Unless I'm writing some kind of supernatural story, in which case you can get away with meaningful names on the basis of fate or whatever else (and even then I'd keep them low-key — for example, unless a reader had a working knowledge of Old English, it'd still come as a decent twist when "Feorh Scrín" turns out to be a Soul Jar
), I tend to just randomly assign everyone's names, at most giving the ones I particularly like to the major characters, love interests, etc.
Though at the same time (and I guess this wouldn't be as relevant in countries like the US or Australia), it's true that certain names do come with connotations of ethnic, geographical or class heritage which could well have in-universe relevance. In that case, they can certainly provide some useful cultural context for the character, but it really depends on whether you think the author bothered to consider their naming conventions that deeply.
I'd think that deliberately choosing inappropriate names (like Melvin for a Jerk Jock
) or unusual ones has the same problem as sticking with Meaningful Names
, since it's relying on a rather easy shorthand to try to convey something about the character or establish them as unique and interesting.
As for peasant's Katherine, spelled with a K as opposed to the later Anglicised "Catherine", I'd personally draw connotations of the name's Greek and Norman origins, which would make me associate the character with old courtly French culture and the upper classes. I don't think there's anything consistent I could connect with it beyond that.
edited 6th Feb '13 7:17:30 PM by everyfloatingcat