“My instinct is to absolutely recoil when talking about writing in a mechanistic way,” says screenwriter and producer Michael Hirst. With a bunch of film credits under his belt, along with the award-winning series The Tudors, Hirst talks to Mediabistro for the latest installment of So What Do You Do? Though he writes for a different medium than most of you GalleyCat readers, his advice for research and crafting characters is useful for any writer.

“The key for me with historical characters is they’re interesting because they’re human beings,” he said. “A little bit of Hemingway goes a long way here, but journalists and writers should honestly look at their material and have a real interest, a real passion in what they want to write, and they should also have a lot of knowledge, as well. You don’t write police procedural stuff unless you really know that beat, but it’s ultimately not the procedure that makes the show work — it’s the people. The more real they are, the better.”

For more, read So What Do You Do, Michael Hirst, Creator of The Tudors and Vikings?