It took me a year to come up with Cassidy’s name. At one time she was going to be called, rather unoriginally, Angel until someone from my writer’s circle asked whether I was writing fan fiction based on the Joss Whedon show (well, she was hanging out with vampires!). I cursed myself and then spent a year trying to find the perfect name for this character.

Character names are always based on a gut feeling but sometimes it takes a while to find the right name. I’ve got better at it over the years but still, with the test plot, a couple of characters are known as Guest House Owner (The guest house element got dropped some days ago but the temporary name remains) and City Watch Leader (even though she isn’t the leader of the city watch). I have a good sense of their characters and the way they would react in any given situation, but for me, it’s the name that comes last.
When I do find a name, and they usually come as a bolt out the blue, I become very protective of it. Even if I happily discuss the plot with friends, I’m much more guarded about the name. I suppose part of this is because I worry that I’ll have another situation like Angel on my hands, and I’d much prefer to find such things out on my own.
As a result, I meticulously search the name I’ve chosen (OK, I just google it!). I’m terrible for picking things up and hand on heart it would not surprise me if a name search turned up the protagonist from a friend’s novel. I’ll also try my best to ensure it’s not close to another name in genre. If I have to change it down the line (and I have changed names midway through a book because they are not working) it’s a massive pain.
But once a name passes all that scrutineering, there’s a period of intense excitement as if the character is suddenly born into life. They are no longer a ‘thing’ but a person, though imaginary not real.
It’s quite a bit of work to come up with names but the effort is usually worth it. My protagonist for this test novel has quite a catchy name. I’ll be gutted if I find out it’s similar to another genre character down the line.