Thursday, September 6, 2012

Who are the Characters in YOUR Family History?

Ancestors as Characters
Have you ever thought of your ancestors in terms of Characters in your family history? I have to admit that when I first started out on this journey to write a family history memoir, I first had to narrow down which story I wanted to tell, and once I decided that, I had to begin thinking of our ancestors in terms of characters within the book. After all, when you pick up a book, what is it that grabs your attention and entices you to continue reading? For me it's getting to meet the protagonist within the first couple pages and witness his/her reactions to whatever it is going on in the midst of the action.

Okay. So, we've established that our protagonist is going to be Isaac Carter.
Actually, our protagonist will change over time as we move from generation to generation. But at the onset, our principle player will be young Isaac (14).

Now, who else is in this story? The next set of people I looked at were his siblings who were also apprenticed. They would be:

  • Nancy Matilda Carter (10)
  • Annanias Carter (8)
  • Zach Carter (5). (He is referred to sometimes as Zacchaeus and at other times as Zachariah, hence the nickname, Zach.)
From there I began to think of who else would appear in the first scene. William Temple, their master, would be there. And depending on where I started the first scene, perhaps the boatman, Stephen Priestly, would be present. 

Once they arrived in New Bern, there would be those at the friend's home or rooming house where they lodged. 

At the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, there would be the Clerk of Court (J.G. Stanly) and the Judge (Justice of the Peace, William Blackledge). And also would be the other persons appearing in court that day.

There would be mention of the children's family: Kelsor and Rhoda Braddock, their grandparents; and, their older siblings...and what about their deceased parents?

So, just from this initial bit of brainstorming, I've come up with the following cast of ancestral characters:
  1. Isaac Carter (14), protagonist
  2. Nancy Carter (10), sister
  3. Annanias Carter (8), brother
  4. Zach Carter (5), brother
  5. William Temple, master
  6. Stephen Priestly, boatman
  7. People at the lodging in Newbern
  8. Samuel W. Chadwick, Sheriff
  9. Judge William Blackledge, Justice of the Peace
  10. J. G. Stanly, Clerk of Court
  11. courtroom spectators
  12. Kelsor and Rhoda Braddock, grandparents
  13. Comfort Carter (21), sister
  14. William Carter (19), brother
  15. Mary Ann Carter (15), sister
  16. Isaac Carter, father (deceased)
  17. Rhoda (Braddock) Carter, mother (deceased)
  18. people in the Temple household
From here I must answer three question about each character:
What is his/her core need?
What is his/her greatest fear?
What is the character's inward and outward personae?

It might take some time before I complete the answers to these questions for the main characters in the book, but join me here next time when I share with you the answers to these questions for our protagonist, young Isaac Carter, and take a look at the next step in Writing the Family History Memoir.

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