Building Your Persona from the Inside Out

By Lunardo Capriolo, Aethelmearc

Building a persona from the inside out means creating a space inside your own where you go beyond imagination into “pretendination.” Once you have created this space you can project it outward until it is large enough to contain those around you and bring them into your persona’s world with you. This series will explore techniques to create an inner persona that will make your outward portrayal more convincing and complete.

What’s in a Name?

Shakespeare wrote “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet…” But the fact is that names do matter, and the names we give things affect how we think about those things. In the SCA, we consciously or unconsciously differentiate between “Bob” and “Lord Roberto” and between “Syracuse” and “Delftwood.” Using the correct names helps take us out of the mundane world and into the world of The Dream.

You can take this farther by choosing names for objects and people that are those your persona would use. For example, if your persona is not a native speaker of the mundane language your group uses, you might try using some words in your inner vocalization that are in your persona’s language. Note that we are talking now about that narrative that everyone has in their own thoughts. Once you have developed the habit of thinking of a thing by a certain name, you will naturally also do so when speaking.

You do not have to be an expert in foreign languages to sprinkle your thoughts and speech with a few phrases. Thanks to the Internet’s many translation tools it is easy even for someone without a particular talent for languages to pick up a few key phrases. I recommend learning and practicing in your head a short list of just these phrases: Yes, no, please, thank you, excuse me, hello, goodbye, good luck, well done.

The last phrase is one I use whenever someone might use “vivat!” I would love to hear a court filled with cheers in all the languages of the kingdom’s personae. Imaging hearing “bravissima! benpo! osca! aferin!“ all blending together.  (The languages are Italian, Venetian, Occitan, Turkish.)

Once you have the basic phrases, you can add words for objects you use all the time in the SCA. Find out how to say “sword” or “squire” or “loom.” Practice these phrases in private, using the pronunciation tools online or help from a native speaker, until they sound natural both silently and aloud. You may be surprised how much it helps you to be in persona able to smack your forehead and mutter “mon épée!” when you left your sword in camp.

So far, we have ignored the elephant in the room—the large number of words that are specific to the society, words that were made up in order to describe objects that are not period, or jobs that are particular to our activities. These words can be clever, fun, and a celebration of our shared SCA culture, but they can also be a jarring to someone who is well on their way to pretending the year is 1066.

When we say “troll” for the gate-keeper, “feastcrat” for the head cook or “porta-castle” for a Porta-a-John™ we are telling ourselves and everyone else that we are at an SCA event, not in 1453 Constantinople. These words are fine when we are just chatting during set-up, or planning and reviewing an event, but you will build a bigger cushion of “pretendination” around your inner persona if you can substitute words like “toll-gate”, “mistress of the kitchen” or “privy pit.”

Even glaringly modern subjects can have their sharp corners rubbed down by a little creativity. One Pennsic merchant avoided the “We honor Lady Visa and Master Card” by posting a sign saying “letters of credit accepted.” Once simple change made a modern subject into a concept familiar to any Florentine banker or Templar knight.

With practice and some thought you can come up with names for most of the anachronisms that surround us at any event. Make a game of it at your next household meeting, and be sure to share your ideas with other groups. You may find it is fun to find another name for a rose…

In Part III we will answer the question “To See or Not to See?” How can you appreciate all of the ambiance of an event like Pennsic without also seeing the modern world?