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    Research Questions for Developing a Persona

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    Join date : 2011-05-30

    Research Questions for Developing a Persona

    Post  Admin on Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:00 pm

    Persona:= The fictional person you wish to have been, had you lived some time prior to 1600 A.D. Also referred to as your persona story, it involves your HFS name and the history/background you create.
    Many people want to develop a persona but are unsure where to begin. What information does one need to obtain to have a good persona story? Following are a series of questions collected from various sources designed to show what information most people consider needs to collect to develop a full fleshed-out persona. These questions are by no means all-inclusive, but hopefully will present at least a good starting point.

    If you want to grade yourself on how complete your persona story is, give yourself 2 points for each question you can answer, then consult the scoring charts at the end of the article.

    1. What is your persona’s name?
    2. What year was your persona born?
    3. What is your persona’s native country?
    4. What is your persona’s current country?
    5. What are the climates of your persona's native and current countries?
    6. What are the terrains of your persona's native and current countries?
    7. In what city/town/barn was your persona born?
    8. What city does your persona currently claim as "home"?
    9. What are/were your persona’s parents’ names?
    10. What are/were your persona’s parents’ occupation(s)?
    11. Does your persona have any siblings, and if so, are any still alive?
    12. Is your persona married?
    13. What are the marriage customs and typical age of marriage for your persona's culture/time-frame?
    14. What type of building does your persona currently live in?
    15. With whom does your persona live?
    16. Are there members of your persona's household that are not related to your persona (servants/ retainers, wards/ fosterlings, guests, etc.)?
    17. Were pets kept during your persona’s culture/time-frame? If so, what kind, if any, does your persona have?
    18. What is your persona’s occupation?
    19. How old is your persona?
    20. How long do people like your persona tend to live?
    21. What is your persona’s ethnicity?
    22. Who is your persona’s current employer?
    23. Would your persona have been literate in your chosen culture/time-frame?
    24. What level of education does your persona have?
    25. Where was your persona educated?
    26. What languages does your persona speak?
    27. What units of measure were used by your persona’s culture/time-frame?
    28. What type of money did people of your persona’s culture/time-frame use?
    29. What kind of legal system exists in your persona’s culture/time-frame, and who make the laws?
    30. What is the status of women among your persona’s culture/time-frame, and can they own property or conduct business?
    31. What major events have occurred during your persona’s lifetime? (Natural catastrophes, wars, revolutions, discoveries, etc.?)
    32. Does your persona fight? If so, where did your persona learn to fight?
    33 What type of armour and weapons were used by fighters in your persona’s culture/time-frame? And how were such obtained?
    34. List your persona’s skills and hobbies. For each, write down where your persona learned them.
    35. What "class" is your persona? (I.e., royalty, nobility, merchant, middle, artisan, slave, etc.)
    36. How widely has your persona traveled?
    37. In what capacity has your persona traveled? (I.e., military, sailor, rich person’s hobby, etc.)
    38. Who is your persona’s current monarch?
    39. Who is the current Pope during your persona time?
    40. What religion is your persona?
    41. What kind of religious duties would be required of your persona?
    42. How did people of your persona’s culture/time-frame deal with trade?
    43. With respect to international relations, does your persona favor colonization, isolationism, conquest/conversion, open trade, etc.?
    44. How does your persona personally obtain goods (food, drink, clothes, etc.)?
    45. How did people of your persona’s culture/time-frame tell time?
    46. How did people of your persona’s culture/time-frame keep track of days?
    47. What type of clothes does your persona normally wear?
    48. What type of clothes does your persona wear for special occasions?
    49. Are there any (sumptuary) laws restricting what your persona can wear?
    50. What does your persona eat in a normal day?
    51. How is food prepared and preserved in your persona’s culture/time-frame?
    52. What spices were available to your persona and how expensive were they?
    53. What were the eating habits of people of your persona’s culture/time-frame?
    54. What are the cleaning/bathing habits of your persona’s culture/time-frame?
    55. What types of wildlife live in your persona's area?
    56. Name your persona’s favorite musicians/artists/dances.
    57. What political figure/party/movement does your persona support?
    58. Who is the most significant thinker of your persona’s time?
    59. What does your persona consider to be the greatest social problem their country?
    60. What is most likely to cause your persona’s death?
    61. What type of medical aid is available in your persona’s culture/time-frame, and does your persona have access to it?
    62. List at least three of your persona’s goals in life. (Learn to write, become apprenticed to a craftsman, visit the "big city", take over the family business, go to the Holy Land, usurp the crown, etc.)
    63. What does your persona know of history/science/medicine/geography?
    64. What’s the most striking scientific achievement of which your persona is aware?
    65. Does your persona consider the Earth to be flat, round, or hollow?
    66. Does your persona believe that the Earth revolves around the Sun, or vice-versa?
    67. What does your persona consider to be the causes of criminal behavior?
    68. What does your persona consider to be the true measure of a man?
    69. Who has most influenced your persona’s thoughts on these questions?
    70. Did your persona’s culture/time-frame have heraldry?
    SCORING
    2 - 20 points § You have an introductory persona story.
    22 - 40 points § You have a basic persona story.
    42 - 60 points § You have a solid persona story.
    62 - 80 points § You have an advanced persona story.
    82 - 100 points § You have a very advanced persona story.
    102 - 120 points § You have an extremely advanced persona story.
    122 - 140 points § You have a persona story with great insights into the medieval mindset.

