Part of the fun of being a reenactor is creating the person you want to be. This is called a persona.
Each group will have its own set of rules regarding what is allowable, for example most groups will discourage or outright prohibit participants from portraying a famous person.
Once you have an idea about what is permitted, then it’s time to let your imagination loose.
Most people will look toward their own ethnic background as a building block, which is perfectly acceptable. But why limit yourself? Do you find yourself attracted to another culture? Always wanted to visit another country? Love French Food? Love to dance the flamenco? Often wondered how you would look in a kilt? These are all clues as to where to look to see where your persona is from.
Now that you know where you are from, do you know what you do for a living? Of course you can be the historical equivalent of what you are in your everyday life. But what do you dream of doing? A knight in shining armor, but don’t know how to fight? Most medieval groups are happy to train new fighters and guide them to the proper equipment and armor, so why not go for it?
Maybe you have an interest in medicine but decided med school wasn’t for you. In reenactment you can “study” to be a healer or surgeon by reading about the cures, herbs, surgical tools, and diseases prevalent during your time frame. You’ll be expected to be an “expert” that is to talk intelligently about being a surgeon, but no one will expect you to perform surgery.
Choose your time period. For some of you this is easy. Most pirate reenactment groups focus on the Golden Age of Piracy. American Civil War groups are obviously confined to that time period. If you’re in the SCA, you have from 500 AD to 1600 AD to choose from. So how do you decide where you fit in? Look at the style of clothes you like. Look at the type of building you would like to have lived in. Is it a castle? A manor house? Tower house? Clothes and architectural styles change over time. Your favorites will point you toward your persona’s time period.
There’s more to your persona than a country of origin and occupation. Are you married? Have children? Practice a religion? Creating a persona is writing the biography of your fictional self. One SCA member has developed a list of 70 questions that you can ask yourself to help develop your persona. The best place for advice will be your fellow reenactors, so ask them how they created their own fictional back-story.