Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Today's Guest is S. Dionne Moore

Inner Turmoil~The Essential Ingredient

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.


  1. Good morning, everybody!

    That's a good point about the Most Likely Reader. I figured mine would be "fellow church ladies" but wonder if I need to narrow it down :-)

    I hope the brain trust here will discuss the concept more.

    Coffee's on ... how about organic fair-trade 100 percent Colombian ... Italian roast for extra boldness.

    IRL I will open another can of Maxwell house ;-)

  2. Great post, S. LaTisha's ache comes through in your story as her children call her. One of my characters wrestles with ENS too. She feels being a mom defines who she is and without her children, she's nobody. Thanks for the reminder about MLR. Knowing who our MLR is helps us to show publishers we have a clue where our book belongs.

  3. Hi Dionne and welcome to Seekerville! Your cozy sounds soooooo fun!! Of course with a title like that, how can it not be???

    I like the acronym MLR! It sounds better than my "market," which is what I usually term people prone to read my books. And you are so right that "inner turmoil" is key -- it's the thing readers can relate to the most because we all have it -- uh, some more than others ... like Mary. :)

    Thanks for a great post!


  4. Hey you two! I know who Lisa is, not so sure about you, Ann, but I LOVE the coffee idea. . .well, at least the hot drink idea. Make mine a mocha. Dark chocolate please.

    Regarding your MLR, you want to appeal to as broad a readership as possible, so it's no problem that your MLR is a big group. Big group (MLR)=SALES!!

    Appeal to them on their level. What does your group want or expect to see in a character? What do they like and dislike? The great thing is It doesn't take much effort to do that little bit of research.

    Depending on the age of your character, and whether they are male or female, you'll want to establish a conflict common to that MLR group.

    Hope that helps a bit. Thanks for posting!

  5. rDionne,

    Great post! Your title is one of my absolute favorites!

  6. Good morning, Dionne! Thanks for being with us in Seekerville today.

    I loved your post. Of course, I almost cried. I would definitely sympathize with your character. I'm one of you MLR's. My college freshman son called this week to ask if we'd mind if he didn't come home for fall break. He wants to go on a trip to D.C. with his Wesley Fellowship group instead. Waaaa!!! I had so many plans for having him home for the first time since August 19.

    I plan to read your book and cry through the whole thing. Catharsis. Then maybe I'll feel better. :)

    Missy--still sipping my coffee. Starbuck's Gold Coast (extra bold) with Sweet Italian Cream creamer. And Splenda, of course. Yum!

  7. Aw, Missy, you poor dear. Maybe I can get LaTisha to come by sometime today and drop you a word of encouragement. I just write what LaTisha tells me, you see. I'm the brains behind the story, just don't tell LaTisha I said that.

    Wowser, that coffee combination sounds awesome.

  8. Okay, now I'll tell an S. Dionne Moore story.

    Preface it by saying, my maiden name was Moore so Dionne and I could be family.
    I have eight brothers and sisters. For all I know, she could even be one of them. Who can keep track of all those people?

    So here's my story.

    ACFW 2004. My first conference.

    I was rooming with my then critique partner Susan Smykla Osborne and she dragged me out of the room to mingle with about 350 strangers. Eek.

    We met Dionne in the hallway and Susan knew her and they did that screaming, hugging, looking at each other's chest thing (or I assume they did, I hadn't learned the ACFW Dance yet)

    Then we ate supper together, Susan, Dionne and Me.

    IN the course of the dinner Dionne casually (okay SNEAKILY it's no wonder the woman writes mysteries, VERY SNEAKY) asked me how to pronounce my name.

    Which she later pronounced absolutely correctly when she announced I was the winner of the Genensis Contest. YAY, SANDRA.
    So Sandra is all mixed in with a really sweet moment.

    And now Sandra is writing cozy mysteries, as I am, for Heartsong Presents Mysteries.

  9. I like this combination.
    Our own inner turmoil and our Most Likely Reader.

    If we do it right our Most Likely Reader is maybe people with the same inner turmoil, right?

