Not everybody has to be funny; not everybody has to be cute; not everybody has to be delightful, and not everybody has to speak, but if you don’t know who everybody is and why they’re there, why they’re feeling what they’re feeling and why they’re doing what they’re doing, then you’re in trouble.
— Joss Whedon
Very early on in the evolution of The LOOK, I knew Amie was going to have dinner with her sister. The image just popped into my head: she’s sitting at a table (at a restaurant I happen to adore IRL) and she’s not alone. Who’s she with? The answer came immediately: she’s sitting opposite her sister.
For a week or so, that was all I knew. I didn’t know her sister’s name, whether or not she was older or younger, did they get along, etc. It’s impossible to write a scene, even a simple one, without intuiting all the moving parts. Eventually, it was pen and paper time: Sara emerged. By sketching questions and answers, I discovered where she worked, why she worked there, what her aspirations had been ten years before, how she felt about the world today and many more details, including essential items like how old she is and why she’s having supper with Amie in that moment.
She turned out to be a pivotal character for reasons I found out farther down the writing road. Much of her personal backstory didn’t make it into the book — the readers don’t need specifics on her early days in college or why she went for the MBA — but having that sense of her was essential to giving her breath in my psyche. Fictional characters must be real. The story may be made up, but the depth comes from authenticity and that is always true.