How is it that characters get names? Someone mentioned a while back that she was feeling blocked because she didn't know the name of a character. She'd tried using an arbitrary name as a placeholder, but it wasn't working, because she knew, somehow, that it wasn't his name.
I don't seem to have a problem with names. They come in two ways: either the character introduces her- or himself, which is mightily obliging of them, or another character will refer to them by name. It's very rare for me not to know the name of someone about whom I'm going to write before I start writing about them, and if I don't, there's nearly always some periphrasis I can use fairly happily - "Joseph's tutor", "the woman with the constant air of weary disgust", "his former paramour", and so on.
So how is it that a name can be 'right' for a character? Assuming that you know their gender, their historic period, their culture, and so forth so that you can eliminate absurdities and chronoclasms, how can you be sure that someone's an Oliver and not a Raymond, a Phoebe and not an Emily? Logically, there isn't much to cohere everyone named Alan apart from the very obvious stuff, so how can you decide - if you have to - that your character's an Alan and not an Andrew?
I'd be really interested to read your thoughts on this.