    So I'm writing a book for insomniac musophobes (look it up, I can't do everything for you).

    Got it!

  10. Thanks, Sandra/Dionne. :) Just send LaTisha on over and we'll chat. :)


  11. I love it when the first line of an article punches me in the gut. Inner turmoil? As a Kentucky-bred (and all that entails), empty-nesting, accidental pastor's wife, I have a couple, and I love to submerge them into my stories. I think I'm writing to my target audience, but after reading your post, I have a sneaky suspicion I'm writing to myself. Is that kosher?

    Thanks for stopping by. Sweet opening and good points.

    Off to do some laundry. I have to prepare for a birthday celebration. Nope, not the Seekers though I'm not opposed to sharing the cake with y'all. Today is my husband's birthday! I hope you like yellow cake with vanilla icing.

    Forget coffee, where's the iced-tea?

  12. LaTisha here. S. Dionne called me up and told me about this guest appearance of hers. So being the supportive heroine of her wildly popular book, Murder on the Ol' Bunions (and those are MY bunions its talking about!) I thought I'd better do my marketing thing and get myself over here. Hardy and me leave for a wedding in half an hour, so I'll be quick. Would have had more time but it took me three hours this morning to drag a girdle on over my control top pantyhose.

    Seems one of my friends got it in her head she could take on training up another husband after the last one keeled over on her. I tell Hardy if he ever dies on me, I'm not doing it again. I love him and all, but when you've had a good marriage the first time around, it kind of makes you wonder if you want to risk years of your life with someone else.

    Now. Missy, honey, let me tell you a thing or two about Empty Nest Syndrome. When those babies of mine starting canceling out on me for Easter dinner, I thought my heart was going to shatter for sure. Cried me a river of salt, too, just for good measure, but what really helped me was when I-

    Hm. Know what? I could sit here and tell you all the things I learned, Missy, but why don't you read about them? You send me your address and I'll have S. Dionne mail you one of OUR books. It'll kill her to do it, but we ENS sisters gotta stick hard together. You feeling me? Black or white, doesn't matter, we all feel it the same.

    And about that coffee. Never drink the stuff. Puts hair on your chest.

    (email me through S. Dionne's Website,

  13. And about that coffee. Never drink the stuff. Puts hair on your chest.

    Sorry, darlin', that's menopause, not coffee, so drink up--unless you get a hot flash followed by a sudden urge to toss the steaming liquid in someone's face.

  14. Great column, Sandra. I don't enjoy books with "cookie cutter" characters. Inner turmoi makes characters real. Your advice is "spot on!" Thanks for writing about this.


  15. Most Likely Reader?! You mean I have to write my stories with someone else in mind? I thought I was writing them for me! If I like them that means someone else will, too, right? Right?

    Well, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

    And I have lots of fears, but none of them are cute or have long Latin-sounding names.

  16. Hmmm. Coffee? Menopause? Coffee? Menopause?

    I prefer to think it's the coffee!!


    P.S. LaTisha, I just emailed y'all. thank you! :)

  17. Drinking coffee puts hair on your chest????????

    Okay, that explains so, so, so much.

  18. I laughed myself into tears at Mary C's last comment. Mary and Dionne are among my VERY FAVORITE authors in the whole wide world. (To see the complete list, check out the authors of the Heartsong Presents--MYSTERIES line!) :-)
    Great insight into what makes a reader keep on reading, Dionne. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Dionne,

    I've read your book and loved it. It's so nice to meet you!

    Cathy S.

  20. MLR???
    What a great point!
    I love it.
    Thanks for sharing. Your story sounds very interesting!

  21. I guess MLR is a good point, but I remain firmly committed to the idea that


  22. Mary, Mary, quite contrary. . .Yes, your books are for everyone. We know how fragile you are and we won't shatter your illusion, though I do find it hard to see a 300 pound sumo wrestler sitting on the pot with one of your books in his hand. But it's okay. . .really. EVERYONE LOVES YOUR BOOKS. E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. NO EXCEPTIONS. Right everyone?

