Captain Moonlight – Basing a Fictional Character on Fact: Part 1

For our upcoming Falconers Visual Novel, “Moonlight”, we’ve borrowed a few facts and figures from the past.

In particular, we’ve requisitioned the historical figure, Captain George Fairweather Moonlight, the man who discovered gold in Moonlight Gully in 1866, near the real New Zealand town of Blackball.

Moonlight-and-dog

Our Captain Moonlight differs in many ways. It’s best to think of him as an ‘alternate history’ Captain Moonlight. He’s founder and unofficial mayor of the town of Moonlight, and owner of the Moonlight Gold Mine.

Development Profile for George Moonlight:

Captain Moonlight is a Scottish gentleman of noble bearing. He has impeccable manners and a claims to have strong sense of honour. He regularly expresses his devotion to the well being of the ‘good people’ of his town, Moonlight, having appointed himself their leader and protector.

In fact, he is devoted to extracting as much gold out of the Moonlight Mine as is humanly possible and doesn’t really care who gets hurt in the process. While his public face is one of a well-mannered, charismatic and respected gent, his private face is that of a ruthless businessman. And those who get in the way of George’s gold-mining operation seldom overcome the ‘sharp end’ of George’s ruthlessness.

Why are we making Captain Moonlight into a ‘bad guy’?

Actually, we’re not. He was simply a man of the times. 1860s New Zealand was a place of pioneers and entrepreneurs, working with what they had to make new lives for themselves and make their fortunes, great or small. There was hardship aplenty in this southern frontier of western civilisation, and hard conditions generally produce hard people.

Judging History through Modern Spectacles

Here’s the creative challenge when it comes to basing our fictional characters on historical figures. We have to be careful not to ‘modernise’ them. We have to imagine ourselves in their setting, their time, take on their challenges and understand their beliefs. All from the comfort of our 21st Century office chair, Macbook Pro, air conditioning and soy latte.

Then, and only then, can we decide if Captain Moonlight is a ‘bad guy’ or just a guy from 19th Century colonial New Zealand.

 

 

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