Who is Hattie?

Who is Hattie?

Hattie’s War is a work of historical fiction loosely based on threads of known information.  Once I decided the story should be told by Hattie I needed to figure out who exactly MY Hattie was.  The only things I know about the real-life Harriett Howell are the milestones of her life and what she looked like in the few photos (see below). That’s it.  I’d have to create the character Hattie Howell.

Important questions:

  • Her age and when the story takes place
  • Personality/character
  • Interests and abilities
  • The tone and character of her relationship with her family and others in her world
  • Questions she’d likely have about her father
  • How she felt about the mores and conventions of the era and the place she lived.
  • Her journey, the arc of the story.
  • Challenges she’d faced along the way.
  • Other characters/people in her life
  • How and from whom would she learn about her father.
  • What the historical record had to add.

What I know about the real Hattie:

Arthur, Earl, Hattie circa 1890
    • She was the fifth and youngest child. Born 5 months into her father’s service in the Union Army.
    • Her father probably never saw her. She never met him.
    • She married Arthur Phelps in 1883 at the age of 21
    • She had her first child, Earl, at age 22. Her second child, Marion, was born thirteen years later
    • She died at age 65 in 1927

    I have several photos of her.  I know where she and Arthur lived. I’ve been there.  I’ve been to their grave in Hector, NY.  That’s all I know.  Everything else, I’d have to make up drawing on the answers to the questions above.

    So who is Hattie?

    From the start, I had a clear vision of Hattie’s personality and demeanor.

    • She’s precocious but not overly so, with a touch of tomboy mixed in. 
    • She speaks her mind, which often gets her in trouble. 
    • Artistically inclined, she wants to be an artist like her father. 
    • She doesn’t fit into the Victorian mold of the time.  She wants more than a life as farmer’s wife with a bunch of children to raise. 
    • Hattie has a slight edge in her dealings with others, particularly those who try to reign her in. 
    • She’s thoughtful and caring. 
    • She is at once repulsed by the idea of living her life in Hector and drawn to it because that is her home, all she has known. 
    • She dreams big but not too big. 
    • Most of all, she is driven/obsessed about the death of her father.
    • AND, she is plagued by debilitating depression.

    Photos of Harriett Howell Phelps

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