Naming Names

In a series that I’m developing, I’ve got a bunch of characters from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. But … the story is set thousands of years in the future and the cultures aren’t the same as what we know.

Even given that, some names sound like cultures that exist today, but others sound exotic to our ears.

One of the characters, who I don’t want to sound too exotic to a western reader, is Brett Westmoreland, head of security on the IUDV Chaucer (Interplanetary Union Diplomatic Vessel).

While that name has withstood any number of revisions and edits, it’s started to cause a conflict. You see in the latest round of layering edits, I’m adding a weapons officer, and her first name is definitely Brita.

But Brita and Brett, two people who are on the bridge of the ship, speaking important info, during crises, may cause confusion in the reader’s mind. So I’ve been looking for an alternative for Brita.

Instead, I found one for Brett.

I’ve been re-reading golden age science fiction, and I’ve just finished The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov. This murder mystery culture clash of the future is an interesting story to deconstruct in its own right, but for our needs today, there’s only one element I need to discuss: the name of the murder victim, Rikaine Delmarre.

Rikaine is an interesting name. It jumped out at me every time it occurred. Maybe it could replace Brett.

Rikaine Westmoreland.

Why Westmoreland? In my lifetime there has been a high profile American general named Westmoreland. I like the connotation of the name in the reader’s mind, for my chief of security.

I have another character whose name I want to mention, Char Osbaldiston. This character started out as a man, but Char is an ambiguous name, and once I’d written a bit more, it made more sense to flip the character to female.

Here’s where it gets fun. As I’ve been developing Char, I’ve given her a lover, a younger, male crew member of a lower rank (it’s a scandal). But in the prequel story that I’d started mapping out before I switched Char to female, Char has a girlfriend.

I’ve decided I’m going to leave both as is, without any commentary from crew or narrator (except for the lower-rank scandal). I feel that’s the right way to write this character; she’s comfortable with who she is, so no one challenges her lifestyle.

FYI, the name “Osbaldiston” comes to me from a Canadian Football League kicker, although his name may have been Osbaldistan. I don’t care which it was, this is the name as I’ve decided it exists in that universe and fits Char.