A very early post because I will not be online today. Most likely at least.
3. How do you come up with names for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?
I love going by sounds. How does a name sound? I like softer names for characters that are nice or friendly and harsher ones for characters that are unfriendly or mean. For places, I like to make all places in one country sound similar, and yet different from other countries. However, the language of my world is similar and there isn’t too many languages, so most names overlap for my Heir of Illuminations world.
I really like the method I’ve described but maybe that doesn’t help you. I like to pick a letter on the keyboard and then string out a name based on that. I don’t like to go through books of names. Note: I only use this method for my fantasy/sci-fi stories. In my general/literary fiction, I like to pick names that are real. For example, Edward, Cameron, Agatha, Betty, Josh, etc. I should probably look up what the name means, but not all parents do that when they name their child. So I don’t have to all the time.
I’m with J. Koyanagi on what she said:
I do know that I need to discover a character’s name before writing for them. Names help shape who we are, so I can’t possibly know the character well enough to write for them if I don’t know their name. Other writers I’ve spoken with don’t experience this, so I’m not sure whether I’m in the minority on that.
Once I know their name I know a lot about them. It sounds silly, but our names are perhaps the most personal thing about us. Think of the countless stories where names are magical. I must say, however, that I’m not opposed to naming a character something else. For example. Áhron from Heir of Illumination used to be Keiren. The change of name will most likely happen again, as I don’t think I have his finished name yet.
Final note: Names are important! I read a story about a Chris who felt like he was always taking a beating and taking on the world’s troubles. The author did not notice the similarity between Chris and Christ and the way her character acted like he was on the cross. Names should be intentional if they mean something, to be hypocritical of my own words above.