The pitfalls of a character named Jesus.

“So, what did you do to Erasure?”
“Which character had their name changed?”
Two of the questions I’ve been fielding over the last couple of days — mostly arriving as part of the congratulations messages (messages that I remain completely humbled by, for the record).
What did I do? A lot, but nothing that in any way alters the structure or message that the original Erasure was based on.
Mostly, the changes have been about clarifying some of the components that were a little murky. The most obvious of which can be found in the prelude, which has been totally redone. The rest is just some subtle but important editing to tidy things up and aid the flow of the book.
The name change? Fans might not be at all surprised… Jesus is no longer Jesus. 
Because, four years on, I recognize that “Jesus” is a divisive name, despite there being literally no attempt to try at creating subtext or hidden message.
How his name came about is actually quite innocuous — (see below).
The motivation to change his name has been niggling at me for a while, but smashing a Writing Degree over the last couple of years took center stage over just about anything that was creative.
Some of the niggling came by way of emails from readers calling me a blasphemer. Some going so far as to say that I would probably go to hell. Weirdly, other folk contacted me to tell me about the genius of Erasure’s hidden religious meaning.
And I was all, “Wait, what? It’s just a name, and now I’m in line to be a subversive hell-residing genius?
The reality is that Jesus to so many people is not just a name — For the religious it is a name that is the symbol of a deity. For the non-religious it is a name that is a symbol of everything they feel is wrong with religion.
There’s no winner here and, prior to the rework, I think that Erasure suffered from the conjecture that a name like “Jesus” might present.
But how did “Jesus” come about as a name in the first place?
Simple really: Jesus was a place holder that became a permanent fixture.
“Wait, you are telling me that you used ‘Jesus’ because you couldn’t link of anything else?” 
Well, kind of.
When I write characters, I meet them in the same way as the reader. They literally don’t exist until I see them, and my response to them is often “Who is that guy? Oooh, I know who he is and what he is going to do… I guess I should find out his name.” 
I know that this sounds like artistic self-love, but it is the way I write. If you think I also do all that while listening to obscure jazz played on an ironic turntable, while wearing a quirky beret AND sipping on a single-origin-fair-trade-coffee that was harvested from the dung of an endangered Tibetan yak, you would be wrong. Well, you’d be mostly wrong. Let’s not get into specifics.
So, there I am in the scene where the narrator meets a new character. Usually a name appears pretty quickly, and sticks. In this case it didn’t, but I didn’t want to stop in the middle of what became a pivotal scene in the book. 
Ever the pragmatist, I figured I needed a place holder. So I chose “Jesus” — easy to type, and not like any other names or common words, so I figured it  would be easy to do a “find and replace” once the story went through its first edit. But there was no name that suited him during the first edit, so I thought I’d just pick it up when a name came to me.
Then, for reasons I can’t fully explain, “Jesus” stuck. 
I guess that I had worked over the manuscript so many times come publishing time that Jesus had simply become part of the book. 

That’s it. The end of another conspiracy theory.
Hardly subversive, is it?

Oh the perils of pragmatism.

Originally posted on facebook A.T.H.Webber

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