Personally, I have always named characters before the book ever starts. I think long and hard about what kind of person I want my character to be. Then, I search through the baby name book, pester friends for suggestions, and then pick one. I usually never think about it again.
Recently during the editing process, my copyeditor suggested I change the name of my lead male character or his best friend. Too many "B" names. I'd never considered it, but the more I looked at it, I realized she was right. Confusing.
The easy thing to do would to have changed the best friend's name. After all, I'd already written suggested back copy for the book and picked suggested excerpts. They had the lead character's name throughout them. I started a "find" and "replace all" search for the best friend's name, but I stopped.
I couldn't change his name. Burke, the best friend, had been a character on my radar since I was in high school. I've "known" him forever. His name is Burke. He's a Burke. I couldn't change it.
I text my girlfriends/beta readers and asked their opinion. They both agreed to change the lead character's name. Weird. Had I somehow named my lead character wrong? Or was Burke's name just too perfect?
I began the search for a new name, all the while pondering why exactly names were important. I pestered my friends for suggestions. I pestered my own personal Prince Charming. I pestered my mom, my dad, my sister, Gramma. You're probably getting the point that I pestered everyone. I wasn't satisfied with any of the suggestions they gave me.
Maybe, I was wrong. Maybe, I couldn't change my lead character's name. Maybe, I'd have to change Burke's after all.
While I worked on other edits, I pouted. I pouted quite a bit about this particular change. I like to think I'm open-minded and take suggestions well. This one bugged me, though. It was supposed to be the easy change! And, I couldn't figure it out!
Then, the name came to me one day. In a dream. No, just kidding. Actually, my sister and I took my dog to the river. My sister- we'll call her Lizard from this point on- decided Perseus needed a middle name so she could yell his full name at him when he misbehaved. Not that my eighty pound dog gets excited and drags my hundred pound sister around with the leash or anything. The conversation went something like this:
Lizard: I'm leaning toward Stephan or Dean.
Me: Perseus Dean? Seriously?
Lizard: I like it.
Me: I think we should stick to Greek hero names. Perseus Dean is a little-- Holy crap! Dean! That's it!
Lizard: I know, right? Aren't I smart?
Me: Not for the dog! Percy, sit down. Sit. Sit. Please, Percy, sit. Thank you, Percy. I meant Dean for my character! That's what I'll change his name to! Dean! Oh, Lizard, you're a genius!
Lizard: I know... I still like Perseus Dean.
Dean is the perfect name for my character. It just suits him. Better than his original name. I still love that name, but Dean is just so... him. If that makes sense. Possibly not.
So, that's the story of how I renamed my lead male character. It took me eight days, but I did it. I have to say. My copyeditor was right. Yay her! And, yay Lizard for giving my poor Perseus a weird name. : )