Naming and Developing “Just One More Minute” Characters

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I’m 1,787 words into Just One More Minute. It feels so good to be writing again—but it’s hard. I’m used to writing much faster, for one. Typically I can write 2,000 words in an hour. I wrote for three hours yesterday and was super disappointed. Not only am I out of practice, it’s also a new book, and my arthritis has flared up again. My wrists and hands are sore. So it’s been a process.

I spent a lot of time naming and developing characters. I knew what I was going for and wanted things just right. Sometimes a name will just pop into my head and I’ll know it’s perfect. Other times, I have to search through baby name websites. This was one of those times.

Rowan was easy. I’d already fallen in love with the name and knew I wanted to use it for a character eventually. I toyed with the idea of taking her name literally and giving her red hair, but in the end it just wasn’t her. I wanted someone who looked delicate but with strong, feisty features. I often look for a model to base my characters off of, but none of the gorgeous redheads I could find screamed Rowan to me. Eventually I came across Merritt Patterson. She was exactly who I’d been looking for.

Matt was harder. I knew exactly what he looked like and found a model for him with no trouble. I just Googled “young men with curly hair.” Alex Libby matched the guy I saw in my head to a T. Naming him was harder. I knew I wanted a “normal” name. I usually give my male characters unique names. Initially I was going to name him Daniel, but it just didn’t fit. I spent hours scrolling through baby name sites. Finally I came across Matthew—Matt for short. It fit perfectly.

I spent a whole day shaping them in my development doc. I wrote entire personal histories and then physical descriptions. In some ways, I know these people better than myself.

Rowan:

Mousy brown hair down to her waist, blue eyes. Porcelain complexion; doesn’t tan, usually burns. Full lips. Button nose. Slightly dimpled chin.

She’s short (about 5’2″), and slight. 34B bust.

Typical outfit: tunic, leggings, infinity scarf, wedges or riding boots.

Usually has bare nails, since she works in the food industry—though they’re very neat and well cared for.

Rarely carries a purse. Keeps cash and phone tucked into her boots or, if summer, a wristlet. Everything else, she keeps in her car (makeup bag, etc).

When checking something in the oven, she always says “Just one more minute…”

Matt:

Curly brown hair down to his ears. Green eyes. Light olive complexion; tans easily. Greek nose. Full lips. Light beard.

6’3″. Athletic build.

Typical outfit: Timberland safety boots, worn and comfortable Dickie’s work pants (usually smudged with flour), striped tee or long sleeved henley.

Square hands—worker’s hands. Nails are very short and clean.

It’s true that at this point I know her better. Usually I figure these things out as I’m writing, so I’m not sweatin’ it.

I spent some more time developing the supporting cast. There are still details I’m not sure of, but everyone has a name. I’ll figure out the rest as I go and add it to my style sheet. (I’ll talk about that more in a future post.) I might not find models for all of the characters, but their descriptions aren’t as important as my leads’ are.

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Next up: I’ll talk about how I pants and plot.

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Elizabeth Barone

Elizabeth Barone is an American novelist who writes contemporary romance and suspense starring strong belles who chose a different path. Her debut novel Sade on the Wall was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. She is the author of the South of Forever series and several other books. When not writing, Elizabeth is very busy getting her latest fix of Yankee Candle, spicy Doritos chips, or whatever TV show she’s currently binging. Elizabeth lives in northwestern Connecticut with her husband, a feisty little cat, and too many books.

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