I look for the sound of the name (how it echoes inside my head), the memorability of the name (unusual but not too unusual), the pronounceability of the name (doesn’t it drive you a little cuckoo when you’re not certain how to pronounce a main character’s name?). I look for the meaning of the name and the ethnic background of it. I look for a name that has strength (usually a single syllable) if my character is strong. I search through feminine names when my character is softer in nature.
On my bookshelves sit over a dozen baby naming books. I comb through them as I prepare to name, and rename, my character. As the book evolves, the true character emerges; so does the “right” name.
Lists float around my office, in my bedroom, at the diningroom table, lists of possible names. Eventually all but one name is crossed off.
Rifka, by the way, was originally Nitza…aren’t you glad I changed that one?