Edith Pattou introduces the characters in her new book,Ghosting, and discusses how their true personalities unfold following a prank gone horribly wrong.
When I got the idea for Ghosting, I decided right away that I wanted to tell the story of this very bad thing that happened at the end of summer to eight teenagers from their points of view. I could almost hear each voice as it took shape on the page.
On the surface, each of the characters seems like a type—the lacrosse jock, the merit scholar nerd, the school beauty, the disaffected outsider—but it was important to me that I capture the real person and not just the label. Several of the characters—Chloe, Maxie, even Emma—refer to the way you are pigeon-holed in a particular role in high school. But the truth is that everyone has layers—everyone has a very specific story, family, truth, and I wanted to reveal that for each of the characters.
Brendan, who I would probably consider the least sympathetic character in the book, seems on the surface to be a typical arrogant preppie bro, but as his story unfolds, we see that he is also the victim of a bullying, abusive father, which gives us a different perspective on him. And Chloe, whose identity has mainly been formed by how pretty she is with little confidence in her intelligence, reveals herself to be surprisingly funny—as well as brave.
The “cue ball” of the story (to use Chloe’s metaphor of a billiards game) is Walter, and I deliberately kept him a somewhat shadowy figure. In fact, we first see him as a shadow in an upstairs window. But even he, who does so much damage to so many lives, has a backstory that makes him—if not likable as a character—then at least someone worth having sympathy, even understanding, for.
Using the different shapes of free-verse helped me reveal the characters. Felix—the Joey Pigza-loving pothead with ADHD—speaks in a run-on, stream-of-consciousness style, while Maxie, the most artistic of the group, uses an unpredictable, creative form of word stacking.
I hope how each of these teens lives through and survives the fallout of that night imparts a message of healing. The world may be unsafe and unfair and pitted with unbearable losses but it is also possible to carve out a new path in life, one that is filled with good times with friends and family, and hopefully lots of guacamole.