    It can be very hard to remember and catalogue information that's useful to persona development. This is a list of questions that, when answered, serve to build up a picture of a persona life. Whenever I find a factoid that helps answer a question, I note it down in my own copy of this document, which thus builds a picture of my persona.
    This is by no means a complete list of useful questions. But it's a start. Feel free to download it and use it.
    Concerning a Name
    The best source to use when trying to find a first name is a book written about names that gives dates for the names. (This can include books written in foreign languages; all that is required is to find the name, followed by a date. If in doubt, copy the page and talk with your kingdom’s heralds. They can assist in verifying the reliability of the information for you.)
    History books are a good source for information on historical figures…however note that many authors use modernized or Anglicized forms of the names. An example would be the name, King Charles of Spain. Charles is the English form of the Spanish name Carlos. Carlos is the name that he actually used. Historians tend to prefer to use conventional modern spellings so that readers will be able to identify the name more easily. Thus, when using a history book, check any prefaces or Author's notes/introductions to see if the author discusses how they treated names in the book.
    Books on period church records, parish rolls, consensus lists, or tax rolls are excellent sources.
    No matter what culture or time period, there is a basic make-up to names. Each name is composed of a minimum of a first name (also referred to as a given name) and a last name (sometimes referred to as a byname or a surname). Some names can have more parts (middle names), but all require at least these two parts. You will need to select at least a first name fairly soon so that other SCA members know what to call you. The rest of the name can wait, if needed, until you've done more research/determination of your persona.
    People were given last names to distinguish them from other people in the area with the same first name. These last names are generally known as either bynames or surnames.
    Bynames were last names given to an individual, not a family, which were not passed from generation to generation. They were given by convenience and circumstance, not by birth. They were designators that were usually straightforward, chosen by the neighbors/family for the individual, not selected by the person themselves.
    Surnames were last names that a family took, and passed on to their offspring, generation after generation. Many surnames originated as bynames that the family kept. Surnames started in the 1300's in Western Europe and were in general use throughout most of Europe by about 1500.
    Last names (whether a byname or a surname) fall into four basic types: relationship, occupational, locative and epithet.
    Relationship names are last names that denote being connected to a family. Examples of such names are: Larsson (Norse for Lar's son); mac Domhnaill (Scots for Domnall's son); Haraldsdottir (Norse for Harald's daughter); Ivanovna (Russian for Ivan's daughter) or Mastroguilio (Italian for Guilio's servant).
    Occupational names are last names derived from an occupation. Examples of such names are: Chapman (English for merchant); Cooper (English for a maker of barrels); Shumacher (German for shoemaker); Giardino (Italian for gardener).
    Locative names are last names that denote a particular place or general area (usually based on the person's place of origin). Examples of such names are: Ursula of York (English for "from the town of York"); al-Maghrebi (Arabic for "North African"); von Bayern (German for "Bavarian" or "of Bavaria"); "du Nord" (French for "from the north") or della Torre (Italian for "from the tower").
    Epithets are not really true names but phrases or terms which describe a characteristic of the person. (Although over time some epithets did develop into surnames.) Epithets can represent a physical characteristic, a character trait or even an event in a person's life. Examples of such are: Barbarossa (German for "redbeard"); Heppni (Norse for "prosperous, lucky"); Knockwalledowne (English for someone who has knocked a wall down).
    Last names that are relationship, occupational or locative in nature are fairly easy to locate. If you find a period example of a male name, you can use it as the basis for a patronymic (relationship-type last name based on using your father's first name). If you locate a culture's name for a particular occupation, it can (usually) be used as an occupational last name. If you determine a place that existed in period, you can be "from" or "of" that place. Be aware that you may have to make some minor grammatical changes to the name of the person, occupation or place when forming the last name, to be consistent with how a particular language/culture forms names. But for the most part, these last names are easy to find.
    Epithets seem to be a very easy concept. After all, an epithet is merely a descriptive phrase added on after a first name. But they can be difficult to work with correctly. This is due to the fact that not every descriptive phrase is likely to have been used in period as a descriptive phrase. When looking for, or deciding on an epithet, remember that epithets were not chosen by the individual but by the community. And the epithet was chosen for convenience, not for dramatic effect. You would likely find in a town two people named John the Tall and John the Short rather than John Wolfkiller and John Bloodyaxe. Also, as a rule, metaphors generally weren't used to describe people. To a medieval person, a last name like Drakenhand would not mean "He strikes with a dragon's hand." it would instead means "His hand looks like a dragon's claw." A wise person would have been called Thomas le Wyse not Thomas Quickmind.
    There are many factors to take into account when doing something as simple as selecting your SCA name. But of all things the most important thing to remember is that you have help available. Each SCA group has a herald's office with a staff waiting to help. Part of what they do is to guide people in selecting names, by providing information from books and lists of names compiled from SCA approved sources.

