names of people I knew, even those of my own relatives, out of fear of possible lawsuits, or even just mere anger, from those people. At first, trying to make up names was hard, since there were so many people I mentioned. It was hard not to use the same name twice to avoid confusion with other characters, even though in reality I knew many Jennifers, Lisas, Karens and Michelles, among other trendy names, growing up. At one point in the story, I made reference to "one of the many Jennifers, Karens or Lisas...," knowing that the real person referenced had one of those names in reality. This was how I mentioned that person without actually using her name. In some cases, I could not remember someone's name, so I left those unnamed. This was especially true of those who were only briefly referenced, as I felt there was no need to use names in these instances.
As for my diary novel, I'm unsure how I came up with the name of my protagonist or even some of the secondary characters. Though I've often though that Jana and Janelle sound like names for a set of twins, so I went wth those for two of my secondary characters. The old man across the street was given the all-too-generic name of Bob Smith. I just have a thing for the name Bob. And Megan Smith is his great-niece. Again, a very ordinary-sounding name.
Quite often, I just take popular names for characters. Or any that come to mind. This may be how I chose some the names in both stories currently in progress.