How delighted our newbie is today... after all the hoops they've jumped through, they've received their invitation to an (threatening theme plays) Immersion Event. They're diligently working their way through the packet and out comes the Character Biography. OH PANIC!!! "Who AM I?" they wail. How do I find out who I am? Is this REALLY important to post to the group? What if the group wouldn't know some of the information about me?
First, to truly create the "community" feel of previous eras, your new neighbors will need to know a great deal more about you than your modern neighbors do. This sense of "community" was key to functioning in communities of previous eras. Helping out a neighbor was seen as not only a "nice thing to do" but as an obligation that one MUST do. Much of this sense of community comes from the tribal traditions of early human life. Early humans found that while they could survive alone, they would have a better chance of surviving if they formed communities. As the community traditions evolved into tribes/clans, states, countries the role one plays in the larger community becomes formalized and tradition-based. In "our" eras of the 18th and 19th cent. America, we are in a transition from the agriculture-based community-is-family model to the industrial-based family-is-community model. In a community-is-family model, one needs to know about others because that information could bring about the down-fall of the entire community. All actions, good or bad, reflect upon the community and the standing the community holds in the larger world. Everything that is done is done to bring honor to the community. Disputes are mediated in the best interest of the community, which may not be to the best interest of either party of the dispute. In other words... Yes, Dearest Newbie, this information IS important to the whole group, not just your "family". Even a stranger needs to have some information known about them for threat assessment.
It is easiest to start with some basic information and let that lead you to delve deeper. Imagine yourself in the center of a series of concentric circles. Start with information about yourself in the center of the circle. The next ring is information about your immediate family and daily life. Next is your extended family. Next your communities and your public life. Finally your world view and how far-removed events affect your impression. In the coming posts I will use this model to show how to construct a basic biography and how to delve deeper to bring your impression to life.