How to Come Up With Character Names

So lately, with the baby on the way and finding out that it's a boy, names have been on the brain. When looking for a baby name we pour over websites and books, get excited about names we hear in the mall or in a movie, but we never name our kid "lightly." We don't just decide, without any real thought, "guess he's a John." So why would we do that to our characters? For me names are symbolic. They say a lot about a person, maybe what you want them to be, the visions you had for their future, or maybe it reflects a strong part of their personality. With babies we don't know what's coming or how he/she is going to turn out, with characters we do.

When I name my characters I start out with just a simple working name. It usually doesn't stick around but just something to throw in there for now. As the character fleshes out and their personality begins to flourish and grow and start looking for their final name. I had a character that is Spanish, female, and very lively. Everything about her was incredibly alive. So when it came time to find her final name I searched Spanish names that meant alive, lively, energetic, etc... until I found one that felt right.

I do that with all my important characters. Their name reflects an integral part of their personality. Sure, there are characters I just throw names on but for my protagonist there is always a deeper meaning.

I wish I knew what my baby was going to grow up to be already, then finding a name would be so much easier. Instead I have to slug through thousands of names with different meanings and backgrounds with no real guidance.

So how do you name your characters? Do you just slap on a name you like or is there some deeper meaning behind it all?