It's amazing how much I struggle to pick names. I have source books to help me - a big book of baby names and phone books. I also like to pull books off my shelves and open right to the bibliographies and indexes at the back looking for something that will hit me. My husband knows better than to shut off a movie or television show before the credits roll through. I always read those for name suggestions, a pen and paper at my elbow.
Why do I go through all this? Simply put, I'd rather not have even a vague picture of someone I know in my mind when I'm creating a new character, if I can help it. Nor do I want to be asked if I was thinking of so and so when I wrote a certain book or story.
The hard part is, names repeat, over and over again--particularly men's names. It can be frustrating. I've often wondered how Nora Roberts deals with the issue. She's so prolific. It has to be even more challenging for her.
Here's a strange story. When I wrote Caution: Filling is Hot years ago, I fell in love with Piper Frost's name. It fit her perfectly, especially because of her talent for cake decorating. Then, more recently, I ordered a book of short stories because one of my favorite authors had a story in there and discovered she'd written a Piper as well. That happens. I kept reading and found she'd named her Piper's love interest Mick. Now we were veering into Twilight Zone territory because my Piper's ex was named Mick. He was the ghost standing between Piper and her developing relationship with Chad.
What did I do about it? Nothing. I'd written my novel years before I stumbled across her short story. Besides, they were vastly different. I didn't think comparisons would ever be an issue. Still, it was a bit surreal.