Tina's #randomwritingtweet #7 - Choosing Characters' Names
Talk about opening a can of worms...
Choosing a name for your characters can be one of the most daunting tasks when your writing fiction...at least once you are aware of the potential for clangers if you choose a name all willy-nilly--perhaps only because you heard it somewhere and liked it.
This is old news to many, so this edition of "Tina's #randomwritingtweet" is for the new writer, or the writer who has never thought about genealogy or the intricacies of it.
So, you're writing about your character; you're character has an undiluted Scottish lineage--he even speaks Gaelic--because you thought that would be cool, but you names him Ezra, because you loved it in Ray Donovan, or his last name is Cohen, because you thought you'd honour Leonard, and you love his music/poetry.
Right. So, now, you had better explain the Hebrew contribution to this Scottish guy's family tree!
When choosing any name, there are variables, of course. Did a band of "X" settle in that country at one time in history? What time period are we in? Does the last name, race, religion even matter to the story? It does...if you made a point of telling the reader that someone's lineage is pure--a rare claim for most people, especially nowadays, so if you say it, follow through. It matters, as well, if you just married two characters whose families have been feuding for three-hundred years. They might well get married, but you had better mention the tension of at least some family members--or paint it red either through controversy or humour.
When it comes to first names, in the past few decades, parents have become (relatively) unconcerned with name origin, or the origin is looked up primarily out of interest. Names are often chosen based on pop culture, and spellings changed in an effort to make the child's name unique. Tradition is sometimes, but not typically, as important as it used to be. (I said often, not always). However, it is always worthwhile to vet the names you choose to be sure that your choice does not conflict with your intentions. The last thing you want to do is make a fatal error and lose credibility with your educated readers.