The Relatable Protagonist | A Writer of History

How does one make a pushed, downright formidable, feminine protagonist relatable to current day readers? Tessa Arlen is the writer of two sequence – the Girl Montfort thriller sequence and the Girl of WWII thriller sequence. She’s additionally written two standalone historic novels: IN ROYAL SERVICE TO THE QUEEN and her newest, A DRESS OF VIOLET TAFFETA which releases immediately.


How does one make a pushed, downright formidable, feminine protagonist relatable to current day readers with out her coming throughout as egotistical and self-absorbed? Notably a girl who needed to combat towards conference to succeed at a time when girls performed a secondary function in historical past. 

It’s the girls who rise above their lot that fascinate us, that educate us that we can also overcome the obstacles of our time. However as writers of historic fiction, it’s usually troublesome for us to know the formality and rigidity that existed in a tradition 100 years, or extra, in the past—not to mention perceive what braveness it took to interrupt guidelines that don’t exist for us now.

Let me simply say, proper now, that I acknowledge wholeheartedly that girls nonetheless should combat to beat an enormous imbalance of alternative in our tradition!

Lucy Duff Gordon

I first got here throughout the protagonist of my newest historic novel, A DRESS OF VIOLET TAFFETA, Lucy Duff Gordon (née Wallace) the inventive pressure behind the style label, Lucile Ltd., once I was researching Edwardian historical past for my Girl Montfort thriller sequence. She was known as ruthlessly formidable, a social climber, and after the Titanic catastrophe “The girl who refused to return to assist the survivors after the ship went down.”  Not a really sympathetic sounding character, I do know, however her story was fascinating. This was a girl who opened iconic style homes in London, New York, and Paris within the late Eighteen Nineties and early 1900s when Parisian males dominated the style world; she was one of many first high fashion homes to point out her new season’s fashions in a real-life model parade; and he or she was on the forefront of releasing girls from their whalebone corsetry and into undies that ‘allowed’ a softer extra feminine define. However the Titanic episode was greater than unlucky—so I concentrated as a substitute on my Edwardian thriller sequence.

Then I went to an exhibition on the Victoria and Albert Museum in London of the garments Lucy designed within the very early 1900s underneath her label Lucile Ltd.

Considered one of Lucy’s designs

I used to be spellbound by their delicate element, the daring mixture of colours, and the bewitching simplicity of line and elegance. How may an smug, overbearing girl have created such refined, vibrant magnificence? 

Her shimmering assortment of robes and clothes created effectively over 120 years in the past lit up an in any other case uninteresting February afternoon. Now I needed to put in writing Lucy’s story! So, I used her pretty, elegant, unique garments to characterize who she actually was—in any case they got here from inside her head. 

The place the creator of Lucile Ltd. was described as ‘chilly and smug,’ I made my Lucy naturally reserved, usually uncertain of herself in society, and as her dressmaking enterprise gained discover and recognition so did her confidence. I turned ‘ruthlessly formidable’ right into a single mom pushed by the necessity to assist her five-year-old daughter—or lose her to be raised by a good spinster aunt. The social climber who ‘married up’ and have become Lucy, Girl Duff Gordon, was pursued by a baronet who fell in love together with her power, her forthright honesty, and her singular independence, till she lastly agreed to marry him. 

I made Lucy mine fully. In any case nobody is ever merely one factor: a one be aware tune.

After we write fiction about an actual life particular person, we should be as painstakingly correct with their chronological historical past as we probably can, however this leaves us fairly free to make our protagonist come alive. If our characters are multi-dimensional: their goals and strengths, flaws and fears will transcend historical past and dwell for our readers.

Listed below are some components that I strive to remember when I’m creating my historic real-life characters.

  1. Perceive your character’s world. Learn concerning the interval they lived in: hearken to the music of the time, learn the literature, the novels and performs. Really feel your approach into their life.
  2. When you will have executed that overlook it (all that historic truth continues to be there—you simply need to keep away from doing an data dump). Now make your protagonist solely yours—irrespective of how she/he’s portrayed in historical past make investments her with life. 
  3. Don’t enable time and place to face in the best way of human frailty. Shakespeare certainly taught us that human feelings don’t change, even when social conference and manners do.  
  4. Make investments your characters with the driving want to interrupt the principles and provides them the endurance to face up to the ups and downs of their journey.
  5. I generally add a fictional character: a pal, sibling, and even an enemy to carry an outsider’s perspective to your protagonist’s character and journey.
  6. Take dangers together with your character’s predicament and keep in mind that the various actual issues that occurred to them might sound outlandish or unbelievable to us within the 21st century: truth is commonly much more intriguing than something we may probably think about.

Sturdy girls characters who broke the societal guidelines of their time are usually not all the time sympathetic, but when we focus on what they achieved for the great or as a result of they believed it was necessary to a minimum of strive for what they needed, then we will discover methods to make them into the actual heroines they need to be.

What glorious recommendation, Tessa. Many thanks for including your voice to A Author of Historical past.

A Costume of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen ~~ A luxurious novel primarily based on the fascinating true story of La Belle Époque icon Lucy, Girl Duff Gordon, who shattered the boundaries of style together with her magnificently sensual and enchantingly distinctive designs.

Lucy Duff Gordon is aware of she is proficient. She sees colour, gentle, and texture in methods few folks can start to think about. However is the male dominated world of high fashion, who would use her artwork for their very own acquire, prepared for her?

When she is abandoned by her rich husband, Lucy is left penniless with an getting old mom and her five-year-old daughter to assist. Determined to outlive, Lucy turns to her one true expertise to make a residing. As a little bit woman, the clothes she made for her dolls have been the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she makes use of her inventive designs and her exceptional eye for colour to take her place within the style world—failure isn’t an choice. 
Then, on a frigid night time in 1912, Lucy’s life adjustments as soon as extra, when she turns into one in every of 706 folks to outlive the sinking of the Titanic. She may by no means have imagined the consequences the catastrophe would have on her style label Lucile, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. However it doesn’t matter what life throws at her, Lucy will dwell on as a trailblazing and revolutionary style icon, by no means letting go of what she labored so laborious to earn. That is her story.

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M.Okay. Tod writes historic fiction. Her newest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a twin timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s different novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED can be found from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She could be contacted on FbTwitter and Goodreads or on her web site