People ask me how I name my characters, and I often answer them with an impressive and intelligent-sounding "Huh?"
Then I shift my mental gears into reverse and remember that I did go through some mental gyrations when I named my characters. It's just that I promptly forgot those gyrations once each characters was duly named. If you have children, think back to the other names you considered when you were naming them. It's entirely possible that I could be the mother of three children named Daniel, Rebecca, and Susannah, but the prospect just seems...wrong. Once you hang a name on that delightful bundle of sweet baby flesh, it's over. The human mind meshes the sound of the name with the reality of the person, and any other name just feels like a masquerade.
So where did Faye Longchamp get her name? Well, I wanted something slightly uncommon, without being quirky. I had it in my mind that some of Faye's European ancestors hailed from France, and I wanted a French name that could be Anglicized into something that Americans could spell and pronounce. So Faye pronounces her last name like it looks (and like a Southerner): "LAWNG-champ." Her first name is just a little bit old-fashioned, and it's a name that I've encountered in several women of both European and African descent who were born in the South in the mid-20th-century. It seemed to fit my biracial and very Southern protagonist. I like its soft and feminine sound because, beneath her tough, scientific exterior, Faye is all girl.
I chose Joe's first name because it is simple and masculine. It is common enough that he needed an interesting surname. I wanted it to be somewhat Native American in sound. I remembered Randolph Mantooth from the show Emergency! in the 1970s, and that sounded about right. I also went to school with a girl who had that name, so I knew it wasn't incredibly rare. I felt that Joe also needed a middle name with character and I decided on Wolf. "Joe Wolf Mantooth" suits him very well, I think.
Faye's plantation house, handed down through her family for years, needed a name as well. I remembered a book I had enjoyed called The River Road that featured houses like Faye's. A secondary character was named Joyeuse, and I thought that was a beautiful name for a house. It speaks of joy. And it makes the suffering in that house that comes with slavery so poignant. People always want to know how to pronounce Joyeuse. I tell them that Faye's as Southern as I am, so she garbles it a bit, but we pronounce it, "Zhwah-YOOSE." My French-speaking editor pronounces it more like "Zhwah-yuhz."
The most important thing about my characters, though, is that they come when I call them.