Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Evolution of a Heroine

So how did I come up with Scarlet, the title character of Scarlet and the Keepers of the Light.  Well, it all starts with bedtime at my house.  Every night, for the past eight years I have read to my eldest daughter.  For twenty or thirty minutes, nearly every night I have worked my way through The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs in Ham, numerous Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer, The Diggingest Dog, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus...you get the idea.  Luckily for me, my youngest daughter has insisted that her mother read to her and so, realizing that my eldest, who was six at this point in the narrative, was really just listening to these same books over and over so that she could snuggle and be close, I made a decision.  While all of the books I mentioned are great, their charm had worn off on me and I think my daughter as well.  So after consulting with my wife, who insisted that I reread it first, I decided to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to my little girl.  Reading time was reborn at the West household.  Although I was afraid she might be scared at parts or have difficulty following the plot, my fears where quickly assuaged by the intelligent questions she posed, the wild eyed wonder and deep disappointment when it was time to set the book down and go to bed.  If I do say so myself, I became quite good at reading the many characters and even took to giving them different voices.  For a biased audience of one, I became a near great character actor.  From Sorcerers Stone followed The Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Askaban and most recently, The Goblet of Fire, with occasional breaks for Percy Jackson.

Sometime during those two years I realized that there is no greater audience than a child.  I had been writing books for years.  Adult fare filled with violence, revenge, spies, and flawed human beings, and although I enjoyed the stories I had written, none had captured the attention of readers like those young adult books seized in the imagination of my daughter.  It was then that I decided that instead of writing a book for myself and other adults, I would write one specifically for my daughter.
I knew even before I started that the main character would have to be a girl.  I had two daughters and while it would be easier for me to write with a male as the protagonist, I wanted a character my daughters could instantly relate too.  Now, in case you don't know, I'm not a girl.  In fact, I've never been a girl.  So where to start?  There's an old adage, I'm not who first said it, but it goes: write what you know.  Well, my daughters and I are very close and I think I know them pretty well.  So I chose the name Scarlet, began describing my eldest daughter and it wasn't long at all before Scarlet took on a life of her own.
Certainly Scarlet shares her physical characteristics with my eldest daughter.  The long red hair, pale skin and lithe body.  She also shares much of my daughter's personalty.  They are both very sweet and considerate.  They both have wonderful imaginations and love to write stories.  The situations that Scarlet finds herself in obviously force her to react in ways my daughter never has and never will.  It is here that Scarlet separates from her inspiration and becomes her own girl.  After all, I can really only guess how my daughter would go about trying to save the world, but that's why fiction is so much fun.
It was important to me that Scarlet remain feminine.  I have read many books where the heroine is tom boyish and overly tough.  Often it seems that they are female only in name and their character could just have easily have been written with a boy in their place.  My daughters are strong, smart, funny and courageous, but they are also quite girly.  They love dolls and dress up, Barbie movies and pretty things.  I wanted them to see that it was possible to be all those things and still be a hero.  Scarlet is quite feminine and yet, through the course of the five novels that feature her, she shows remarkable courage, strength and resolve.  After all, its okay for a knight in white armor to come to your rescue as long as your not sitting around waiting for him.  That's my philosophy at least.
In the Scarlet series, Scarlet gets help from many characters and sometimes finds herself in situations where she needs to be saved as well as those when she does the saving.  Ultimately though, it is Scarlet who must shoulder the responsibility to face the evil that is threatening Satorium, and she must rely on herself to accomplish what may seem impossible.  I hope you enjoy reading about her adventures and don't worry if you're partial to male heroes.  There are a few of those in the series as well.

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Scarlet Hopewell