It's a fairly random process, really. I want my character names to have the feel of recognizable human names, even if names from most human languages don't really work in the context where I tend to write fic. Sometimes I do use names from a culture that seems to fit; for my megaflare_ff story, for example, I'm having to populate Rozarria, and for the most part I'm giving those characters Spanish names, or near-Spanish. I suspect a lot of what I do with naming is similar to what the game writers do: I take a Western name and then tweak it, either changing the spelling or the pronunciation to make it just a little different. I want it to sound like a name, but I also don't want it to be too much like a name that English speakers would run across in the every day. I don't chose names symbolically at all. I just go for what sounds good.
Since I tend to write in established universes, I almost never need to invent place names, which is good, because I think that would be a lot more difficult.
30 Days of Writing: Complete list of questions
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