I'll admit it. I'm terrible at coming up with names for my characters. When I look back through my short stories I see that I tend to repeat certain names, especially mens names. Mac seems to be popular with me. I'm not sure why.
For men, names with a K sound seem sexy and strong. Kirk, Dirk, the previously mentioned Mac, Curt, and Cord, for example.
For women, it's a little harder. If she's someone sort of cute, then I think she needs a name that is kind of cute which usually means something with a y-sound ending: Marcie, Darcy, Penny or Cici. If she's a little more business-like, then she might have a short name like Kate, Anne, or Liz. Or maybe a name that sounds sort of tomboy-ish like Ronnie, Ricki, or Joey.
Sure, I could go against character and have a very silly woman who is named Margaret, but when you write short stories, I think you need to use a few of these stereotypes to make your point since you don't have a lot of space.
One exception might be, though, someone who laments their name. Maybe a fun loving free spirit named Margaret who wishes everyone would call her Maggie or Meg and gets frustrated when they call her Margaret.
My problem is that I'll be writing along and decide that I need to add a secondary character but I can't think of a good name for them so I'll stop writing and think about names, maybe I'll even look through the phone book for a good name. This lack of planning causes me to stop writing and get distracted from my story.
How do I solve this problem? If I can't come up with a name quickly, I just leave a blank line ______ where there name should be as a reminder to myself that I need a name there. Don't just leave a blank space because you might not remember to come back and fix it.
The other thing that I'm going to start doing is to keep a list of possible character names where I'll write down interesting names either when I hear them or think of them. That way, I'll already have a ready supply of possible names.
What about you? How do you come up with names for your characters? As a reader, how important are names to you? Do you get annoyed with a story where everyone has an unusual name or a quirky nickname?