How do you choose them? There are many ways. Here are some of mine:
NAME THE ANTAGONIST AFTER SOMEONE WHO HAS PISSED YOU OFF. Speaks for itself, this one. Alot of my characters are called Dave when I'm not speaking to my husband. I (usually) change it later.
THE NAME IS THE TITLE METHOD. Sometimes naming the piece after the character in some way is a really good way of summing up the piece - sometimes it just leaves
Readers baffled. It can be hit and miss, but if you hit, it can be great.
THE PHONEBOOK METHOD. Open the phonebook and pick an initial, then brainstorm possible names. More creative and sometimes you can come across some great surnames that also give you ideas. I also found an A. Ventura living in Exeter once, though whether he or she is a pet detective is unconfirmed.
THE LITERARY ALLUSION METHOD. Got a backstabbing evil twin in your screenplay? Why not call him Edmund (King Lear)! I think this is the biggest offender I read whilst script reading, though Holden comes up ALOT, especially in American screenplays - Catcher in The Rye, apparently, though I've never read this book. Another fave is Harper, as in To Kill A Mockingbird, which I have read. However, those three are overused, this can be an effective tool - a little "short cut" to telling the a
udience what this character is really about. Just choose wisely.
THE "GRAB A DVD" METHOD. Look at the listings on a DVD or imdb.com or whatever and just nick the most interesting ones. We've had enough of heroes called John by the way!!!
THE IRONIC NAME METHOD. I always look on this website for these. You can search meanings here as well as celebrity favourites and most popular in the country where you live. I used an ironic name in THY WILL BE DONE for example: discovering the name "Rebecca" means "noose" in Hebrew (really!), I gave the character who was the downfall of another this name - give a man a rope and he hangs himself, in effect.
THE "GIVE ME A NAME, ANY NAME!" METHOD. Ask people standing near you. Never a good idea, since this is closely linked to the "OM" Method (see below) and you get the same ones suggested. If I hear Catherine or James one more time, I'll go mad.
THE "OM" METHOD. As in, "This character is named....ommmmmm....aaaahhhh....SUSAN!" (What?) The advantages of this method is the right name "comes" to you; the disadvantage is you often use the same ones. At the moment I am stuck on Rob and Jack for boys and Melissa and Jenny for girls. BORING.
What do you do to name YOUR characters?