I had grown tired of using traditional names for my characters. Now, I name my characters after: States, cites, towns, villages, and suburbs withing the United States. I think it makes them more interesting. My son is name Denver.
I use our family genealogy logs, almost exclusively. It's some 100,000 strong and from practically every nation on earth, so my ancestors live on in a way when I write. I will often mix and match a given name with another surname. Occasionally I hear an unusual one and add it to the mix.
My editor tells me she agreed to read my first novel on the back of the main character's name - Lilly Valentine - which was great.
My second has a lot of homeless characters so I've had hours of fun with them. My faves are Tear Drop Tony and Sonic Dave.
I teach at a community college, so there's a wide range of great names to consider. Here are just a few of my students' names this semester:
La'quisha, Lorena, Veltrice, Riva, Luz, Johmel
Mariano, Twana, Manish, Katrice, Adriyana
Shellah, Sumintra, Widlin, Rodaphney, Tamika
Repeating from last semester:
Huguelene. Darius, Lavell, Tijuan
I look to popular culture, on the basis that if the name in that context is popular, it must be okay.
For instance, the names of two major characters in my first book, Fallen Idols, were from songs by The Jam, these being David Watts and Liza Radley (the former being a cover of a Kinks song, the latter being the B-side to the single Start). In my next book, Lost Souls, out in May, there is a character called Billy Hunt, which is the title of a track from The Jam's third album, All Mod Cons. I am, however, out of The Jam tributes, so I'll have to think of a new theme.
In my first book, I also took names from my DVD cabinet, such as Glen Ross (Glengarry Glen Ross) and Colin Wood (Welcome to Collinwood). If I am really stuck, I look at my bookshelf and use an author's name.
I self-published a few years ago, before I got a contract with HarperCollins, and the main character was called Joe Kinsella, after W.P. Kinsella.