• Catherine Baldau

Sofy, Cat, and Me

By Tara Bell


[Note: This is the ­­­­­­­­­­­­fourth in a series of blogs exploring the characters, writing process, and behind the scenes of THOUGHTS & PRAYERS.]



There are eight main characters, two for each of the four of us that make up Lee Anne Post. We built our characters and a plot and decided who would interact within that story. We each chose two main characters. I chose two teen girls with a deep friendship. I created Caitlyn and Sofia, how they related to each other, how they reacted to their families, school, grief, love, how they spoke to each other, what they looked like, their back story, what they needed, wanted, and ate. Cat and Sofy were interested in how I would react to them too.


I have an affinity for young people, for writing about them, believing in their confused and imaginative minds. They have “flood gates are open” thinking, wide swinging emotions. They are flamboyant and reckless. They are either out there, or hiding, or both.


I couldn’t write about Caitlyn without writing about Sofia. They are joined at the hip. Pretty, confident Caitlyn took shy, dark-eyed Sofia under her wing when she was “the new girl” in middle school. Soon after their new friendship blossomed, Caitlyn supported Sofy when her mother became ill and died. Now they are sophomores in High School and share in everything. For Sofy’s quinceañera they made their own gowns, which opened the way to designing more fashion. They applied for a Junior Fashion TV show and were asked to present a line of clothes. They dived in.


I knew Caitlyn and Sofia had to be profound, but they also had to fit into the framework of a novel, a story arc, a constructed, technical place, where they only existed in words. How the hell can we as writers do that? How do we “show . . . don’t tell,” make it tight, fit a life onto pages instead of years, and then move on. It’s a challenge to our writer egos, our writing skills, and our self-examination as we carry our people through a story—a tragic story that must be true to us. We have to suffer. We also have to laugh through the swirling dark places. This is so we can relate to our characters as they self-realize, or stay stuck. We must come out the other side too.

Writing is crazy. We invent a story, the characters, and how they relate to that story. It must be authentic, or it won’t be believed. Sometimes it doesn’t work for every reader. It’s about trying to figure out where you can take your characters for a deep dive, take them places they don’t want to go. Cat and Sofy are real to me now. They change, like I do. They change as readers identify with them. They don’t belong to me, they belong to all of us who see them, feel with them. It’s the amazing part of being a writer, when you can introduce readers to someone they have never met before.


And that we can share in building a world together.

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