Inspired by the awesome Michelle Krys's post, I started thinking about character names.
I freaking love names. They fascinate me. I keep a mental list of all the awesome real names I've heard in my lifetime (topping the list are Peter Brilliant, Manley Gage, and Carla Holy).
I don't know if you could get away with a Peter Brilliant, Manley Gage, or a Carla Holy in a novel. Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction. With character names, I find you have to strike a balance between distinctive and ordinary most of the time. The name has to suit the character to some extent. Not always literally -- don't name a wise character Sophia just because Sophia means wise -- but you have to take the character's parentage and circumstance in life into account when you name them.
For example, the bride of a Medieval king is unlikely to be named Destiny. But a girl born in the mid-nineties? That works. A girl with Buddhist parents being named Mary Catherine? Yeah, probably not. But if she was born into a Catholic family, it makes a lot more sense.
In the early stages of writing, a character feels nebulous to me until I find the perfect name. Once I do, everything comes together. Their personalities often come from their names, in some strange way. Here's a quick sample of this at work in my writing:
Tristan Tennant (protagonist of A BRAVER THING): Tristan is a soft, lilting kind of name, which is definitely how I'd describe Tristan's personality. His nickname is the androgynous Tris, which fits his appearance. His surname, Tennant, is a nod to his Anglophilia -- David Tennant, anyone?
Prince Malcolm (A BRAVER THING): He's the Prince of Wales, so his lack of a surname fits his station in life. He has a bazillion middle names, though, which comes from his royal heritage, too. But his first name, Malcolm, is very unorthodox -- it's Scottish, which is a little bit scandalous for a British prince. But Malcolm himself is a little bit scandalous.
Lauren Alfredsson (protagonist of a new WIP, WONDERFUL): The name Lauren has always conjured up a tall, solidly-built blonde girl to me, so her physical appearance is tied to her first name. One of her parents is from Sweden, which accounts for her surname. Plus I just love the way the name rolls off the tongue... which is handy, since this WIP is written in third person instead of first, so I have to use it a lot more!
So, yeah, I'm curious: if you're a writer, where do your character names come from? How do you pick them? Do they matter a lot to you, or is it more like, if it fits, it fits? If you're a reader, how do you feel about the names of characters you read? Do they matter to you?
Hope you're all having a lovely summer out there! Anyone watching the Olympics? (I am. Rather obsessively.)