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Posts Tagged ‘naming characters in novels’

There are lots of ‘perks’ in writing novels, I’ve discovered. One is being able to decide the fate of my characters. I can have them live long and prosper or write them out of the picture altogether. Another is giving my characters my own and others’ experiences and having things turn out even better than they might have in real life. And yet another is actually naming my characters in the first place. Does that name really suit this character? Will he or she be confused with a previous character in one of my other novels – or perhaps even another character in the same novel? Is the name right for the particular time period in which the novel is set?

I have been known to get half way through a novel and decide a name definitely doesn’t suit one of my main characters. After all, when I started out, I didn’t expect he or she would say and do the things they now have. Characters evolve, I find. Some of them grow up and make up their own minds as to the way ahead. They might decide they want a much more exciting life than I had planned for them. So a nice, conservative, common name won’t do – they need something much more colourful and unusual. And thankfully, that can happen easily these days. I have lost track of the number of times I have been so grateful for the ‘Find and Replace’ function on my computer, where, with one click of my mouse, Andrew becomes Aidan or Angela can instantly become Amy several hundred times over!

In real life, however, I have discovered a name can be made beautiful and just right whether it’s old-fashioned or unusual or anything else, if it is spoken in a caring, respectful, loving way. Two examples from Scripture I noticed recently come to mind. In each case, Jesus speaks out someone’s name with such deep love and understanding that they must both have been shaken to the core. In John 20:15, Jesus simply says ‘Mary’ – and turns her world upside down. And in the following chapter (21:15), he speaks out Peter’s original name in a tone that must have been so full of forgiveness and grace – ‘Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?

I have no trouble imagining the tone of Jesus’ voice as he addressed Mary and Simon Peter – or how they must have felt. Many years ago, at a particularly needy point in my life, I believe God gave me a wonderful picture of Jesus holding me as a baby and looking down at me with the most incredible, tender love. He was smiling and almost lost for words as he gazed at my face and marvelled. And the only words I heard him say were ‘Wow – Jo-Anne!’ But that was all I needed to hear to know in the very core of my being how much Jesus loved me and how delighted he was with me – before I had ever achieved anything in my life. He loved me just the way I was created – uniquely and in his image, with my own personality and gifts that he intended from the very beginning. I was – and still am – his precious child, perfect in his eyes and completely loved.

So as you read this today, may you hear Jesus speaking your name in just the same loving, gentle way in the very depths of your spirit. Your name is important to him, whoever you are. He knows you. He cares about you. He believes in you. He loves you. And that’s all that matters.

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