I choose the names of my characters by thinking of what nationality they are, looking through some name lists, both for first names and for last names. I use the pronunciation guides to try out saying the name, to see if it fits the character. I've even changed the name after the character made it clear to me that what I chose wasn't her/his name.
In some cases, I choose names of people I've known and admired. In one of my current WIPs, I'm using the name of a woman I was friends when our kids went to school together, before she moved to another state. She then was diagnosed with cancer, and passed on years ago. I've always wanted to honor her memory by using her name. When the book is published, I'll send a copy to her sister.
For my Minnesota Romances, I had to use Russian names for the ex-KGB agents. Luckily when the second and third books were first published, the editor spoke Russian, so she was a big help correcting some of the Russian phrases I'd looked up.
For my Reyes Family Romances, I had to use Hispanic names, and at the time I was taking conversational Spanish classes. My professor was more than happy to vet my Spanish phrases. He even told me that for the name Catalina, the siblings might Americanize by using the nickname Cat, but the mother would probably use the more traditional Cata.
When I was having The Right Choice republished under a changed title, I toyed with changing the name of the heroine, since Pamela wasn't a very exciting name to me. But the character let me know in no uncertain terms. that she was indeed Pamela, and her long-time lover called her Mel. I backed off to make her happy!
As for names to avoid, I'll never use my own name, or those of my husband or any of our kids--or any extended family members either. And close friends will never see their names in my books, though I might use situations or events we've talked about, as part of the action in any story.
But in regards to my title above, there is a man's name that I have particular antipathy toward. In college I dated three different men with that name, and all of them sliced and diced me, each in their own way. In my books (not the freebie) that have a pain-in-the-butt man--yup--that's his name. He will have different last names, but his first name will always be the same.
If you've read any of my books with an unpleasant jerk in them, give me the title and tell me your guess for the name. If you're right, I'll give you a coupon for a free download of any book I have published on Smashwords.
Now continue on to see what the other authors have to say about how they name their characters.
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2i7
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com