Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Today's Guest is S. Dionne Moore
We all have an inner demon, that one area of our life or tragic event of our past that we struggle to overcome. This inner demon doesn’t have to be something terrible; it can be something as simple as pride or a tendency toward selfishness. For many of us, it’s more than one thing. Some people wear their inner demons for all to see, or talk about them ad nauseaum. On the flip side, there are those who are reticent to speak of their struggles or who hide them well. In our stories, inner turmoil is an essential element to creating a realistic hero or heroine.
As writers, we go to great lengths to develop outside obstacles for our characters to overcome, often forgetting to make the hero/heroine real to our reader. A reader will connect with a character whose inner conflict they can relate to. Before you set pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, know your Most Likely Reader (MLR) and target the problem most common to their age group.
With my MLR being mothers whose children are grown and gone, the heroine in my debut novel, Murder on the Ol’ Bunions, is experiencing Empty Nest Syndrome, she just doesn’t know it yet. Having invited all of her children “home” for Easter dinner, LaTisha Barnhart finds herself sinking lower and lower emotionally as, one by one, her children call to cancel, albeit with valid excuses. LaTisha has a hard time grasping the fact that her children have their own lives, which doesn’t include her.
Of course, being a cozy mystery, LaTisha also has a murder to solve. Solving the death of her former employer Marion Peters helps distract LaTisha from her quickly dwindling dinner guest list. This distraction also adds a dimension of realism to the character—how often do we experience the need to cork our emotional turmoil (inner turmoil) in order to deal with outside problems?
Take characterization to new heights by making sure your hero/heroine has a solid inner conflict. This conflict can work to strengthen (or in the case of a villain, to weaken) throughout the story. Make sure it is a characteristic common to your MLR, or one your MLR will understand and identify with, then weave it into your story, or even put the inner conflict at odds with other characters. The best stories often use this tool (one character’s weakness is another character’s strength) to improve the conflict or tension in their novel.