Pretty Little Liars is a series of novels which follows the lives of four teenage girls nicknamed the Pretty little Liars or simply the Liars, whose clique falls apart after the disappearance of their queen bee leader, Alison DiLaurentis. Three years after her disappearance, the girls begin receiving threatening messages from an anonymous character named "A," who threatens to expose their secrets, including long-hidden ones they thought only Alison knew. Shortly after the messages begin, Alison's body is discovered buried in her yard. The books progress with the four girls trying to figure out who "A" is and facing many dangerous obstacles and twists.
In the first book, Emily is introduced as loyal, sweet girl who struggles with her sexuality. She is described as having hazel eyes and a strawberry-blonde hair that is tinted green due to chlorine. At her school, Emily is recognized by the students for her achievements in swimming. Emily is largely motivated by matters surrounding family, romance, and ambition. Emily is also superstitious, although most of her superstitions are unique only to her; for example, making a wish at "4:56" instead of "11:11".
Emily was a friend of Alison DiLaurentis and deeply attracted to her. She dated a boy named Ben Coogan before realizing her true feelings were for girls. She falls for and secretly dates Maya St. Germain. When "A" outs Emily to the whole school, her parents force her to go to Tree Tops, a "de-gaying" rehabilitation center. Failing that, Emily is shipped off to Iowa to live with relatives; deeply unhappy there, she runs away. Her parents ask her to come home, stating that they will learn to accept Emily for who she is. Emily comes to discover that she's actually bisexual, when she falls for and eventually sleeps with a boy named Isaac Colbert. Although they break up soon after, Emily learns she's pregnant and secretly gives the baby up for adoption during summer break. As a senior in high school, she accidentally meets Kelsey, a girl who Spencer framed for drug possession the past summer; Emily ends up falling for her, but the relationship is ended when Kelsey attempts suicide.
In Burned, while on a school-hosted cruise for spring break, Emily begins a new relationship with Jordan, a criminal who is on the run and being pursued by the FBI. On a tip from "A"/Alison, Jordan is arrested and set to prison. She is later murdered by someone paid by Alison, who had Jordan killed out of revenge for "stealing" Emily from her. Severely depressed and increasingly desperate, Emily contemplates committing suicide and very nearly attempts it; she is only talked out of it when the Liars remind her that that is what Alison wants: for them to die.
In the last book, Emily and the other Liars are later put on trial after Alison fakes her own death and frames them for it (setting it up to look like the Liars took revenge on Alison for everything she did to them). Emily, unbeknownst the other Liars, fakes her own suicide in order to trick Alison. Emily tracks down Alison and Alison's mother, who are in hiding, and after a confrontation with them, is able to expose them as criminals. After Alison's trial, she moves out to California and begins a new relationship with a girl named Laura, finally feeling at peace.
Having fallen in love with Alison in seventh grade, Emily strongly believes that Alison is the love of her life and frequently fantasizes about Alison still being alive and loving Emily back. Emily admits to being somewhat obsessed with Alison, priding herself on knowing everything about her. For a brief period of time, when Alison comes back as "Courtney", the two have a romantic relationship; Emily is heartbroken when Alison reveals it was all a lie. Unbeknownst to the other girls, Emily attempted to save Alison from the DiLaurentis' burning Poconos house. She feels tremendous guilt over her actions, especially so after Alison once again returns as "A". However, eventually Emily begins to hate Alison; Jordan's death at Alison's hands sends Emily into a spiral of rage and deep depression. Following Jordan's death, Emily swears revenge on Alison and remarks that she would not mind killing Alison.
Emily's closest friends are the other Liars, and during the periods when they are not associating with one another, Emily is very lonely. She is quite popular at school, but feels as though she's not close with anyone. She is constantly searching for a "best friend" to take Alison's place. Though she is well-liked by the other Liars, they are often annoyed by how sensitive she is and her devotion to Alison, especially Spencer. Emily's insistence that Alison is alive often causes problems for them as a group. Her relationship with her family is strained, predominantly due to her bisexuality and "A" related events. She gets along well with her older sister Caroline, but later chooses to sever ties with her family at the end of the series.
Shay Mitchell was cast in the role of Emily Fields in a regular capacity in December 2009. Mitchell had initially auditioned for the role of Spencer and then tried for Emily.
In the television adaption, Emily's personality is almost the same as her book counterpart. She is the jock of the group and participates in competitive swimming. In the show, she is of Irish/Scottish, Korean and Filipino descent, with long dark hair and brown eyes, and her dress style is more fashionable. In addition, she is a lesbian, and has not been shown to be superstitious. She eventually takes off the friendship bracelet Alison gave to her in an attempt to let go of her feelings for Alison.
