Thursday, 16 January 2014

Finding Characters

'How to' books for aspiring writers often deal with the question of devising and developing characters. Some recommend cutting photographs of people out of magazines to use as starting points.

As a writer of historical fiction, I'm always on the look out for unusual occupations carried on by women. Not every woman in the past was a domestic servant or a governess or a Regency Miss.

Miss Dale, in the previous post, was a photographer's assistant in 1911. What did that entail? Did she stage the settings for studio portraits? Did she help to develop and print the photographs? Did she acquire some knowledge of chemistry as a result?

Was she a photographer herself? Did she go out on her bicycle at weekends, photographing local landmarks and beauty spots? What story could be told abut her?

A recent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery included a portrait of Esther Inglis, a calligrapher and illustrator, born in 1571. Esther's parents were French Huguenot refugees.

She lived in Scotland and England and seems to have had contact with many prominent English and Scots people of the time, including the Earl of Essex and Robert Cecil.  Is there a story of plots and conspiracies to be found there?

Characters can be found everywhere, if one looks for them.

No comments:

Post a Comment