This blog is a testament to my own historical, research, and reenactment interests, so you can imagine how it’s a pleasure to meet others with the same inclination. Moon Hides The Sun is a fellow SCAdian who is using the persona method to explore his interest in the interaction between Norse culture and the Native American cultures of the Atlantic coast of Canada(called “Skraelings” by the Norse).
In the overflow of his own history and persona work, he’s started a Facebook page called The Skraeling Saga where he documents some of his pre-Columbian Native American and Norse research as well as general persona development commentary. A component of that latter piece is a series of first person, in-persona interviews he’s beginning to hold.
I got to be the test subject, and you can view the video below:
The first Persona Interview with Hugo van Harlo
Posted by The Skraeling Saga on Sunday, July 30, 2017
Considerations for Interview Subjects
Moon sent out a short list of questions a few weeks earlier, but was onsite at the SCA event ready to go with a his smartphone and a tripod. So now, having seen the video of myself, I have a few takeaways and considerations in case you want to participate in an in-persona interview of your own.
- Do your research and get familiar with your subject matter. Being put on the spot for an interviews means you’re going to be forced to dig deep into your well of research, reading, and self-education. Can you spout off the basics of your chosen time and place like you really mean it?
- Have specific anecdotes and names to share. Being able to reference specifics relating to your chosen time and place is a good way to make the historical context come alive for your listeners. I hope I was able to do that in describing the livestock the historical Hugo would have raised on his lands and the tense risk they were at with the enemy Spaniards and radical Catholics being so close.
- Take notes of what you want to say and return to your main points. I didn’t do this very well. In fact, I rambled a lot. Ask your interviewer what the questions will be in advance, then jot down an outline of an answer, at least. Or, if you have a way with words and the time, feel free to write your entire response down as if it were the script to a play. If you find yourself rambling, ensure you return to your main points to close our your answer.
- Know your pronunciations – if you don’t, fake it. I did more faking it than I would have liked, but the majority of people will never know if you pronounce foreign terms in a confident way. Take note of what you were uncomfortable with and take the time to study the correct pronunciation for future occasions.
- Watch your hands and gestures. I flailed my arms around and slapped the table far too often. This is a presentation trick I was taught in my real world professional setting that may be helpful if you have the capability of it: record yourself and watch your mannerisms. It’ll keep you from making the same gesture over and over again, just like me.
Getting Started With Your Persona – the Five W’s
An eighteen minute interview, rambling though mine might have been, can seem like an eternity to talk for! Where to begin?
I have a 99 question persona checklist, but that is something to work towards over a long length of time – including for myself. Let’s start with the Five W’s: When, Where, Who, What, and Why. The nice thing about the Five W’s is that there’s also an opportunity to make your answers more specific and detailed, but starting out with a high-level answer gives you a specific reference point for your persona and (possibly) historic research.
- When and Where? I group these two together as they are so interrelated when it comes to defining your persona: time and place are key. Can you define a century or general time period? How can you make it more specific? Can you narrow down to part of a century or decade or identify a contemporary historical detail or event? Instead of “I’m a Norse Viking,” look at the history – “I’m a Norse Viking from the early 10th Century” gives you another layer of specificity. The same goes for location, all the way until you can narrow in on a specific year and location, which then lets you start expanding your research out again.
- What? Are you a member of the assumed SCA default – a member of the lower nobility or gentry (I am!)? What are you, what is your social status, and what do you do for a living? If you’re a merchant, where do you ply your trade? A mercenary? Where have you fought or been on campaign? A member of the gentry? What is your home and lands like?
- Who? Relationships are key – even for this fictional version of ourselves. What sort of people did your persona interact with? This could be generic social archetypes (e.g. the villagers or the farmers you bought your wool from), assumed fictional personages in relationship to your persona (e.g. a fictional spouse or feudal lord), or actual historical characters documented to your chosen When and where.
- Why? Now this is the secret sauce, and for most folks, they already have it answered before they pick out anything else. Why have you chosen this set of elements for your persona? What interests you about it, and – importantly – how may it interest other people, too? I’m of the opinion that, ultimately, personas should serve not only a research lens for our own, personal education, but also as a tool that can inspire and encourage others to learn more about history themselves. To do that, you have to answer the why.
Persona development is a game of ever-growing detail and depth, and the Five W’s can be a great tool to get started fleshing our your own persona.
So what about you? What are your Five W’s?