This post is somewhat inspired by the lovely Brigid Kemmerer, who reached out to the Twitterverse last week looking for a surname for one of her characters. The names of my main characters are usually carefully selected. I go through the baby name books and look up the deeper meaning of names, choose monikers that complement each other for my love interests, things that are easy to pronouce, or that represent a character's heritage...but for all of the third tier characters who don't come into action all that much, I just need a name.
I'm working on something new that has a lot of these third tier characters. They are more like scenery, populating the world around my heroine. First names are easy, they can be pretty generic: Liz, Ann, Mark, Michael, etc. Last names are a little more difficult. I can't use Smith or Jones for every one.
One of my favorite resources is the obituaries. Yes, it's morbid, but it's a real name and I feel like the person will always live on a little bit in one of my books. I was also inspired to look through my old yearbooks. I can mix and match first and last names from my old schoolmates, and there's a fairly plentiful list. And so I can write off my celeb gossip mags, I sometimes use celebrity names, as long as they aren't too widely recognizable.
What about you? What are some of your name resources? Do you use friends, family members? Make them up? Please share.