Melody Jamal Smith

Names are important. We'll get to that.

Drawing by my granddaughter, Sydrah Inglis

Last week I did something that I'd never done before. No, I didn't go bungee jumping or sky diving. Nothing that exciting.


I taught four author writing workshops to students at two different libraries in northern Alberta and I LOVED it! It reminded me of how much I love teaching students (my last time was in 2009--our last year in Thailand).

Here's another first: I created two Powerpoint presentations. First in Keynote on my Mac and then in the MS Powerpoint program, just in case there were compatibility issues. And I did it ALL BY MYSELF!


Now, if you know anything about me, that's a major feat. I'm not so great at techie stuff. So I surprised myself with my ability. Huh! I guess I HAVE learned something in the last year.


For the junior high workshops, I decided to focus on the importance of developing a good, in-depth character sketch of each book character but especially of the protagonist and the antagonist. I used the image above and, as a group, we discussed each of the categories on the slide below:

In my novel, Rewriting Adam, I spent more time developing certain characters than others. But when it came to names, I took my time. For me, names hold a deep meaning. They matter and shouldn't be chosen pell mell. I wanted to make sure each name in my novel fit their character.


That's why in my workshop, we waited to choose a name until we'd filled in some of the other categories.


"Jamal," blurted one of the guys. The class laughed.


"Sounds like a football player," I said. "But if it works for the way you've developed her, then maybe Jamal is a good fit." I smiled. After all, who am I to squelch his creativity? Why can't a female book character be named Jamal?


One of the girls gave me a big grin. "I named her Melody," she said.


BOOM! The name drifted into the classroom on an invisible breeze, filling every inch of space. "Melody," I repeated slowly, offering an equally wide grin.


Why my reaction?


Well, if you've read my novel, you'd know. I have a character in my novel named Melody. She's not human, per se, but she IS a major character. Rather, she's an invisible representation of the Holy Spirit "speaking" through music in a telepathic parallel universe. She subtly (or not so subtly) represents the ways of the Spirit in our world.


In this case, she arrived and spoke to me through a 14-year-old girl sitting in the front row of a small classroom in a small, unknown hamlet in the middle of nowhere on the Canadian prairies. And it was beautiful!


For a split second, I stood there--stunned! The Spirit was there. With me. With us. As we talked about something as random as character sketches and names. But I knew it was NOT random to God. I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be--where God had called me to be! That what I was saying was important to the Kingdom. If I could, I think I would've "removed my sandals because I was standing on holy ground." (Exodus 3)


But I had to move on with the workshop. The moment passed, though the lightness and joy did not.


In the end, we named our character Melody Jamal Smith. Great name! We all agreed.


And when I got home, I looked up the meaning of the name, "Jamal." For a boy, it means "handsome." But generally it means, "beauty" and "grace." How perfect of a name is that--nothing random about it.


I LOVE how the Spirit works!





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