Great Character #3: Roger “Verbal” Kint

Just in case one of you guys haven’t seen the movie The Usual Suspects, I feel obliged to show you this:

Spoiler Warning!

With that out of the way, let’s get to the point of this post.  Roger “Verbal” Kint played by Kevin Spacy.  For all of you who don’t know or need a refreshed, Verbal is the only witness to an insane crime spree put on by these men:

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

See Verbal there on the right?  Look harmless enough, a crippled man with frail health and an unwilling body.  Against all odds, he was the only survivor to a massacre on a freight cruiser while being granted immunity by the DA.

He’s brought into an interrogation room by this man:

Agent Dave Kujan

Agent Dave Kujan

To answer one very important question:

Who is Keyser Soze?

If only you knew….

As the movie goes on, Verbal tells the unlikely story about how he and the rest of the crew met in jail for a heist that neither of them seemed to have committed and from there a dubious partnership was born.

They were dragged into a scheme with the most infamous criminal in the world, Keyser Soze.  A man who was told to have killed his wife and children himself to prove a point to another group of gangsters.  He’s described as the criminal boogeyman, a story told to keep little hoodlum children in line at night.

The story goes from unlikely to random as Verbal spins a wonderful tale (and a very entertaining movie).  You don’t realize how amazing a character is until the end of the movie.

It turns out, Verbal made up his entire statement on the fly using this bulletin board!

Bulletin Board

Sometimes you have to just sit back, and take it all in….

Eventualy Kujan is over and done with Spacey’s character and the man limps out of the office and back out into the world.  A frustrated Kujan looks over at the board and, lo and behold, realizes that everything Kint had just told him was a complete fabrication based on the information on that bulletin board and that Kint never existed.

He was in fact Keyser Soze!

Can you believe that!  That’s amazing.  Here’s a seemingly helpless and harmless man, who just played the greatest trick the devil ever pulled and then walked right out of the lions den unscathed.

Talk about a plot twist!  That’s something all of us could do with infusing into our writing.  You get us comfortable with a character, scratch that, sympathetic and rooting for the character who’s being borderline brutalized by a meat head FBI agent for almost two hours, and then you find out that he, himself, is the one everyone’s looking for!

Mind, blown!

I know how it goes now, trust me, I grappled with the plot thing twist myself.  They’re not easy to do, especially today when every movie/book/ whatever incorporates a twist, good and bad, but I’m telling you this is an excellent twist that was only sold because Verbal Kint was such a greatly thought out character, despite not being real.

On the other hand, the way they subtly developed Keyser Soze, Kint’s real identity, into the devil incarnate builds him up so much only to be slapped with the fact that the mild mannered little mastermind was in fact him makes it a double punch to the gut.

It keeps you guessing on both angles and slaps you in the face twice.  That’s how you do a plot twist!

So I suggest we all (myself included) study The Usual Suspects and character every so often, because even though it’s portrayed in a different medium a great story is a great story.

So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I’m crazy?  Whatever your thoughts are leave them in the comments below.


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Featured Image and all other images courtesy of Bad Hat Harry and Blue Parrot Productions

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