My husband is often perplexed at the names I pick for cat, dog, and even my car. Characters need the same sort of consideration when naming them so they are both memorable and easy to recognize in the story.
My cat, Max, for instance, was nearly named Fluffernutter. I felt it was a bit too cute for his dignity, but also the other cats in the neighborhood might tease him. I then decided on Max, from Max Payne the video game. Now he’s tough. Oddly, he calls when I call his name, which is odd because he was already a grown cat when I discovered him on my porch.
My dog was easy to name for obvious reasons. Her name is Pepper, but my son at the time wanted to name her Rose. So we compromised with Pepper Rose. She’s also known as ‘the Pep’, or occasionally as ‘puppy wups’.
My Mazda 3 automobile, I dubbed the Bluebelle, because it’s a purdy blue. I had other objects I named, such as my original computer was named Sparky.
Characters should reflect personality. Not obviously so, however. You want the name to be memorable, distinct, but also not too outlandish that the name becomes ridiculous.
Names can reflect heritage as well as history. For instance, a character can be named after a historical character to reflect a quality of their personality. I once worked with a guy named after Lynden Baines Johnson. He hated it, so preferred Lenny, which fit his personality.
I knew a guy in college named Ulf, who came from Sweden, and I knew a man Gregory from Russia. I also know a Pear from Bangladesh. When looking up names, search for the heritage but also popularity of that place as well.
Names reveal age. Names like Bessie or Howard hint at another generation where those names were popular. Abigail, Matilda, Harland, and Garret were popular during the 1800’s. Consider the time you’re writing and find out what names were popular for that time.
Names with nicknames. Some names are obvious such as Alex from Alexander, or Terry from Teresa. Nicknames can come from even more odd places such as a backstory.
My sister Allison, found a number of nicknames from her husband such as Ally, Alamo, Mo, and then Mojo. A childhood friend, named Diona, also had the nickname of Onie.
Be imaginative. Give your characters a backstory, and weigh traits with family history to find a good name.