Emily is a sophomore at Rosewood High school in Rosewood, Pennsylvania, and a star competitive swimmer. A year prior to the start of the series, Emily had been best friends with Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse), a cruel popular girl who went missing one day. At the beginning of the school year, Emily befriends a girl named Maya St. Germain (Bianca Lawson), her new next-door neighbor whose family has moved into the old DiLaurentis house. Emily and Maya instantly bond, and the next day they kiss when Emily walks her home. With the appearance of "A", it is revealed that Emily is questioning her sexuality and may have been in love with Alison. After Maya stays over Emily's house for a night, Ben (Steven Krueger), Emily's boyfriend, senses that Emily is losing interest in him; he attempts to rape her in the school locker room, but is stopped by Toby (Keegan Allen). Grateful and not wanting to deal with her homosexuality, Emily grows closer to Toby, despite the warnings of her friends, who believe him to be "A"/Alison's killer.
Emily goes with Toby to Homecoming, much to the dismay of her friends; Emily later admits to Toby that she really wanted to come with Maya. Convinced by her friends that Toby is dangerous, the two get into a physical confrontation; as Emily tries to run away, she trips and hits her head, falling unconscious. Toby drops her off at the hospital in Rosewood, which convinces Emily that he is innocent. When a tornado warning traps everyone inside the high school, Emily finds herself haunted by memories of Alison. That day, she is outed by Detective Darren Wilden (Bryce Johnson), who accuses her of destroying Alison's memorial in the park (when, in reality, Emily had been trying to salvage what she could from the wreckage). Emily tearfully confesses to her friends that she was in love with Alison; although surprised, they are instantly accepting of her being a lesbian. "A" later mails Emily's mother (Nia Peeples) a copy of the same picture of Emily and Maya kissing. Although devastated, she doesn't confront Emily about it, instead later showing it to Emily's father (Eric Steinberg) when he returns home from his tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Toby comes to visit Emily to prove that he is innocent, but when cats is arrested, he believes that she is responsible for it. Believing that Emily and Toby were involved romantically, Emily's father confronts her about it; after denying that anything is going on, she ends up coming out to her father, who is shocked. Emily's relationship with her parents soon becomes very strained due to the truth about her sexuality, although her parents attempt to accept her by inviting Maya over to dinner. Although Emily's father soon warms to Maya, Emily's mother tells her that she is disgusted by Emily being gay. Believing Maya has corrupted Emily, she is able to have Maya sent away to "True North", a camp for juvenile delinquents, which causes Emily and her mother's relationship to suffer even more.
When Emily re-joins the school's swim team after a brief hiatus, she finds herself in a rivalry with Paige McCullers (Lindsey Shaw), an excellent swimmer who had taken Emily's place in her absence. Highly competitive, Paige lashes out at Emily with homophobic insults, later even physically threatening her. Soon after, however, Paige apologizes to Emily, explaining that she was jealous of how "easy" Emily's life seemed. After Paige's homophobic and demanding father accuses Emily of getting preferential treatment, Emily's mother stands up to him, which helps to repair the relationship between Emily and her mother. Paige apologizes for her father later that evening and comes out to Emily by kissing her. Having grown close despite their rocky start, Emily and Paige begin to secretly date. They break up when Emily expresses dissatisfaction with having to hide their relationship and after Paige gets jealous seeing a girl from another school, Samara Cook (Claire Holt), flirting with Emily. Emily's father is sent to Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, to help with military training, and Emily's mother reveals to Emily that they are moving down to Texas to join him. Emily is dismayed, feeling as though she has only just begun to fit in at Rosewood.
Emily recalls a memory from the day Alison went missing: Alison visited her and gave her a snow globe, which, unbeknownst to Emily at the time, contained a key to a storage locker. Realizing Alison had hidden something away, the girls use the key to discover a series of videos that Ian Thomas had filmed. Believing that Ian is A/Alison's killer, the girls make plans to confront him. Their plans go astray when A kills Ian and take his body from the crime scene, leaving the police suspicious of Emily and her friends.
Hoping to convince her mother to stay in Rosewood, Emily considers faking a letter from a college swim scout; deciding it would be wrong, she rips up the letter. However, A makes an unaltered, undamaged copy and sends it to Emily's mother. Emily is able to stay in Rosewood, but feels guilty, confiding in Samara, her new girlfriend. When Emily's mother moves to Texas, Emily goes to live with Hanna.
Ian (Ryan Merriman) is found dead of an apparent suicide, but Emily realizes that Ian's suicide note is actually a mash-up of lines from A's messages. Emily then stumbles upon Logan Reed (Tilky Jones), the messenger who had been sent to pick up money for Ian, after the girls blackmailed him in an attempt to reveal him as Alison's killer. When Emily relays this information to Officer Garrett Reynolds (Yani Gellman), who has been assigned to "watch" the girls, he later pays off Reed to keep him quiet, preventing Emily from doing any further investigating. Emily's relationship with Samara begins to suffer when Samara tells her she isn't interested in dating exclusively; they later break up after "A" forces Emily to give Samara's friend her phone number as a sign of flirtation.
