The Challenges of Developing a Character Based on Someone Who Has Passed Away - Finding Penrose

When writing a story based on the life of someone who has passed away, one of the greatest challenges is developing that person as a fully-realized character.

A Fully Realised Character

Unlike living individuals who can be interviewed and consulted, those who are no longer with us leave behind a limited amount of information, making it difficult for writers to capture the depth and complexity of their emotions, thoughts, and experiences.

One of the primary obstacles in this process is the inability to delve into the person's feelings and reactions to specific events in their life. While biographical information and second-hand accounts can provide a general outline of their experiences, the intimate details of their emotional landscape remain largely inaccessible. Writers must rely on their own intuition and imagination to fill in these gaps, which can be a daunting task.

Plus, when crafting a fictional story based on a real-life person, writers face the added challenge of accurately portraying their emotions and reactions. Without the ability to directly ask the individual how they felt about certain aspects of their story, writers must make educated guesses and creative leaps. This process inevitably involves a degree of fictionalization, as the writer must invent and embellish certain elements to create a coherent and compelling narrative.

However, it's important to recognize that this fictionalization is not a shortcoming, but rather an inherent part of the creative process. By embracing the imaginative possibilities of storytelling, writers can breathe new life into the legacies of those who have passed, offering fresh perspectives and insights into their experiences.

Ultimately, developing a character based on someone who has passed away is a delicate balancing act between fact and fiction, requiring sensitivity, empathy, and a deep respect for the individual's life and legacy. While it may be impossible to capture every nuance of their emotions and experiences, writers can still strive to create a powerful and resonant portrayal that honours their memory and inspires readers to reflect on their own lives and stories.

I faced these challenges constantly when adapting Penrose's true life story from facts to fiction. Meet Penrose to find out more about this incredible true story.

Chasing Echoes: The Challenge of Crafting a Character Lost to Time

"Finding Penrose" isn't just about uncovering a lost identity; it's about bringing a life, lived long ago, into a story that resonates with readers today.  Here's the catch: Penrose is no longer with us. And therein lies the fascinating, yet daunting, challenge of crafting a character based on a real, yet ultimately unknowable, person.

  • The Difficulty of Capturing the Unrecorded: Unlike fictional characters, where we writers control every thought and emotion, recreating a historical figure demands a delicate balance between fact and fiction. We can research historical context, pore over documents, and interview those who knew them.  But the missing piece? Direct access to Penrose's own internal world.
  • The Whispers of Emotion: We can't delve into the depths of his feelings, his hopes, and fears during key moments in his life. We can only interpret them based on historical context and educated guesswork.
  • A Dialogue Unheard: Imagine the richness of understanding Penrose's story if we could simply ask him! Sadly, the chance to converse, to truly understand his motivations, remains forever out of reach.

The Art of Informed Imagination

So, how do we bridge this gap?  Through meticulous research and a healthy dose of informed imagination. I used historical facts as the foundation, then wove a tapestry of plausible emotions and reactions based on the context of his life. It's a dance between accuracy and artistic licence, ensuring the portrayal feels believable while acknowledging the limitations of historical reconstruction.

It took me 40 years to write his story! Well, not quite. When I was 21, I promised Penrose I would write his story, but life got in the way, as it does, and 40 years later I finally started delving into his story and realized what an incredibly heart-warming story it was!

The Power of Empathy

Though I can't definitively recreate Penrose's inner world, I can strive for empathy. By immersing myself in his reality, I aimed to create a character that evokes emotions in readers – a sense of connection, of understanding the challenges he faced, and the strength he possessed.

Finding Penrose may not offer a definitive answer to the "what ifs" of his life. But by fictionalizing his journey with sensitivity and respect, I hope to spark conversations about identity, resilience, and the enduring human spirit. 

Join me on this quest to breathe life into a lost story – one that resonates not just for Penrose, but for all those whose voices have been silenced by time.