Writing Choices – Fight Club and Characters with Multiple Personalities

The first rule of this discussion is don’t complain about spoilers.  The second rule of this discussion is don’t explain about spoilers.

Seriously, you’ve had 18 years to watch this movie.  If a movie has existed the exact amount of time it takes to bring a baby to adulthood then please, spare me your spoiler complaints.

Fight Club.  It’s a great film that has gotten better with age if you ask me.  Generation X has sort of become a lost generation.  The Baby Boomers are apparently going to stick around forever and the Millenials are leap frogging over the X’ers because they’ve all had access to some pretty sweet technology since they were babies.

Us?  We’re stuck in the middle, and that was the sense of ennui that this film was trying to portray.

If you don’t want to read about the main spoiler, then look ok.  Last chance. OK.  Here it goes:

Ed Norton’s nameless character and his new friend, the one that comes into his life, turns it upside down, urges him to start a fight club and fill it with dangerous domestic terrorist anarchists…are the same person!

I know, right?  #mindblown

Sometimes it is possible for a character to be more than one person at the same time.  Usually, this happens when a character has a split personality.  There may be other times, for example:

  • A character assuming a false identity to spy on or trick people will require the audience to keep up with which characters in the film believe the character to be Person #1 and who think he is Person #2.
  • Maybe the character is possessed by a demon or some kind of magic is involved to put two souls into one body.

Multiple personalities seems to be where this issue comes up the most and from a writing standpoint, it is a bear.

Personally, I believe it’s easier done in movie form.  When you watch Fight Club, you are taken through a series of twists and turns as it is slowly revealed that Tyler (Brad Pitt) is more than just a smooth, fast talker but in fact, he has a lot of bad things planned and the naive Ed Norton figures things out way too late.

Then, it all comes down to the ultimate reveal when Ed realizes he was Tyler all along.  Immediately, the audience starts going through all the interactions that Ed and Tyler had together and those will need to be sewn up.  Video footage, for example, shows Ed yelling at no one where cut scenes show him yelling at his imaginary friend, Tyler.

I’ve tried to write characters with false identities – people who go to one place where the people think he is A and another place where people think he is B.  It’s exhausting.  I’m not sure I’m even a good enough writer to pull that trick off yet but hopefully one day.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT:  Discuss your favorite Fight Club moments, or talk about another movie or book where there was a character who was, for whatever reason, more than one person.  What challenges will a writer face while trying to pull this off?

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