I have lots of friends, both real and imaginary.
Not sure about other writers but I have to make friends with my characters before I can work with them.
I think about their personality, their backstory, their physical appearance, their values and attitudes; only then can we decide together what they should be called.
I was naïve when I wrote my first novel and didn’t think peripheral characters deserved such depth. I created a character who was only in one scene and therefore plucked a name out of the air. He had other ideas and I’m subsequently stuck with someone who has a name that doesn’t suit him. Although he’s been very nice about it but then he’s that sort of chap.
I recently met a character whom I immediately disliked. My animosity rubbed off on her and we were unable to build a relationship; in short I couldn’t write her story. I had to start again. She only became multi-dimensional once I grasped what made her tick. We’re now friends and I’m able to sensitively record her part in the plot. Whilst I don’t always agree with her, I understand her motives.
There probably isn’t an author alive who hasn’t been asked by at least one friend:
‘Am I in your story?’
Well no actually you’re not, because my imaginary friends populate my writing world so why would they want you cluttering up their story?
Of course I don’t say that; I smile noncommittally and leave them wondering …