It started innocently enough. I was working on character names for my first e-novel, “Loonies in the Dugout” and thought I would use the first names of my father and two uncles for three fictional characters. But I also wanted to use my mother’s name, but this was a baseball novel and there was not going to be that many female characters. So I used my dad’s first name Chet, for the lead character, and my mother’s last name Koski for Chet’s last name. Though I got to honor my mom and dad in one character, I did not anticipate what would happen.
I enjoyed Chet and his girlfriend Eveleen so much I wanted to use them in another story, so I went from 1911 in my first book to 1922 in Hollywood for my second book in which Chet and Eveleen, now married, solve the murder of William Desmond Taylor. I had no problems in this story, but I got confused in book three.
In “Silent Murder,” set in 1927, there is a murder and it turns out the victim was a cousin of Chet. But he had no idea this was his cousin. So the police, naturally, when they find this out and inform Chet, got me into a family tree to sort out some police questions. And I nearly messed it up. Chet’s fictional last name is Finnish, but I was thinking Danish because that is my real father’s heritage. Yes, I realized later that I could have used the Finnish family tree, but the problem is it was too hard to trace for too many reasons to go into here. So I was stuck staying with a Danish tree for a Finnish character. I had to tinker a bit.
This tree was part of the plot-at the beginning of the story anyway. It is always a possibility that this plotline was a red herring. Had I known while writing the first novel that Mr. Koski would continue in two more stories and another now in progress I would have done things differently. As it is, by using my mother’s maiden name, in the third book I dug a pit that addled my brain about two families. After all I am talking about people from the 1800’s whom I never met.
If I had to do it all over again I would have used my real fathers last name and changed his first name, using perhaps Paul (my mother’s name was Pauline). Or even better, use my fathers middle name as his first, so I would have had Alvin Nelson. Actually I don’t like that name, Paul would be better, except that is also the middle name of another relative, and that only adds more confusion.
I dug myself into a pit and I am stuck with it. Did I learn a lesson? No. I am using the names of two real life cousins who are cousins in my work in progress, but the two cousins in real life from opposite sides of the family and have never met. I don’t care. The territory is familiar to me. Besides I am too confused about my family tree I no longer know who I am. Writing as many pitfalls.
Perhaps the hole isn’t as big as you think Terry. Not many readers will look at a surname and see red flags. Besides, even blockbuster movies get details wrong. Look at Lucy!
Thanks for the comment, but I was not worried about readers. I got confused in the writing of my e-novel because my fictional family tree became the opposite of my real tree-or trees, as we each have two trees. My Danish ancestor named Christina became in fiction Finnish. While writing the scene, I kept thinking I had things wrong, thus the confusion. I just wanted to share the unexpected fun encountered while writing. And you are right about Lucy.
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I’m still trying my hand at my first novel, but I keep writing myself into a ditch. 😦