A concludes that Emily is the "weak link" in the group and begins to torment her as much as possible. That, combined with the added stress and guilt from the fake college letter, lands Emily in the hospital with a stomach ulcer. While there, it is revealed that "A" secretly dosed Emily with HGH, forever ruining Emily's chances of getting a swimming scholarship. Emily then reunites with Maya, who is now living a few towns over; they both decide to take things slow and see if they are interested in rekindling their relationship.
Dr. Sullivan (Annabeth Gish), the girls' therapist, goes missing, and the girls are forced to go on a mission to save her. "A" sends Emily to a barn in the woods; she ends up getting locked inside and passes out due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Emily is then visited by Alison, who explains that she knows the identity of A, but can't reveal it to Emily, shortly before kissing her. Emily is rescued by her friends, but remains uncertain if Alison is really alive or if it was just a dream. The girls are then arrested soon after, having been caught with a piece of evidence the police suspect to be the murder weapon used on Alison.
Emily and the other girls plot to try and trick "A" by pretending Emily is being frozen out of the group. The plan is only moderately successful; however, the girls are able to get access to A's phone. Meanwhile, Emily is forced to deal with her new relationship with Maya, who is desperate to avoid getting sent back to True North. Emily later finds out that she couldn't go back because her soon-to-be killer was there and wanted Emily to go with her to San Francisco to save her. When Emily rejects leaving, Maya disappears. Emily believes Maya has run off to San Francisco to stay with some friends, and is distraught. She attempts to find Maya, to no avail. Things are soon complicated by Paige; having recently come out, she hopes to rekindle her and Emily's relationship. Emily's father returns to Rosewood briefly to attend a father-daughter dance. He later tells Emily that he has been assigned on another tour in Afghanistan. After his departure, Emily's mother makes plans to return home to Rosewood.
With the girls charged with the challenge of unmasking "A" at the school's masquerade ball, Emily is on edge. At the ball, she meets Paige; the two talk and come to the mutual agreement that for now, they will be just friends. After Mona (Janel Parrish) is revealed to be "A" and subsequently arrested, Emily and the other girls come home to find the police at Emily's house. Emily's mother explains that Maya has been murdered and her body found at the DiLaurentis house. Upon hearing this, Emily breaks down, comforted by the other girls.
Now a senior, Emily has spent the last five months away from her friends, helping build houses in Haiti as well as partying and drinking heavily to the point of blackouts. She is still depressed over Maya's death, but is at the same time angry at being treated like she is "made out of glass". When the Liars reunite after their time apart, Emily goes missing during the night and is later found by the other girls standing over Alison's dug-up grave, unable to remember the events leading up to that point. Realizing it is a set-up, the Liars create an alibi for themselves and cover their tracks. Emily's guilt over what happened distances her even more from the Liars, and she finds comfort in Nate St. Germain (Sterling Sulieman), Maya's cousin, who has recently moved to Rosewood to attend Hollis.
In "That Girl is Poison" Emily discovers that her flask had been drugged with a sleeping pill, causing her to black out. In "Stolen Kisses", she learns that on the night she was drunk, she had visited Paige, kissing her before leaving. Paige feels guilty about what happened, believing she took advantage of her, and Emily is shocked and confused about this new revelation. That evening she returns to Paige's house and explains that she realized there was a reason she ended up at Paige's house when she was drunk: she wanted to be with Paige. The two kiss, rekindling their relationship.
Emily becomes depressed after watching old videos of Maya on Maya's website, but is cheered up by Paige. In "What Lies Beneath", Emily and Hanna discover that Maya had been hiding in Noel Kahn's (Brant Daugherty) family's cabin, and had never actually left Rosewood. Upset by this, Emily and Nate comfort one another, only to end up kissing. She confesses to Paige about kissing Nate, who explains that Emily is simply confused over her connection to Maya through Nate. Emily then rebuffs Nate's further romantic advances, stating that she just wants to be friends.
When the Liars suspect Paige of being "A" in the mid-season finale, "The Lady Killer", Emily steps in to defend her, putting up a wall between herself and the other girls. Stressed over the Liars' constant insistence of Paige's guilt and Garrett's upcoming trial, Emily joins Nate for the weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods. However, after being warned to "get out" by "A", Emily discovers that Nate was in fact at True North with Maya; Nate admits that his real name is Lyndon James. Angry at Emily for "taking" Maya from him, Lyndon reveals he has kidnapped Paige and plans to murder her in front of Emily. Emily escapes, but is caught by Lyndon in a nearby lighthouse while attempting to call 911. During the ensuing struggle, Emily stabs Nate, fatally wounding him. She then reconciles with the other Liars when they realize Paige is innocent.
