Getting the look of the boy right was the mere beginning of the struggle, for in order for me to get YOU to believe that he is who I say he is, I had to develop a back story for him. This exercise is called a “character sketch.“ I had to invent the story of his life, including details that would never see the published page. In the end this helped ME to believe that much like Pinocchio, he IS a real boy. And that is how I make YOU believe the same.
As for name choice, originally I went for the "low-hanging fruit" method of choice: I wanted one boy hero and one girl hero, AND I happen to have one nephew and one niece, so I thought, DONE! But I ran into resistance from THE REAL BOY, who didn’t want his name used. I do get the last laugh because "Ben" was the parents' original name choice for him.
I started writing about Ben as if describing a boy I knew: Ben is starry-eyed, gets distracted easily, and takes in the world as it unfolds. But he is also more about relying on instinct--more action-oriented. As he took shape in my head, it became easier to write about what he’d say and do, for it was just like recounting a story about a friend's kid.
Backwards as this sounds, when I wrote book 2 for this series, I added more details to Centipede Dragon's character sketch, because characters should be ever evolving, just like the real living creatures that inspire them!