The Evolution of Rylie Cooper

Hello! Today I’m going to delve into how Rylie became Rylie. 

But before we begin, I have to let you in on a secret . . . Rylie wasn’t initially Rylie’s name. 


I know, I know. Settle down. Breathe. 

At first, her name was . . . 


Courtney Cooper? 

Well, in the first draft her last name wasn’t Cooper—she didn’t actually have a last name at all at that point. 

But to get to Rylie we must begin with Courtney . . . 

Pinterest is typically where I begin when thinking about my characters. It helps me to have an image in my mind of what my character looks like. 

In my head, Courtney was a pretty young blonde. 

She’s pretty, but almost too pretty. Too made up. 

But I had to start somewhere. 

Then I looked up Blonde in Aviator Glasses because Rylie/Courtney would obviously wear Aviator Glasses. 

Good. But not quite right. 

Then her name changed to Rylie. With a new name in mind, I eventually settled on this initial image: 

She’s probably skinnier than how I envision Rylie since Rylie is more muscular, but I liked how her hair wasn’t perfectly done, how she wasn’t wearing lipstick, and the overall flirty vibe she puts off. 

It worked to get me started. 

Next, I had to work on her life. How old was she? Was she in college? What were the circumstances of her becoming a park ranger? 

At first, I thought she would be in college. Maybe only working on the weekends at first. I tried to think of how I could include college into the stories. I even wrote this little passage as a possible beginning for Catfished(which wasn’t called Catfished at first, but that’s a story for another time): 

College classes were supposed to be challenging and ultimately rewarding. But as I sat in a room of almost fifty students learning how best to create a game that seven year olds would enjoy, I could feel my patience slipping. Getting a degree was something I’d always wanted to do. In fact, I always wanted to be a lawyer. Something about arguing for money really made my interest pique. 

So I went to one of the top colleges in the state as a pre-law student with a hefty academic scholarship. I studied really hard for about a semester and then dropped out so I could be closer to Troy. My parents, who had paid for that very expensive first semester, promptly informed me that they were cutting me off. I wasn’t worried, though. I had the fire department and Troy and everything was going to be great. Right? 

Yeah, so here I was getting a degree at one of the cheapest colleges in the state in one of the easiest majors. My student loans were amassing but I don’t have to pay for them until I graduate, which I hoped would be next fall. 

Okay, aside from the lack of polish, this passage was interesting for me to go back and realize that I thought Rylie wanted to be a LAWYER? 

Say what!?!

When did that happen? 

It must have been a fleeting thought, though, because she ended up with a degree in Parks and Recreation Management and loves it. 

I axed the idea of including college in the mix, because it added an element that wasn’t necessary to the stories. 

Now Rylie is a full-fledged park ranger who, in my head, looks nothing like any of the above pictures. 

She’s strong and fierce and makes lots of mistakes, but I love her nonetheless. 

What do you think? How do you picture Rylie? 

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