Emily starts to struggle to know if Alison is alive or not. She takes some pills from her mother's medicine cabinet and gets drowsy and groggy, and causes an injury during a swim meet which put her out of action. The situation gets worse when someone calls Social Services to her parents in an attempt to get her away from them, which does not happen. In addition, Emily's mother is suspended from work because Emily stole a key from Pam's desk in order to invade Officer Wilden's office to find evidence about Alison, and the P.D. ends up blaming Pam for that. Shortly after, "A", driving a car, goes through her house, leaving her and her mother no other option but to rent a motel. Later, Jessica DiLaurentis (Andrea Parker) offers Emily Alison's old room to stay temporarily. Emily stays in the DiLaurentis house for a while until she moved to Spencer's, due to the house's creepiness. Throughout the season, Emily, Hanna and Spencer start to investigate Ezra in order to discover if he is or not "A." In the season finale, Alison appears and they finally get some answers about the night Ali disappeared.
With Alison back in Rosewood, Emily gets supportive and protective of her. She befriends newcomer Sydney (Chloe Bridges) and becomes her swimming coach. However, Emily discovers Sydney is a friend of Jenna and breaks all ties with her. Alison apologizes for the way she treated Emily in the past, and they kiss; however, any possibility of romance is squashed when Emily starts to think that Alison is "A." Emily and Paige rekindle their romance, which is rapidly ended when Paige is forced to move to California. Lonely and heartbroken over Paige's departure, Emily starts a relationship with her new co-worker Talia (Miranda Rae Mayo). However, when Emily discovers that Talia is married and their relationship is calming down, she breaks up. Emily volunteers in a dance competition when Hanna, who was waiting money, loses. Later, the girls discover Alison's innocence and try to clear Alison's name and free Hanna. In the season finale, Emily and the others are arrested as accomplices to Mona's murder; however, on the way to prison, their van is hijacked by "A."
In the aftermath of the Liars' abduction orchestrated by "A," Emily befriends a former missing girl, Sara Harvey (Dre Davis), who was also Charles/"A's" prisoner. She is trying to help Sara adapt again into society, with the cost of denying her own stuff. Nicole (Rebecca Breeds), the supervisor of Habitat for Humanity, offers Emily the option of moving to another country in order to help new people, and Emily gets forced to make a decision on her future. She chooses to stay in Rosewood and move on with Sara, only to betrayed when Sara is revealed to be "A's" right-hand woman. Later, Emily goes to Pepperdine University, but drops out later when her father dies. She starts to work as a bartender in Los Angeles, but returns to Rosewood at Alison's request, and also to depose on Charlotte's release from psychological hospital. A new "A", now entitled as "A.D.", surfaces, and steals Emily's eggs, which she donated in order to gain money for college. She starts to investigate Sara, who is free from jail, believing she's the new stalker. Also in this season, Emily befriends Sabrina (Lulu Brud), the new-in-charge at the Brew, which in the following season lead to a brief hook up.
Emily was dating Sabrina. While in The Brew she runs into Mr. Haccket (high school principle). He tells Emily that there's an opening spot for a swim coach on the team. On her way to Mr. Haccket's office she runs into an old friend and ex-girlfriend, Paige McCullers. Paige and Emily connect once again, though it is revealed that Paige has become obsessed with Emily. In The Darkest Knight, Emily told Ali that her and Sabrina are on a break and that she can't talk about what going on. Ali told her she going to have to tell her and Emily said she knows but its eaiser to talk to Paige about what's going on, saying Paige understands it. Later that night, Alison lets Emily stay at her house, where she confesses to her that she's pregnant, presumably by Archer Dunhill. Emily and Alison watch a old movie afterwards. Emily notices Ali was crying. She then comforts her and told her that its going to be ok. Alison kisses Emily, causing Emily to pull away, claiming that Ali is vulnerable. Alison claims that's not the reason why she kissed her, causing Emily to lean in and kiss Ali. Toward the end of the episode, Emily and the liars are confronted by Jenna Marshall and Noel Kahn. Emily and Hanna are soon targeted by Noel. When Noel tries to attack the two, Emily punches Noel, causing him to fall down and be decapitated by an axe he had dropped earlier.
Drusilla Moorhouse of E! Online writes that the character has "transformed from a confused girl to a badass babe". The Florida Family Association has condemned the character for her sexuality, and General Motors has subsequently pulled their advertising. However, GM denied that they did so over the character's sexual identity. The character debuted on After Ellen's Hot 100 at number seven.