Shawn Keller Cooper
Women, Women Everywhere
Where do your characters come from?
Are they people you know?
Who is she supposed to be?
Readers seem fascinated to know how writers develop the characters which inhabit our pages. Where does the inspiration or creativity come from and where do I collect the parts to fashion an entire woman.
My characters come from everywhere, in and out of this world, and yes, I do know them, sometimes from life and other times from when they wonder into my head to put down roots. They are women I’ve known personally, infused with the DNA of the past, bits and pieces of flesh and brain cells who just want to be part of something.
But seriously, isn’t she based on you-know-who?
Maybe, but she isn’t just you-know, she is all the hers. Just like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces fit and make a picture. Characters, women just like us, are organic. Who they were last year is not who they will be tomorrow. They originate and evolve, make mistakes and stagnate, become inspired and stretch. They go through all these stages both in my imagination and on paper. I birth them from my brain and heart and then hang around to record their progress.
I believe a good writer never forces one. I don’t coerce or demand, or hold them captive between plot lines and outlines. I observe, sometimes proud, sometimes discouraged and disappointed at their choices. I wait for them to speak to me so they can speak to you. And when they do seek and search their truths, we are both revealed. Readers should identify with the characters, see something in them that reminds, sparks, encourages, nurtures, arouses, and yes, frustrates, betrays, deceives, and disturbs.
My worlds are meant to be authentic, populated with believable people. They are me and you, and our mothers, grandmothers, best friends, sorority sisters, and the strangers we pass by every day. Readers need familiarity, a connection that awakens us to see beyond our boundaries, whether the story is pure entertainment or becomes a meaningful experience that changes us. I feel privileged that these women choose to walk onto my pages, live their lives for us voyeurs, teach us something, and never slip quietly into oblivion. For once we meet these extraordinary women they are part of us forever.
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