Lets be honest: names are hard. Well, just about everything in writing is hard, and names are one of those things. HOWEVER, it can also be fun! There are lots of awesome ways to go about choosing names for your people and places.
1. Baby Names.
This one is classic. Go on a baby-name-chooser website, pick the letter you maybe want to start with, and scroll. Time consuming, but you could come up with something really fantastic.
2. Name Generators
These are SO FUN! I can't stop clicking the button. I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT IT'LL SAY NEXT!! Of course, you come up with some totally out-there, how-do-I-even-pronounce-that names, but they're still awesome, and you can mix and match, or just use parts of the names that come up!
3. Other Languages
I love love love doing this, because it's easy and interesting and fun, and makes your names not only easier to keep track of (I think), but it gives them more meaning. Examples:
-I googled "gaelic word for fool," and came up with "amadán." Thus, my wimpy prince is named Amadan.
-I googled "latin word for sky," and came up with caelum, so that's the name of my floating city.
I don't always use the whole word, though. Example:
-I googled "latin for greed" and came up with "avaritia."So one of my bad guys (girls) is called Aria (AvaRItiA).
Aaand sometimes I will use words from languages that normal people don't speak.
-There is an excellent elvish dictionary called Parf Edhellen (an Elvish Book) which I go to for all my Elvish-speaking needs. I looked up the elvish words for shadow (Dae) and star (Elen), put 'em together with an apostrophe, and got a last name for my MC. Dae'Elen.
Now, I usually only use elf names for elf characters, because oftentimes, you can TELL it should be an elf name, and if the character's not an elf...well...;
4 Ask Others
Ask your friends, your family, your coworkers, that guy next to you on the bus! Or, if face-to-face contact is intimidating, and maybe you don't want anyone you know to know about your story, petition the internet! Even just looking at the suggestions given to OTHER people can give you ideas!
5. Making Them Up Yourself
If you've got a great, creative brain on you (in you?), then you've probably at least attempted this before, even if you didn't keep the name you came up with. This is probably the hardest way to come up with names. You're jumbling letters and sounds around in your brain, trying to come up with something cool or hot or manly or feminine, and trying to keep it pronounceable for your audience.
[INSERT STORY FROM RACHEL'S CHILDHOOD: One time, when dad was reading us The Door Within (awesome series btw), possibly for the first time (he read the trilogy to us a few times), he kept having trouble with the name Acsriot. For a while he pronounced it Ascriot, which was a little easier, but eventually resorted to calling him Bob. I'm not kidding. It sort of detracted from a scene that was supposed to be filled with tension, but whatever.]
Anyway, pronounceable is good.
6 Smashing the Keys
Nope, not joking. Well, kind of. But random dfytguhkj's and lssutyaw's can sometimes produce letter combinations that give you ideas, or work for you all on their own.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN CHOOSING NAMES:
If you've been writing for a while, or like to frequent writing blogs and the like, then you probably know this next bit already (in fact, you probably knew all this stuff already. But some people don't! And you can't fault them for that). When choosing names, you should try to:
A) Keep it Simple
While LedongsDarFejuoulem'NeksjyKahrausnep may sound awesome to you, that can get old to your reader, and tiresome to type! Shorter names are easier to remember. If you must have a long name due to [insert reason], then try and have a nickname by which he or she is most commonly referred to. For example, Khraus up there doesn't always have to use his full name.
B) Keep it Different
Tim and Tom, Melanie and Melody, Jack and Jake, Randy, Rango and Rudy, Susie, Stacy, Tracy.....you can see how having people with similar names could confuse your audience. And that's just with regular names (well, Rango is debatable as "regular")! Add made-up fantasy names, and you got a whooooole other kettle of fish to sort through. I know I've read stories where I couldn't tell some characters apart, and could never get a handle on who was speaking or what they were doing. It just detracts from the whole story.
C) Keep it Minimal
Does that peddler throwing buttons at your MC really need a name? What about that town that they're briefly passing through? Or that horse they stole? Unnecessary names can get confusing and tedious after a while. I mean, some people appear to pull it off, look at Game of Thrones. But do you remember the name of EVERY character and EVERY place? No. Sometimes less is more. Unless something really significant in going to happen with that person/town/animal that will affect the story in some way, they probably don't need to be named. Of course, YOU can have a name for them. You can know the entire backstory of Gong the Peddler and how he came to be where is he now. You can know the entire history of the town, and the location of every shop and home. If that's what you really want. But don't tire yourself out with unnecessary details, and don't weigh down your reader with names they don't really need piling up in their head.
ALL THAT BEING SAID, I am not a bestselling author. In fact, I'm not even a published author! IN FACT, I have yet to finish a first draft of any story I've written (except for those two when I was young). But I have been writing my entire life. These are just things I've learned along the way, whether by someone (such as a popular writing blog) pointing it out to me, or by figuring it out myself. So don't take my word for it. Go explore the possibilities and helpful tips yourself! :D
P.S. LOOK AT THESE FUNNY LEGOLAS PICTURES AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
Ok, ok. I'm done. I swear I'm done. XD AHAHAHAHA gotta love Legolas funnies. XD