Expanded Universe, Leah

When I originally developed Rebecca, Too, I created a seventy-five page incomplete draft, which got bogged down at the point where Alyssa Caine, believing herself to be Rebecca Asher, met with the two friends with whom she went to spring break in Fort Lauderdale as teens, where she met Rebecca. The two friends had not gotten along with Rebecca, and still had negative things to say about her. I had already established in the screenplay that Alyssa and Rebecca were born on the same day in the same hospital in Atlanta, which Rebecca uses to approach Alyssa. In the screenplay, Alyssa’s husband, Tim uses this info to convince Steven Asher, Rebecca’s brother, to visit Alyssa in the hospital.

One problem with the script was that there was no tension driving the action of the play; Alyssa woke up as Rebecca, she walked through mending some things Rebecca left undone, then, following a confrontation with Rebecca’s father, she snapped back into being herself. Another problem was the character of Melinda, who was little more than a second wheel for Alyssa, but served hardly any purpose otherwise.

In reading over it, I noted that it was Beth, Alyssa’s unseen older sister who called to let her know their father had died and in that one mention, she had a bigger impact on the story than Melinda as a full-fledged character. What if the sister was a character instead of the mother? It was here I first developed my rule of thumb, when all other plot points fail, kill the mother. I had Alyssa’s mother die long before the action of the play, and this became the central cause of tension between the sisters. Since Rebecca was often called Becky, I needed a name for this character other than Beth, so I tried to Google stories about sisters who were rivals, and couldn’t find any. The closest I came to a well-known time-honored story was that of Leah and Rachel in Genesis. So, my character became Leah. Once she came into the mix, the first draft pretty much wrote itself. While I did away with one of Alyssa’s sisters in crafting Leah, the notion of two older sisters with a much younger surprise child lives on in another family who’ll play a role in the story eventually.

In developing the storyline, I also moved the death of their father, Paxton, to just before the start of the play to make it more meaningful and to have it become one of the stressors that pushes Alyssa over the edge in addition to her car accident. Paxton was a real estate developer and it occurred to me that in my original story about David Cairo, he had insulted one of the city’s most prominent developers by comparing the man to General Sherman. Without realizing it, I made Leah and Alyssa’s father the developer Cairo had insulted, and therefore, the sisters were part of the same fictional Atlanta as David Cairo.

The expanded universe was born.

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