Naming. This is the hardest thing I have to decide at the beginning of each novel. (I write like I have a ton!) A name determines who the character is, and how they are perceived. It takes me forever to decide on a good name for my pets, and I am able to meet them! (Indy, Monty and Benji, if you were wondering.) With my characters, I just have to decide and hope it works out. Thankfully there is always revision!
Many people get inspiration from real things. for example, when I started A Sparkle of Blue, I knew I wanted my aliens to be reptilian, but I had no idea what to call them. I googled the word for snake in many languages and eventually settled on Zamija. This is very close to the Croatian word for snake. I liked the way it sounded and it was easy to sound out. Nothing is worse than reading a book and just mentally skipping over a word because you have no idea how to say it. I just memorize the shape of the word then fill in with nonsense sounds in my head while reading.
I have also realized that I really like short names. My main characters for my novels are Sam and Lee. They are also both unisex! Ha, I just noticed that. I will need to keep a close eye on that so my novels do not begin to sound repetitive. But I think this is a case of the grass being greener on the other side. My full name is Breanna and I went by it all through high school. It is a mouthful, I mean three syllables? In college I decided to go by Bre and haven’t regretted it since. I bet somebody with a short name is probably entranced with the idea of long, flowing, elegant names. (Can anyone confirm this?)
Other than characters, I think locations are difficult to name as well. The worst thing is for them to sound fake. That distracts from the story and rips the reader into the real world. A reader should be completely immersed at all times. While things should shock them, it should really be plot points and not horrible names. Drawing ideas from the real world is a great idea for this as well. Writing about a small town? Check a map! Writing about Medieval Europe? Check out the languages at that time. If your land is completely imaginary, I would suggest that you read other works and see how others do it. Seriously, you do not want readers laughing at your sad attempt at names. It is something I worry about constantly.
How do you choose names? Is there any name that you have come up with that you really love?