Saturday, 18 September 2010

Character Genesis: Echo

Another post for my Character Geneses Series

This one focuses on Echo, the protagonist and narrator of ECHOES. And quite frankly, I'm struggling. Matthew, for all his ambiguity, was an easy character to chart the origins of. I understand Echo much better. I have to put myself in her shoes to write her story, so I have to understand her. I get her. I absolutely adore her, even if she does pipe up in my head at the most inconvenient times.

But to tell you where she came from is a different kettle of fish altogether. And they're not the nice, easy, friendly kind of fish either. It's a kettle full of the kinds of fish that bite your fingers if you try to reach for them, which, if you ask me, makes it very difficult to learn anything.

When the idea for ECHOES first bounced around my head, gradually developing and evolving and generally making a nuisance of itself, the idea of a female teenage protagonist was also there. The two ideas were essentially one. If I was going to write this story, I was going to write it as her.

I remember once asking Steve, during an early draft, whether he thought the story would work better with a male narrator. He didn't think so. He thought a key part of the story was Echo's vulnerability and grit, and he didn't think she would translate well into a male counterpart.

So, it had to be her.

She's a spirited character, warm and loving and uncomfortable around people she doesn't know. She has a quick temper. She's stubborn, she's reckless and she is, inherently, lonely. It's a kind of curse of being what she is, because so many people hate her kind. She's an echo, one of Matthew's, in fact. Matthew often tells her he made a mistake when he put 'too much fire in her'. These things became obvious as soon as I started writing her. But what I still don't really know is where she came from in the first place.

I do have an idea, though. In asking myself ‘Is she inspired by another character I've loved?’, I’ve sort of hit on an answer. I don't think Echo was born that way, at least not in that sense. But there are a few deliberate parallels between her character and that of Frankenstein's Creature in Frankenstein. So maybe that's where she was first born. Given that it was thinking about Frankenstein that got me onto the idea of ECHOES, is it so unreasonable to assume that maybe Echo herself sprang fully born, like Athena, from the question 'how did the Creature feel about what happened?'

That's the only source I can think of, and it's not a complete or satisfactory one. But maybe that's what we have to accept as writers. That sometimes our characters appear and we don't fully know where they came from or how. Maybe that's what makes this process so amazing.

I'd love to hear any thoughts or similar stories!


  1. I feel like that happened with my novel "Laura's Letters" (formerly "Rescue Me"). There was no specific place where she came from, the story just HAD to come from her. It wouldn't work any other way.

  2. Hmm... Interesting! It would probably be even more interesting if we knew the character. It's kind of like being invited to the birthday of someone you hardly know. ; j
    I love how some of your characters are created viscerally...
    I don't work like that. I can always tell where my characters come from, who they are spun off from, what they are cobbled together from, or what purpose they were created for...

    I suppose the closest I get to such organic growth in my characters is when there are things about them that seem self evident to me right from the start... Such and such will be fixated on eating, such and such is a bit of a lush... Shrug. : j