    Helpful Hints
    Be authentic/historically accurate in selecting your name. It makes the SCA experience more fun in the long run because it allows you to "get into" your persona better.
    Do not name yourself after an actual historical personage, a legendary personage, a literary character, copyrighted character or favorite role-playing character. These names are problematic. Some are protected and will not be registered; others cannot be proven to be historically correct and cannot be registered. Avoid trying to be an elf, satyr, vampire or other fantasy character. You may not take any title of nobility, or take a name that denotes a rank (i.e. Earl).
    You should not use a name that would confuse you with someone already in the Society. For example, if there is already a person in the Society who has registered the name William the Baker, you should not go by the name William the Baker. The heralds have a list of names already registered, called the Armorial, if you have questions whether about a name is already registered..
    Names must include at least one given name and a last name (byname, surname or epithet. (i.e. John Longfellow or James the Tall)
    Keep the size of your name in perspective. As a guideline a name should probably not exceed 52 characters, including spaces.
    A name should fit your persona. A Chinese courtier named Sven Larsson just wouldn't work.
    When looking for a specific name, don't get caught up on details of the meaning of a name. Most medieval names weren't given because of their meaning.
    Know that in period, the spelling of names did vary, but not randomly. Names were spelled to reproduce their pronunciation, but the sound assigned to each letter also varied from one language to another. To correctly determine period spelling variations, you have to understand how the letters correspond to sounds. Examples are: In medieval German, the letters "V" and "F" were pronounced the same. So the medieval German name Friedrich was also spelled Vriedrich.
    Naming/spelling/pronunciation "rules" are not universal. A common mistake is assuming that modern English pronunciation and spelling rules can be applied to medieval names. Modern English pronounces "y" and "i" the same in many words, but in Middle English and Old Welsh, they represent different sounds.
    Note that the Bible is not the best source for period names. While some names such as Adam, John, Joseph and Mary were definitely used, most biblical names did not come into vogue until very late or post period.
    Be aware that some first names in use today, were not always in use. Some names that are used as first names today were used only as last names in period. Others modern first names are misinterpretations of period records. Yet other names were used in period only to refer to legendary people, not real people. Still other names sound period but are modern inventions. Other names, such as plant names, flower names and gem names did not come into fashion until the 19th or 20th century. Just a few of the names problematical names are to avoid include: Amber, Bethany, Branna, Brenda, Bruce, Corwin, Corwyn, Daisy, Eilonwy, Fiona, Ginger, Heather, Iris, Ivy, Jasmine, Korwin, Korwyn, Liam, Megan, Pearl, Ruby and Sapphire.
    Consider the possibilities of having your persona be from a more unusual culture. In the SCA there are a large number of Norse/Viking, Scots, Irish and Welsh personas. These are followed closely by French, Italian and German personas. English, while once fairly popular, appears to no longer be one of the leading cultures that gentles select for their persona. While these cultures make up a large majority of the personas in the SCA, they by no means cover all the possibilities. Many areas/countries that existed in period are no longer in existence. Others are just often overlooked by people developing their personas. Consider being from Aragon, Asturia, Brittany, Burgundy, Naples, Navarre, Northumbria, Poland, Portugal, Provence, Russia, Savoy, or Switzerland. Or select a time period for a country that is rarely explored, such as late-period Icelandic/Norwegian, or early-period Russian. Investigate the cultures of people who were Arab, Bavarian, Belgian, Bulgarian, Byzantine, Carolingian, Danish, Dutch, Flemish, Frankish, Kentish, Lombardian, Merovingian, Moorish, Neustrian, Ottoman, Persian, Romanian, Skioldung, Slavic, Swabian, Thuringian, Transylvanian, Visigoth or Yngling. Explore the possibilities.

    Final Thoughts
    A persona does not have to be stationary. It can change and grow with you. Don’t be afraid to change your name and/or culture and/or time period and/or persona story (even after you’ve had it for a while). This can be a small change or changing it totally. Many folks begin in the SCA with a particular focus or goal and as time passes that focus changes. This can result from discovering new interests that one gets involved in, finding out the original area of interest just “isn’t you” or wanting to mesh more closely with the personas of other folks you’ve become connected with. Do not let yourself be limited…feel free to change.


      Current date/time is Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:10 am