Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Character Genesis: Sir Matthew

This is my first post in the Character Geneses series, where I explore (and sometimes just try to work out) how some of my characters were born.

Today I thought I'd write about Sir Matthew Mercer, one of the most important characters in ECHOES.

(If I had to cast him, I'd probably pick Jeremy Irons. Maybe Johnny Depp in ten years. Imagine Jeremy's smile a shade more mocking in that photo. Matthew certainly has That Voice. *swoons a little, then hastily recovers dignity*)

If you read my interview with Matthew a couple months ago, he'll already be quite familiar to you. He's a Weaver, one of the creators of echoes, and an extremely ambiguous antagonist.

He's also maddening as hell. Really. He very rarely does what I want him to do. Usually I have no choice but to let him go off and do what he does, and then I try to understand what he's been doing when I edit. It drives me mad, but it's also extraordinarily interesting.

But for all this, Matthew Mercer's genesis is quite clear. He was first born about two years ago, as a time traveller in an entirely different story. His profession and actions in the story were different, but his character was essentially the same. He appeared because I needed somebody to be the protagonists' somewhat dubious ally, an older person with experience, extremely clever and not entirely trustworthy. So I thought I'd create someone like this.

Then, lo and behold, he snatched the reins from me and began to flesh himself out without my even trying! The first time I wrote him into the story, he didn't say a single bit of dialogue I'd planned. Everything he said came out right there, on the spot, entirely his own. And a lot of it was funny.

I loved him.

I loved him so much, I found a way to work him into every single story I tried writing after that. But it never felt quite right. Then I began ECHOES, without consciously thinking of him, and there he was. This time he was in the incarnation of a Weaver, and it's the role that suits him best. He gets to pull the strings, make the puppets dance. He gets to be special. He gets to show off his brilliance and wit and his entirely untrustworthy nature. He gets to be obscure and ambiguous and frightening.

Over two years, he's turned from a character I created for a specific purpose, to one who does exactly what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants. And believe me, the 'how' is rarely pretty.

To me, the most remarkable thing about him is the fact that his character is tied completely up with his name. I once tried writing a scene with him in which I called him Sir Leonard instead. Nothing. He was gone, poof, like a puff of smoke. Without the name Matthew, he won't exist, he can't exist, and I find that so fascinating because it illustrates to me just how important names can be to characters and people. A rose by any other name may not smell as sweet.

And that charts the birth of Sir Matthew. As complicated as he is, his birth is one of the clearest to me, and the one I can pick apart easiest.

Has this ever happened to you?


  1. Interesting exercise . I must do this with my characters some time.

  2. How fascinating to imagine a chararctoe taking over and doing his own thing. I'm loving Matthew (especially if he looks like Jeremy) xxx

  3. Oooh, I love the way he looks!! So distinguished! Your characters so far have such distinct personalities. Matthew sounds like he'd be so much fun to read about!

  4. Good choice of actor. Glad Matthew found a home HE liked!

  5. Hmm... Interesting.
    You're writing process is great story by itself. : j

    Reminds me of a half remembered scifi story I read about a hero who realizes he's someone's character because of how improbable his adventures and more specifically the things that save him are. Eventually he finds some way to contact his author... I think.
    I guess that was an author who wasn't as "in touch" with their character as you are with yours. : j

  6. I'd love to read about Matthew, he sounds awesome!!!

  7. Matthew does sound fab - love your story about his birth. Does Steve know about your other man? :)

  8. Oh how fascinating to learn more about him. I love the fact that he popped up in an entirely different time and place and he's now found his perfect role in Echoes.

    And I'm sorry to lower the tone but Jeremy Irons, hubba hubba!

  9. @Talli

    I know, and yes, am somewhat jealous. Apparently not enough to stop the wanton posts about people she oggles... :-)

  10. I love thinking into the genesis of my characters. It's so intriguing to me, maybe because I love them (or hate the bad guys) so much that I really want to figure out all their backstory ... and you can't get backstory without figuring out what it was about YOUR mind/experiences that birthed them.

    Looking forward to more of these genesis series posts!