I’m Every Woman
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
We’ve been told to write what we know, and to a certain extent, that helps us put down our stories. We also draw on other people’s experiences, as well as situations we hear about in the news or read in the newspaper. Some writers also draw from historical material and put their own spin on things.
With the aim of making each story unique, writers are called to turn their brains inside out to come up with fresh characters and uncommon scenarios. It takes resourcefulness to be able to do this story after story and character after character.
Something that’s occurred to me over time is that I use different aspects of my own character and that of other people to formulate unique women and men. I’ll show you what I mean below. The women I’ll mention have their own story, however, my own character traits to form dominant part of their personality. Then came the peculiarities that make up my associates, friends and relatives. This is my recipe for creating an appealing woman each time, depending on the story I am telling.
On to the women:
Janine appears in Contraband and is the love interest of the main character Paul. She’s independent and has high standards, so she has difficulty dealing with Paul’s second occupation. He’s a farmer, but he also sells marijuana. Janine comes across as soft and very feminine. She stands by Paul when he’s shot, however, she refuses to have a relationship with him once she discovers that he’s doing something illegal. Even when she’s pregnant and Paul wants them to be together, she sends him on his way despite the fact that she considers him to be the most exciting of men.
Her stance wins Paul’s admiration, respect and love. Yours truly has standards too, so of course I was cheering for Janine when she was prepared to go it alone with her twins-in-the-making, even as her hormones were singing a different song.
Sherryn is the heroine in Dissolution. She discovers that her husband has a five-year-old boy outside of their marriage. Unforgiving does not begin to describe or scratch the surface of this woman. Her husband and their relationship go to hell and back before she makes a decision about whether to divorce him or not. One of my beta readers said she had no idea whether the marriage would have survived, based on Sherryn’s treatment of Reece. Every time she seemed about to forgive, the deep-seated reluctance to forgive stifled her good intentions.
Conversely, Sherryn is a peach to her friends and an excellent mother to her children. She was quite a complicated character that needed to do some self-searching to resolve her sometimes irrational and unpredictable behavior. All I’ll say here is that I have had issues with forgiveness and healing.
Camille is the snootiest character I’ve written. She wouldn’t describe herself as snooty, nor would her close friends, but at the same time she recognizes that she has higher standards than they. To Quinn, the man who eventually catches her eye, she at first seems to be someone who thinks too much of herself and too little of others—him in particular. She’s also focused, family oriented and dependable, which makes her the problem-sorter-outer for everybody around her.
She has a hard time relaxing and sometimes envies her friends their ability to do exactly what they want and enjoy themselves without being self-conscious or having fears of looking ridiculous. In this respect, she reminds me of myself. Years ago, a friend of mine chastised me for being unable to relax and told me to stop being such a tight-ass. I’ve never forgotten his advice, but at the same time, I’ve never quite gotten the hang of just relaxing and being. Even when I’m with friends, if I’m not doing something I deem constructive, I start feeling guilty about being idle.
Anya & Celeste are sisters and boy, are these women snarky. Anya tends to be bristly because she’s hurting from an abusive relationship and from painful verbal run-ins with her sister, Celeste, who features in her story. Celeste keeps people at a distance just in case she disappoints not only them, but herself through her perceived inadequacies.
It’s a while before both women stop running from their partners. You can imagine that the men who give these women the time of day would have to be special characters themselves and yet, both males are unalike in nature. (More to come on these men in another post.)
Anya eventually softens when she comes up against a solid and patient man. Of course, she doesn’t fall over herself to get with the guy, but remains in character even as she takes the plunge into a new relationship.
Celeste is the crabbiest character I’ve written to date. It’s sort of easy not to like her at first encounter and yet, she’s kinda like a succulent, prickly on the outside and soft on the inside. After her novel was complete, I had to go back and sprinkle tidbits to explain why she felt she needed to be tough. This, in an effort to make her more appealing to readers. At the end, I was satisfied with how she turned out based on comments from the people who critiqued her novel. As to similarities with the writer, let’s just say I’ve learned not to say the first thing that comes to my lips. I’ve also learned to control my body language – to some degree.
Justine is the heroine who is closest to my heart. Her story was the most difficult for me to write. She gets caught up in an affair, and that goes against everything she believes in and pulls her in several different directions. She found it hard to make a decision whether to stay in her sterile marriage or reach for happiness with her lover because of the children involved and the devastation that would visit both families.
Circumstances force her to make a huge sacrifice, but she emerges from her struggle with the knowledge that she can survive despite feeling that life dealt her the cruelest of blows. Stoicism is part of who I am. Despite the challenges, whenever I’m knocked down, I tend to wallow a bit, but I keep things to myself. At some point, I do a little dusting off, get myself in gear and start moving again.
Now that we’ve explored my quirky band of characters, d’you see how you work bits of your personality into your main players?