Latin Roots: Character Sources

“Where do you get your ideas? How did you ever dream up that character? I like your protagonist. When is the sequel coming out so I can see what happened to her?” Questions like these often dot conversations I have with actual or potential readers of my fiction. Most of the time, I have no pat, ready answer because many of the ideas and characters seem to, well, appear as I craft the narrative.

One set of characters present in all my Dragonwolder stories is a family of dragons called the Orferans. In high school, I studied Latin and became a functional speaker of Romance languages; but I’ve always liked the way Latin has informed so many words in English, like latitude (lata), antique (antiqua), picture (pictura) and language (lingua). I wanted to call my dragon creations ‘gold-bearers,’ and or-ferans is my adaptation of the word’s Latin roots. Orferans derives from aurum for ‘gold,’ morphing into the Italian and Spanish oro and the French or; and ferre for ‘to bring,’ apporter in French, traer in Spanish, and portare in Italian.[1] The most wise and benevolent Orferan in Dragonwolder is Aurykk. Did you catch the aur in his name, which indicates he is a Golden Dragon?

Why dragons? The genesis of the Dragonwolder series’ powerful and colossal  characters is mundane and domestic. Years ago, we took a four-year-old in our family on a little trip to a small but artistically-inclined town in Wisconsin. There he spied a dragon puppet in a toy store and begged his dad, our son, to buy it. “Draako” went home with him and was the source of amusement for a while—until the next fascinating distraction came along. Later that weekend, however, short on his own ideas, the boy asked me to tell (make up on the spot) my story about the blue and silver puppet’s life.

Draako’s story conformed to some of the boy’s criteria: the dragon had to be part of a family; he would be magical, strong, and young; and he would face many great and terrible dangers. Over time—years, actually—Draako’s adventures began to have a longer narrative arc and included many different people and supernatural characters good and evil. The stories developed in sequence but had no particular destination. After all, they were episodes created for story time not the Nobel Prize for Literature. Wasn’t that enough?

Not according to my son. He listened in on one story time session and said, “Mom, you ought to make these stories into a book.” The rest is Dragonwolder. Quashing a lot of self-doubt and summoning my muses (my husband and two cats who live with us), I reorganized the characters, settings, and situations to create the first book of the Dragonwolder trilogy, Malevir: Dragons Return.  It’s quite an adventure.

Malevir is the series’ antagonist. He makes so much go wrong. He shifts his shape, spreads death and destruction, and makes life on Dragonwolder miserable. Notice the Latin roots of his name: malus meaning bad and vir meaning man, but Malevir is not a man. He is something else entirely. The last book, which I hope to publish in 2020, will reveal all.

In my next post, I will explore the kinds of dragons populating the series and give you some insights into the relationship between their coloring and temperaments. Those distinctions help drive my trilogy’s narrative. If you’re interested, here is a link to the first two novels:

[1] The former has not changed much over the centuries in the Romance languages but look how the latter has gone separate ways by our time.

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