There have been countless posts that talk about picking the perfect name for your character. Thor talked about where to find it, Captain Rogers about how. I'd encourage you to re-read those two posts, because my compatriots got it exactly right: names are important.
But I'd like to take a different side of the issue: how do you make the names meaningful?
This doesn't always mean you need to make the meaning of the name fit the personality – Tristan doesn't have to be mopey, Charity doesn't have to be kind. But I would say there are three things you want to keep in mind when you search for the perfect name.
- Consider the background.
Even if you're writing Fantasy, every country has it's own culture. You need to make sure the name your character has reflects their upbringing and background. Cap addressed this in his post, but I just wanted to stress it again – it is a huge reader turn-off to see MeiXin from medieval Scotland. If you're writing a more contemporary or futuristic novel, it's easier to place names all over the world, but make sure you understand certain names come from certain cultures and if you want to name your pale white girl Komoyo Lina you need to explain why.
No, like I said, your character's name does not have to match their personality. However, know that readers will be looking for some kind of a connection. You should either make it somewhat compatable, or a complete joke – Harmony for a troublemaker, Justice for a villian. If you're choosing a name with an obvious or well-known meaning, be sure to give it at least a side nod so the reader knows you knew what you were doing.
You can do great things with names, and one of the greatest is to make them subtle hints about plot twists. This has been around forever – Darth Vader could be taken as invader, but more likely is a play off the German word for father. It's a fun easter egg to throw in, and it really just ties the plot together. I did this in my current WIP – not going to give the example since some people are beta-ing and haven't reached the twist yet – but essentially, one character's name is in fact a dead giveaway for his/her inevitable betrayal. It makes so much sense in hindsight, and once again makes you really seem like you knew what you were doing.
So there's a short update on the art of picking the perfect name!