Despite her second marriage to (and divorce from) Jack Abbott, Nick and Sharon had an affair and conceived a third child: Faith. During the pregnancy, Sharon experienced kleptomania. Faith was kidnapped by Adam Newman, Nick's brother, leading Sharon to believe she had died. When Adam's crimes were revealed and Faith was returned to Sharon, she remained in love with him; SoapNet considered the relationship "dark". Since 2011, former showrunner Maria Arena Bell and subsequent head writers that followed have significantly changed the character's direction, receiving negative backlash from critics and audiences. Sharon married her ex-father-in-law Victor Newman, gained control of his company (Newman Enterprises) and burned down his ranch—a sequence of events which resulted in her being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The character was then involved in a DNA test alteration storyline, which was also heavily criticized by critics. She subsequently married Dylan McAvoy and experienced a phantom pregnancy after miscarrying their child, which led to her keeping a child that wasn't hers for months.
Sharon has been characterized as "insecure" and "not your typical romantic lead" by Case. Despite the character's crimes and faults, she is described as an "ever-suffering heroine" by Canyon News, and has been called soap opera's "hottest mess" by Daytime Confidential. The supercouple pairing of Nick and Sharon attracted a large fan following. Case has become popular with viewers and her performance has received praise from critics (particularly for overcoming heavily panned writing), while also earning her several award nominations including winning a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1999.
Sharon Newman was created and introduced by William J. Bell, with the character making her first appearance March 24, 1994. Sharon Case, who plays Sharon to the present day, is the third actress to play the role. Previously, struggling actress Monica Potter originated the role, but was fired. She confessed years later, "I was fired because I was terrible". Heidi Mark then briefly took over the role on July 11, 1994; both Potter and Mark had a two-month stint.
Case, who had previously worked on the soap operas General Hospital and As the World Turns, was cast in August 1994. She was selected from a group of six other possible recasts after a screen testing with co-star Joshua Morrow, and began airing on September 7, 1994. Initially, Case believed she would only be playing the role for a maximum of six months. Of her casting, she stated: "Not only is this my third soap, but I'm also the third actress to play the role of Sharon Collins. So, if three times is the charm, this should be it." The actress wanted to "breathe new life" into the role and make it her own. In 2003, Case was off-screen from February 17 to May 1, during contract negotiations. These were resolved that April, when she signed a new contract to remain on the show for another four years, until 2007. Case revealed that while she considered leaving the series, "I would not have been negotiating if I did not want to come back. I've always had a great story to play. I love the way they write Sharon. It was just a matter of hammering out the deal points."
In March 1995, Los Angeles Times writer Nancy Reichardt characterized Sharon as "the girl from the wrong side of the tracks" with Nekeeta Borden of the entertainment news website Daytime Confidential describing her as being kindhearted and a "shero" during her early years on the show, noting that she wanted to start her own trends rather than follow other members of the Newman family. Case likened Sharon to a younger Jill Foster Abbott (Jess Walton), telling Soap Opera Weekly that Jill "was kind of like Sharon. She was nice...no one thought she was a gold digger—at first." According to the actress, Sharon does "weird things" and panics when stressed, and her mistakes "eat away at her", as "She doesn't do well with secrets". Case also described the character as feeling insecure and unworthy of being in a happy relationship, telling the Star-Banner that "Sharon goes through many emotions in a week". MSN characterized Sharon as a "bitch" after a storyline in which she took over Newman Enterprises in 2012. Of the writing for her character, Case said it is indispensable: "They both have to be there. I couldn't have gotten away with this without those lines". However, the actress has expressed displeasure with Sharon being paired with "too many men" because it "waters her down", wanting to incorporate different aspects of Sharon into her performance. Case stated that Sharon, who sees visions of her deceased daughter Cassie (Camryn Grimes), believes that "she is connected to the spiritual world".
Having played many facets of Sharon over the years, Case said: "It’s almost like I’ve played 15 different characters in my career when I’ve only played one. There’s never a dull moment", calling the character an "optimist and a survivor". Case has stated that the character's main drive is searching for love, which to Sharon is "her survival". She described Sharon as having "so many different layers to her" and one of the more complex characters on The Young and the Restless.
Sharon has been romantically linked to her high-school sweetheart, Nicholas "Nick" Newman (Joshua Morrow), since her debut on the series. As teenagers they dream of eloping, and face their first hurdle when Sharon's ex-boyfriend Matt Clark (Eddie Cibrian) exposes Sharon's teenage motherhood (when she gave her baby, fathered by her former boyfriend in Madison, Wisconsin, up for adoption). Nick, believing Sharon is a virgin, briefly breaks up with her but they reunite. With Matt behind them, they marry in February 1996 and have their first child—Noah (Robert Adamson)—in 1997, the year Sharon is also reunited with her daughter Cassie (Camryn Grimes). Sharon's best friend Grace Turner (Jennifer Gareis) seduces Nick, triggering another breakup; Sharon and Nick reunite during a custody battle for Cassie. Of their highly anticipated reunion, head writer Kay Alden noted that during the previous several months "there's been a lot of stop-and-go and mixed messages" between the couple, but their feelings were definitely clear again; Morrow felt that Nick loves Cassie as much as he loves Noah. However, Sharon has an affair with Diego Guittierez (Greg Vaughan). In May 2005, 14-year-old Cassie is killed in a car accident. Nick becomes distant from Sharon, and is unfaithful to her with Phyllis Summers (Michelle Stafford). The marriage ends the following year; Nick moves on with a pregnant Phyllis, who gives birth to their daughter Summer Newman (Hunter King). Case said that Sharon saw Phyllis as a "poison" in their lives, noting: "Sharon is a religious person, and that was the devil’s work."