by Marsha Ward
In writing, there are two kinds of echoes. One is clumsy writing, but the other is awesome.
The "frowned on" kind of echoes are repeated words or phrases. Sometimes they are clichés. Sometimes they are simply overused. Do you refer to a "wild woman" or a "just recompense" too many times in your work? How about that word "just"? Is it a pet? Can you eliminate it three-quarters of the time?
The other echo is a more ghostly and resonant kind, something that is spread out a lot farther, perhaps over a body of work, like a novel series. It is a sometimes unintentional, but uncanny bit of writing that reminds me of my very closely-held theory of the origin of ideas.
I have come to agree with the saying, "there are no coincidences," especially when I make discoveries of echoes in my body of work. Yesterday I was editing a scene in my current work-in-progress, Gone For a Soldier, when I realized that Rulon Owen had acquired a certain skill set in that time that was echoed in Spinster's Folly. Was I led to choose a certain odd job for him to perform when he needed to earn a couple of bucks? Perhaps.
Continuing my editing brought me to the discovery of a second echo. Does anyone remember the name of Hannah Bingham's husband in Trail of Storms? Yeah, Robert Fletcher. As I wrote a scene a few months ago, I needed a throw-away name for a tavern. What did I use? Fletcher's. I didn't even realize I had written down that name until I edited the scene.
Coincidence? I think not.
We can lay echoes in deliberately, of course. A line or two in Gone For a Soldier establishes the root of the reputation James Owen enjoys as a good horseman in later novels. It's a very little thing, but it adds depth to the overall story.
Whether this type of echo in writing comes from pure inspiration, happenstance, or deliberation, it can resonate with the reader and bring them back for more rich writing.