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In previous posts have gone into great detail about why I wrote Blue Lines, the catalyst and model for my protagonist Key Yemaya Walker, and recently I touched upon the shameful fact that outside of my mind’s eye, I’m not sure that the readers even would know what she looks like in the early pages of my manuscript. Therefore, for some of the history of her development, you can look at those previous posts (BLB 2.1, BLB 2.2, BLB 5 The California Version, BLB 6 The KYW Version, BLB 10 Partial Character Study, . However, I was quite pleased at a recent revelation early this morning (1/31/11) before I got into the office.

However, before I get into my revelation, there was a time that I was concerned with the character development for Keypsiia, as a man writing a manuscript from the aspect of a female. Yes pride, and ego (used the incorrect way that most people use it), spurred my process on, but with those items taken into account, I still had the goal of writing a quality piece of work, and that work would be experienced through the eyes of an 18 year old co-ed from California.

My main goals were to not make her whiney, have her overly emotional, and crying all the time, and play the prototypical role of a male writing a stereotypically bad and poorly developed female. My secondary goals were to create a character who, initially based on a real person, was her own new and unique being. Admittedly as I’ve stated before, she was based on a real person, but her development was also rooted in other influences as well as her experiences and within Blue Lines, and her responses began to form and shape a new person. I can’t make Keypsiia like someone else, if the path she chose drove her down a different path, and it was those decisions, both big and small, that she made formed the person she was and who she would become as Blue Lines developed and evolved. Keypsiia has an edge to her, but is very soft, pensive, intelligent beyond her years, but also she is a “girl,” and prone to her young whims and ways. She is also young, and out in the world for the first time, and everything she does and thinks is right, which are character traits not constrained to a female.

When and older friend, who had edited in spare time, offered to edit my manuscript some years ago, and while it was still in need of work. After reading the prologue and moving on into the first chapter, her constant observation was that Key was unlikeable. She was nice in not calling her anything negative, but the overriding sentiment was, “what makes me want to read about her?” if she was asking that question, what would readers be asking? That information, that I was not offended by, it gave me insight that a) I saw Keypsiia in one light; b) I had to soften her up, and although I felt favorably about my character that I created, I had to convey that same “likable” person in my writing. I don’t have to want to read Blue Lines, I’ve lived, read, and reread it. It is for you the reader to like, and eventually love, empathize with and feel a connection with Keypsiia.

My Eureka Moment: While reading my friend Rosalyn Story’s superbly written More Than You Know, I progressed to a scene between her characters Olivia and L.J. And not to give away the scene, while reading it I realized that as a male, in some aspect as I author a female protagonist I nailed some things. I noticed that my observations in women, which have been emulated in Keypsiia, were even echoed in Rosalyn’s character Olivia. That was amazing to read, because it allowed me to be at ease, and realize that the things that an 18 year old Keypsiia was doing in my work, and the things that I saw to write those scenes and moments were the same things that a woman would write about her female character. My youthful Keypsiia is away from home for the first time, and although she was willing to venture out from California, she is very childish in her ways, but mature in others. I will admit, something that simple gave me the reassurance that I am headed in the right direction with my character.

The manuscript Blue Lines is the fictional coming of age narrative of a young California woman Key Yemaya Walker, and her 2 year growing journey through school, love, and life period piece, written by Kenneth Suffern, Jr., taking place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.