As Shakespeare so eloquently said, "a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet."
Is that true in a novel?
Are all the names an author can choose for their characters created equal?
No. I don't believe an author can just pull any name that makes them feel good at the moment out of the air and stick it on their hero or heroine. One size does not fit all!
Honestly, naming my kids was easier than it is to name my characters - and I don't have an easy last name to pair that perfect first name with!
The first thing to take into consideration is the time period of your story. Nothing pulls me out of a story quicker than a heroine named Tiffany in a Medieval (unless it's a time travel and she's a modern day heroine.) There are plenty of research books on period names, some name books will even given the origin of the name and the approximate date it was first recorded to be used - make use of those resources! It only takes a few minutes of your time and your readers will appreciate the attention to detail.
Want to ensure I don't make it past the back blurb and your book doesn't come home with me or get loaded into my Nook? Give your characters names I can't pronounce! This could just be me, but nothing frustrates me more than a name that I'm not sure about and make up the pronunciation on my own - this means that as I read in my head I am spending more time trying to figure out the character name and how to say it than anything else. Not really what most authors are going for.
Getting back to Rose...let's face it, some names just conjure up an image in your head. A hero named Jack or Max is definitely going to give me a different impression than say, Milton. Yes, if you name your heroine Rose, I'm going to think soft and sweet (I have a sister-in-law named Rosie, and she IS sweet!)
Now, the real fun begins - how do you choose your character name?
I use a combination of name books - some with origins and meanings, and another involving letter sounds and personality traits. I usually have an idea of the personality of my character and of course, the time period that book will be in. Then I start pulling names that fit both time and personality and start picturing my character being called my chosen name - in anger, in a conversation, and in the throes of passion.
If I like the name in all three situations, I've got a winner!
What's your process or what's your character name pet peeve?