Saturday, July 17, 2010

Strawberry Badasscake

Sometimes a writer picks a name for a character with multiple meanings and pronunciations. We assume that the reader will assume what we have, but sometimes they don't. That isn't the readers fault: the writer should strive to make this clearer.

Dragon's don't have any crystallized rules regarding names. Their mothers give them a name but they often change it as soon as they become independent--about 100 years after hatching. A dragon usually adopts a name common for the region in which he lives. So, a dragon living in China wouldn't go by Frank Brandenburg. Many dragons (including Garrett Terago) use their dragon name as their last name, changing their first name every few decades and assuming the identity of one of their own decedents. Dragons that just don't care (Aoni'a) take one name and stick with it. Veles Fraise is an example of a dragon who has generally used his first name as his dragon name, only putting his last name into common use fairly recently--as dragons measure these things, 900 years or so for him.

Veles Fraise is a pivotal character in the books. In literary terms, he's the master antagonist. In geek terms, he's the big bad. Or, more appropriately, the head big bad. Unfortunately, by not being clear on how his name sounds, I've allowed a misunderstanding to occur with some of my readers.

I'll start by explaining how this dragon came about the name in the first place. Veles is the name of an ancient Slavic/Aryan god of war, water, harvest and commerce. He's also known as Volos. The pagan god Veles was later affiliated with the Saint Vlas Blaise--this was common during periods of Christanization for missionaries to associate pagan gods with specific saints in the hopes of easing pegans into converting. Basically, if you convince them that their pagan god isn't actually a god, but a servant/saint of the god you're trying to convince them to worship, in theory you won't have to kill as many of them before they convert. It seemed to have worked, for the most part.

Dragon's don't have any crystallized rules regarding names. Their mothers give them a name but they often change it as soon as they become independent--about 100 years after hatching. A dragon usually adopts a name common for the region in which he lives. So, a dragon living in China wouldn't go by Frank Brandenburg. Many dragons (including Garrett Terago) use their dragon name as their last name, changing their first name every few decades and assuming the identity of one of their own decedents. Dragons that just don't care (Aoni'a) take one name and stick with it.

The idea here is that the ancient Aryans worshipped Veles (the dragon) as a god. When they converted to Christianity, they stopped seeing him as a god and started seeing him as a Saint. So, he adopted a variation of the saint-name they'd given him and gave it his own style. He kept Veles, since that was his original name, but opted for a more aggressive variation of the saint's name. Blaise is a Latin word meaning stutters, so Veles changed it to Fraise, which means wall of spears. Basically, he's mocking the fact that a human religion inadvertently made him into a saint. Dragon humor...

Unfortunately, when pronounced differently, Fraise is also a French word for strawberry. You can click on the little speaker link to hear the different pronunciations. No doubt they are connected in origin, as the leaves of a strawberry plant look like little spear-tips. But, Veles Fraise isn't French, he's Aryan. Thanks to the helpful input of several beta-readers (including one native French speaker) I've revised Fraise's introduction so that the exact manner in which his name is pronounced is clarified: FRAEY-EEZ, not FRAW-Z.

See, THIS is why I need you guys! You help me make a better book! Without you, I'm not a writer: I'm just a guy typing on a laptop and neglecting his lawn.