In high school she was the long-time girlfriend of Big Ed Hurley, the two of them dating for several years. Many thought they would end up getting married, but Norma dumped Ed for Hank Jennings. However, it was a decision she ended up regretting, Hank getting into trouble frequently and eventually getting thrown into prison for manslaughter.
During Hank's incerceration she grew close to Ed again, the two of them becoming lovers despite being married to others. She finds it difficult to trust Hank, because he is a criminal, and he has let her down in the past. What she would really like to do is to divorce Hank and marry Ed, but events continually prevent her from doing this. Eventually Hank is once again thrown in prison, having violated parole by being named in a sting operation involving Jean Renault and having assaulted Ed Hurley in his own home (Hank having been beaten to a pulp by the timely arrival of Nadine Hurley). Norma decides she's had enough and goes to divorce Hank so she can finally be with Ed. He agrees if she gives an alibi, though she coldly refuses, saying there is no negotiation. He snaps and calls her a whore, though Norma replies "I'd rather be his whore...than your wife!"
Her mother is a food critic, and the two have a bad relationship because she had ruined Norma's reputation by giving a negative opinion on the dishes she serve in the newspaper. Her mother says it is due to professional obligation, though Norma says no matter what she did in the past it was never good enough for her mother and disowns her, saying she never wants to see her again.
The neon sign outside the diner says RR Diner, which may stand for Railroad Diner, in reference to its location.
Vivian Smythe Niles is Normas mother.