I’m one of those people that really enjoy naming characters. A lot of names that I use were chosen for their sound, more than their meaning (which means that a lot of my names are actually gibberish).
I think the longest name I have ever used for a character is “Akashiseizaborou”. At the time, I was specifically looking for the longest Japanese name I could find for a serious, frowny-pants archangel. Something that also happened a lot with my characters that were created in my teens is the use of Japanese names (see above, and several names below).
As I was saying, a lot of my characters from this period had names of words that I was trying to learn at the time. For instance, I have a set of triplets that students of nihongo might get a kick out of. Their names were Migi, Chushin, and Hidari. These names literally mean right, center, and left, respectively. I also had elementally locked characters named Zetsumei and Owari. (“Death” and “End”.)
In any case, had to stop doing that eventually, because 1) I branched out to different regions in my writing besides those that were inspired by Asia, and 2) I realized a lot of the names I was growing attached to wouldn’t work very well if I attempted to publish.
My penchant for naming people after regular, every day words didn’t really go away, as I now have a bunch of characters named things like Guillotine, Pussywillow, Slate, Otter, Holly, Fable, Narcissus, and Peony, among others.
When a name doesn’t automatically present itself as a word, I next try fun alliterations or syllable duos, like Yendi, Arcus, Jana, Ergon, Ryldur, and so on.
Of course, sometimes even that fails, and I take myself to the net, where I scour down names for regionally similar places to the ones I am writing (using a lot of Hindu and Turkish names right now). The problem with that is that sometimes I end up with a great name––but something far too similar to it is already in use for a bestseller.
For instance, in my current WIP, I am in love with the name “Katerine” (Kat-er-EEN). However, I also just went and watched The Hunger Games, and d’oh, can’t use it anymore! Back to the drawing board…
How do you name your characters? Have you ever fell in love with a name you can’t use anymore, for whatever reason?