Biddy Goodwin – Basing a Fictional Character on Fact: Part 2
Sometimes we fiction writers find real characters who are so good, so perfect for our story, that it would be crazy to even try and invent someone instead. This was very much the case with Little Biddy Goodwin.
The real Bridget Goodwin who was one of the few female gold miners in NZ in the late 19th Century. She was based on the West Coast, near to Lyell, and is said to have spent most of her earnings on tobacco and alcohol. She was only four feet tall but could apparently work just as hard and well at gold mining as her larger male counterparts.
So here’s the personality description that I came up with for Little Biddy in our Moonlight Visual Novel.
Photo from Nelson Provincial Museum
Little Biddy is a hard-working, hard-talking lady. She’s never seen without her pipe and often has a half-empty bottle of Southern Sauce in her grubby hand. A crate of the stuff gets delivered to her from the illegal Southern Sauce whisky still in Central Southland, once a month.
Despite her rough edges, Biddy has a sharp and incisive mind. She can work people out very quickly and has an uncanny knack for telling truth from lies.
When getting a ‘feel’ for a character, I’ll often produce some sample dialogue for them. This isn’t dialogue that’ll necessarily end up in the production script. It’s more that I can’t really tell what a character thinks or feels until they open their mouth. Naturally there are exceptions, but that’s been my general experience.
For instance, Biddy has the ability to swear and insult people in amusingly creative ways.
“If I had a dog that smelled like you, I’d skin ‘im and rub his mangy pelt on me roof to keep the possums off.”
Now for a quick explanation of ‘Southern Sauce’. This is Biddy’s favourite bootleg whisky and is based on ‘Hokonui Whisky‘, an exquisite brew concocted by some ancestors of mine (also McRaes) up in the Hokonui Hills. Southland was under prohibition at the time, hence the need to hide the distillery out in the back blocks of Hokonui.
And finally, here’s Little Biddy in all of her dubious glory. I wonder what the real Biddy would have made of all this?
Original posted on The Falconer’s Blog.