
posted by man down under to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Harry Angel / Johnny Favorite in Angel Heart.
Edward "Teddy" Daniels / Andrew Laeddis in Shutter Island.
posted by misteraitch at 1:04 AM on November 14, 2014


Maybe the spoiler part of this question could be in the "more inside" field?
posted by limeonaire at 1:15 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Bates in Psycho.
posted by the webmistress at 1:19 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


In written fiction specifically? All of your examples are from movies. Anyhoo, Television Tropes has various examples that could be mined from Unreliable Narrator, Imaginary Friend, The Reveal, and Hallucinations. Some that come to mind are John Nash's hallucinations in A Beautiful Mind, Tom Riddle is Voldemort, "Mad Eye" Moody is Barty Crouch, Sophie in Sophie's World is actually a fictional character, Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, the clones in Moon..
posted by xyzzy at 2:07 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


We had a thread on Asimov's Foundation yesterday, so The Mule.
posted by Leon at 2:19 AM on November 14, 2014


[Spoilers moved to "more inside".]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 3:06 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Clare Quilty
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:22 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dr. John in Charlotte Bronte's Villette is an interesting twist, as the narrator knows perfectly well who he is, but doesn't bother to tell the reader for quite some time.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:04 AM on November 14, 2014


What about the "dead body" in the cell in the first Saw movie?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:07 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Low key" lyesmith in American Gods is the Norse Loki "liesmith".
posted by bfranklin at 4:17 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think most of these well meaning answers are a bit off track. You aren't looking for secret identities, but rather characters who are created out of whole cloth within the fiction. You are looking for Canadian Girlfriends in fiction, right?
posted by Rock Steady at 4:37 AM on November 14, 2014


In one of the Game of Thrones books, Arstan Whitebeard was Barristan Selmy all along.
posted by methroach at 5:44 AM on November 14, 2014


The Wizard of Oz.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:48 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


In "North by Northwest", George Kaplan doesn't exist.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:19 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Fallon" in The Prestige.
posted by doctornecessiter at 6:28 AM on November 14, 2014


TvTropes: "Invented Individual"
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:50 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Surely Funke
posted by empath at 7:04 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Emmanuel Goldstein might not have existed in the world of 1984.
posted by empath at 7:06 AM on November 14, 2014


Possibly not quite on target for what you are looking for, but the more books by Diana Wynne Jones you read, the more you realize that the plots of most of them involve figuring out who people really are. They often have false faces, deceptive appearances, don't know who they are themselves, or are pretending to be someone else. Most of the characters in Hexwood were completely oblivious as to their true identities.
posted by instead of three wishes at 7:07 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


George Glass from The Brady Bunch.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:08 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride.
posted by empath at 7:14 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Along the lines of Harry Angel is Quaid/Hauser in Total Recall. Much of PKD's work (and works derived from it) play around with questions of identity; see also, aptly enough, Impostor.
posted by adamrice at 7:15 AM on November 14, 2014


Empathy by Sara Schulman.
posted by expialidocious at 7:16 AM on November 14, 2014


Natasha in Daniel Handler's The Basic Eight.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:20 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Captain Tuttle (who I didn't know until reading that was based on another example)
posted by Devoidoid at 7:45 AM on November 14, 2014


Ha ha The Wizard of Oz
posted by glasseyes at 7:59 AM on November 14, 2014


The Importance of Being Earnest is the most obvious early example I can think of.
posted by misha at 8:14 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


The prodigal roommate, Charles - A Beautiful Mind
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:39 AM on November 14, 2014


I really wanted Donald Kaufman to win the Oscar for writing Adaptation.
posted by Devoidoid at 9:17 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's a possible book-but-not-movie example: Having recently reread The Shining (also discussed of late here on the Blue), I can point out that in the book, Tony, Danny's "imaginary friend" / manifestation of psychic power -- who always appears "far away" -- turns out to be the older Daniel Anthony Torrance (the middle name is a legacy of Jack's own alcoholic and abusive father). If memory serves me correctly, no such link is make in the film, as much of hte back story required for the name to have any significance isn't included.
posted by Gelatin at 9:26 AM on November 14, 2014


This other example probably falls under the "secret identity" trope, but in one of my favorite books, The Count of Monte Cristo, not only does the protagonist assume the identity of the titular Count to facilitate his revenge, but he also fabricates a number of other alternate identities -- a bank clerk, an eccentric English lord, an Italian priest -- some of whom are said to know and even dislike each other.
posted by Gelatin at 9:30 AM on November 14, 2014


xyzzy, with the exception of Keyser, all of those movies were adaptations of novels.
posted by blueshammer at 9:35 AM on November 14, 2014


Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man was somewhere between not existing and hidden in plain sight. Explanation (and spoiler) in the linked page.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:14 PM on November 14, 2014


Lieutenant Kijé
posted by Deodatus at 3:18 PM on November 14, 2014


John Harmon/Rokesmith in Our Mutual Friend.
Harvey in Harvey.

There must be an example in Catch-22.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:35 PM on November 14, 2014


My favorite one is G. Gavin Gunhold, a pseudonym that YA book author Gordon Korman used over and over again in different ways in his books since the 80's.

He's been a poet, the world's best and busiest student, a building or a building owner or two...I don't even know all the references, but G. Gavin is delightful.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:49 PM on November 14, 2014


Alan Smithee is an interesting one.
Alan Smithee (also Allen Smithee) was an official pseudonym used by film directors who wish to disown a project, coined in 1968. Until its use was formally discontinued in 2000, it was the sole pseudonym used by members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) when a director, dissatisfied with the final product, proved to the satisfaction of a guild panel that he or she had not been able to exercise creative control over a film. The director was also required by guild rules not to discuss the circumstances leading to the move or even to acknowledge being the actual director.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:25 PM on November 14, 2014


Lots of great answers I'm unfamiliar with, so I'll have to work my way through many of those.

It doesn't have to be a Canadian Girlfriend - Tyler Durden would fall more into the secret identity category - but I appreciated the onion link all the same.

This list ended up being longer and cooler than I imagined, so thanks all.
posted by man down under at 1:34 AM on November 15, 2014


« Older Finding someone with VERY limited information?   |   Early risers, how do you motivate yourselves to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.