Character Family Trees

I was working on Chapter One (still) and hitting a wall, so decided to take a bit of a break to do a little world-building exercise. All of my characters have first and last names, of course, but I thought it would be fun to give them middle names. I like that as a “percolating” activity – I have some thing to work on, but it is sufficiently low pressure as to allow me to think about how to break-through or go around the wall I have come up against in my story.

I was googling around for Colonial era names and found this tidbit on naming conventions. It was an interesting (and quick and easy) read, but induced a little bit of panic as well.

I had only gone so far as to name the current generation of characters, the ones that actually have appeared on the page so far. I hadn’t actually thought about where they came from.¬†This lead to jotting out a real quick family tree.

If I stick with the traditions, my characters names have to come from somewhere. Every name needs a bit of a story. What made this easier was that I could fill in the Grandfather’s names just from the names I had already chosen (oldest = paternal grandfather, second = maternal grandfather). It was the younger two that provided the twist I needed.

The twist was the discovery that my four brothers have a mother that’s Scottish (who knew?). I discovered that when I realized that the third son’s middle name was actually his mother’s maiden name. The youngest brother is named after their mother’s favorite brother. The greatest part about their Scottish roots is the natural conflict that will arise over loyalties during the Revolution. <rubs hands together with glee> See Highland Scots and the American Revolution.

Granted, this is a world-building/character exercise, and the bulk of the information that I jotted down last night may never make it into the story in any meaningful way, but it does inform the story. And it serves to give me something to drop into the story in bits and pieces.

On a side note, I have been working on mine and my husband’s genealogy for 15+ years off and on. The naming conventions referred to in the above article are real – I can attest to that. It’s incredibly frustrating trying to keep all of those same named parents, grandparents and kids straight. It was that revelation that caused me to be an absolute stickler about record keeping in my own family tree – and my character’s!

I haven’t decided yet if I need to print out an actual form to fill out, or if the scratched out tree in my notebook will suffice, but I will write everything down, always, lest I exchange one John for another!

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