To quote and paraphrase T. S. Elliot, "the naming of characters is a difficult matter..."
How do we pick names for our characters? Do we go with whatever comes to mind? Do we look for meaning? Do we want something unique, or common and relatable? Obviously this will be different depending on what kind of book we're writing. When I wrote the romance, I went with a somewhat common man's name, and named the woman after one of my horses.
When it comes to fantasy, though, do we make whole new names up? Do we borrow names from Earth? If the names are too foreign, can our readers pronounce them? If the names are too familiar, does it break the illusion of a new world?
I struggled a little with this when I wrote my first book, Runaway Magic. I knew I wanted to call my main character Aili, a name which means light, and comes from both German and Irish origins. I personally prefer names with meanings more often than not, though that's not universal. Kyson is of British origin and literally means "son of Kyle."
Do most of my character's names have meaning? Absolutely. Actually, it's a bit of a lazy way to name them, but by knowing I want a name that means something, I can go to a webpage I use: www.meaning-of-names.com. Common meanings are listed with links, making it easy. Need a name for a Fire Mage? Click on fire as a meaning and there I go - Hana is born as a character.
It's great because it also tells me where a name is from. I tend to use names from all over the world and many different cultures. Andvari is Norwegian and means "mythical treasure guardian." As Aili is an unusual treasure to the forests, it seemed to fit well. Leya is a Spanish name that means loyal, and that pony sure is.
This doesn't mean every name is chosen that way. Ilia and Kyson were chosen because they sounded right for the character. A few names of passing characters are simply made up completely. Some characters are so minor to the story that they're never named, though they have complete lives in the world outside the books.
The website was even more helpful for a book I'm writing that is dystopian and on Earth, as it's about a community that gathered together from all over the world to survive. I was able to choose diverse names for each culture represented in the community. Names can be searched by region as well as meaning.
Every author has their own way of naming characters. What matters is finding a method that works for you. Do you honour a friend or loved one and use their name? I have. Other people don't, because characters may not be similar, and you don't want to offend someone. Do you go with something made up and unique? I have, when it's right for the character, or I don't need the character again. Do you search for the name by meaning or region? There's lots of webpages and books to help with that, if you choose.
It's interesting to me, but the character usually forms in my head before I name them. That's how naming by meaning is so easy for me. I can pick an aspect of their personality and name them after that. Other authors start with a name and build the character from there. Either way, find what works for you. Maybe try different methods, until and unless you have a favourite. What inspires you? Do that!
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.