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I am looking for a name for my fictional, European, mysterious old man who lived roughly in the 1600's to 1800's. I want the name to have plenty of character to it, but easy to read. How should I go about doing this? (I'm not asking for specific name suggestions but a method for finding names.)

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    Unfortunately, Writers.SE is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. It's intended for questions that can have primarily precise answers or at least answers that come from experience. You can try using Google. "names 1600s european" turned up some results for me. The topic of names was debated hotly here: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/6868/…. – Nicole Apr 22 '15 at 18:40
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    @mastermissions.com I've edited this to ask "how" rather than "what"; as Nicole said, just asking for names to use would be off-topic here, but asking how to go about solving the problem fits better (and that's the direction the existing answer went). Feel free to edit further. Thanks. By the way, you could also try Writing Chat to get input on things that don't fit well on the main site. – Monica Cellio Apr 23 '15 at 13:10
  • @MonicaCellio Nice edit; reopened. – Neil Fein Apr 23 '15 at 17:19
  • @NeilFein oh, I'd missed the closure -- looks like it was nearly simultaneous with my comment on a then-open post. :-) – Monica Cellio Apr 23 '15 at 17:40
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Finding the name for you is not what this site is about. Instead I'll tell you how I would find that name.

First, based on the person's character and other traits, as well as his role in the story, I would chose a nationality.

Having limited my choices to names from a certain language, I would then go through lists of names of historical persons: politicians, writers, and so on. These kinds of lists can be found or created (use the "category" function) on Wikipedia. I would then note down every name I found interesting.

Making sure the character's name is dissimilar enough to the names of other characters in my novel, I would then create my character's name from the names I have found and noted down by mixing them to my pleasure.

Et voilà.

  • @Nicole (clearing throat) Excuse me , Ma'am, That's Mr. mastermissions.com ;) – Jeremy H Apr 22 '15 at 19:44
  • @what ah, I see. such as en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Romanians – Jeremy H Apr 22 '15 at 19:49
  • Ha! My fault; I don't know where I got the idea you were female - I'll go remove my foot from my mouth now. Sorry about that. – Nicole Apr 22 '15 at 19:50
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    Our biggest shock will be when you reveal that you are male, too, @Nicole – user5645 Apr 22 '15 at 21:00
  • Lol while it would be a shock, I am definitely female. – Nicole Apr 22 '15 at 21:04
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One: As What says, I would look for names of people of the appropriate sex, nationality, and historical era. For contemporary people, there are plenty of baby name books and the like, both in print and on the web. For an historical novel, I'd look for names of people from that era in discussions of the history of that place and time.

Two: Next, you have to wrestle with the "tone" of a name. Names often give us an immediate image of the person. If you tell me that a character is named Brunhilda, I just don't picture a beauty contest winner. If you tell me her name is Bambi, I don't expect the next sentence to be that she just won the Nobel prize for physics. That's probably unfair stereotyping, but I think we all do it to one extent or another. Unless the point of your story is to challenge that sort of fast assumption about people, you can take advantage of it to help create the image of the character that you want in the reader's mind.

But this sort of thing can certainly be taken too far. I've read stories where the rich man is named Rich Miser and the thief is named Dirk Blackguard and the pretty girl is named Daffodil Sunshine and so on, and after a while it starts to sound more like an allegory or a morality play than a story.

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Give your characters names that match their physical or psychological attributes. For instance, in my fiction, I named a man Phil "Potter" because of his "pot-shaped" physique. And a "corny" woman got the name "Cornelia."

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