Recreating and bringing to life historical characters is intimidating. What did their voice sound like? How did they speak? What were their quirks? What was their sense of humor? There are a million-and-one things that could play a role in how we write the dialogue for a historical character, especially one as important has Harvey. Dialogue is one of the most important features of a character. It brings the player in and helps the player relate to and understand the narrative. So how do we give a voice to Harvey and the rest of the cast?
The work begins in the UW-Stout archives, a place where the Digital Humanities students are getting quite comfortable with. Step one is usually to approach Heather Stecklein, the ever-busy archivist, and ask her what kind of content the archives is holding related to the characters we are interpreting and recreating. In Harvey’s case, this means many large boxes of papers, books, files, photos, and articles–good news for us.
The most time consuming portion is the collection and analysis of source material. If we want to create a convincing Lorenzo Harvey, we have to read his papers, speeches, and reports. We have to read the biographies written on his life and pin down his personality and characteristics. After getting really comfortable with his peculiarities, the verbs and nouns he used as well as the structure of his language, we can begin to write.
But we can’t just turn to the sources that surround Harvey and stop there. We can seek reference from other people from his time. Particularly useful to us are audio recordings. The catch is that there really are not many audio recordings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. But since Harvey was regarded as a very serious, accomplished, and stately man, listening to presidential speeches might not be too far off the mark. From these audio recordings from Presidents William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft, we can learn the cadence and manner of speaking. These will help our voice actor recreate the mustachioed Lorenzo Dow Harvey.
All of these elements are drawn together to create the Historical characters you’ll encounter in Harvey.