Thursday, September 27, 2012

From Character Development to Composite Likeness

When we last looked at character development, we discussed the soul wounds that our protagonist--young Isaac Carter--had experienced up till his fourteenth year of age. The succession of losses in his life most likely left him with fears of abandonment and of financial hardship, taking the form of a mask of self-reliance. All of this sounds so academic and detached.

Now is the time to determine how these theoretical fears and compensation affected the behavior, thoughts and attitudes of Isaac as he matured.

Gaining insights by looking backward
The first step to filling in gaps in descriptive character detail, such as answering the question: What did the fourteen year old Isaac look like? is to examine what you have and work backward.

STEP ONE: While we have no personal artifacts to guide us, we must first look at what we DO have. Below is a list I compiled of all of Isaac Carter's documentation to date:

  1. 1850 U.S. Census (9, living with parents & family)
  2. 1860 U.S. Census (19, apprenticed to William Temple)
  3. 1864 USCT Military Service Record
  4. 1867 County Marriage Record
  5. 1870 U.S. Census (29, married, farm laborer, 1 child)
  6. 1880 U.S. Census (39, married, field hand, 5 children)
  7. Civil War Pension File
  8. 1900 U.S. Census (59, married, pensioner, 8 children)
  9. 1910 U.S. Census (70, married, house painter, 1 child)
  10. 1918 Death Certificate

Of all these documents, the only ones which offer a physical description are the military service record (left) and the pension file.

This gives us the description of Isaac at ages 24, and then again at 48.

As I began to imagine a fourteen year old boy, I remembered our son at that age. He was very slight for his age due to the effects Chron's Disease. At his annual physical exam, the family physician would plot his height and weight on a growth chart.

With this in mind, I found the form needed at the CDC.

By plotting the height for Isaac at age 24 on this chart, I followed the corresponding growth curve downward to align with the vertical axis at 14 years. I concluded that Isaac would have been approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall, which is about the same height our son was at that age.

Next, I scanned photos for our son, my husband, my father-in-law and my father-in-law's uncle to see if I could morph them together to get an idea of what young Issac may have looked like. Below is the composite formed at MorphThing.

Now I have a more vivid image, which actually resembles our son with the lips and jawline of my husband's oldest brother. Heredity is an interesting thing! 

The next step will be to formulate a composite personality based on what I know of the past three generations of Carter males, and what I have heard through oral tradition about the previous two generations of Carters.

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