    Howdy to you, Cathy S. I'm thrilled you enjoyed Murder on the Ol' Bunions. LaTisha will be absolutely insufferable if she reads your comment. I figure by the time the wedding and reception are over, and if it takes her a couple of hours to get out of that girdle, it'll probably be too late for her to post a comment.

  23. S.D. said: "Mary, Mary, quite contrary. . .Yes, your books are for everyone. We know how fragile you are and we won't shatter your illusion, though I do find it hard to see a 300 pound sumo wrestler sitting on the pot with one of your books in his hand. But it's okay. . .really. EVERYONE LOVES YOUR BOOKS. E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. NO EXCEPTIONS. Right everyone?"

    And I'm in the floor, dying laughing, tears flowing!!!!!!! Whooo boy!!! Good one. :)

    Ruthy, you've got some competition for putting Mary in her place! :)

    Missy--wiping eyes

  24. And, just to recap, Susan Downs is on here publicly stating that Dionne and I are her favorites.

    We won't tell ANYONE.


  25. I'm actually a rock star in the Sumo Wrestling world.

    I keep it quiet, but it's true.

  26. But what Susan doesn't know that we know that she thinks is about her motive in public praise. She's really telling the world that we're her favorites because they're-so-pathetic-and-have-such-a-hard-time-stringing-words-together-I-have-to-bolster-them-by-saying-how-much-I-love-them-and-I'm-sick-of-it-but-they-have-books-due-so-it's-my-only-choice.

    You know, Mary, we really should collaborate on a Sumo wrestler trio of cozy mysteries. With your rock star status and me a closet sumo (don't ask to see the outfit!), we'd be on the bestsellers list in not time.

    Title One: Body Slam

  27. Oh, Mylanta, I think I love this woman and I'm not a bit surprised to see just how wonderfully this book is doing and will do because I had a sneak preview through Genesis a couple of years back.

    Rollin' on the floor, laughin'.

    And I'm still laughin' at Missy, with her whole "Hey, you guys don't care if I totally jap out on the people who GAVE ME LIFE and head to D.C. with my friends..." phone call. Don't think for a minute Mary and I didn't forewarn her. We LOVE being right. And somewhat snarky.

    Missy has now entered the real world of collegiate parenting. They want money one day, commiseration the next and then more money. Oy vay.


    Ann, great coffee, oh my stars, and here, I brought some amazing, home-blend sweet tea for our Kimberli. You all realize that's not her in the pic, don't you? No, Kimberli is actually flirting with the three-hundred pound mark right now and doesn't fit in your standard lawn chair. Nice try, though, Kimmy-baby.


    And Missy, yeah, it's good to see that Barbour's got someone on board to keep our Mary humble. Or at least someone quick enough to trade quips with her.

    And Lisa, look at you! Great picture. Now Lisa DOES actually look like this. Maybe even more innocent than that. I was that sweet and genteel at one time. Shortly before my second birthday.

    Hey guys, there's almond/cherry strudel on the sideboard to honor Oktoberfest. It's 10/1/08 and time to think German. When I think German it's strudel and cheese kuchen and Grandma Eichas' very American way of making home-made cheese for the kuchen, Depression-style.

    Oops, can't say "Depression". Not with the Dow pinballing its way through the weeks.

    Grab some of the sweet tea and the strudel, gals. Let's chat it up. This is a truly delightful guest. So glad I got here this afternoon!


  28. Ahem. I feel the need to defend my comments and clarify. MARY AND DIONNE, please note the EXACT quote from my comment: Mary and Dionne are AMONG my very favorite authors in the whole wide world.
    That little word AMONG is not synonymous with the word TWO OF. Got it?
    Mary, since you're so adept at using a dictionary, LOOK IT UP.
    By the way, the sumo-wrestler cozy has distinct possibilities!

  29. Ahem. I feel the need to defend my comments and clarify. MARY AND DIONNE, please note the EXACT quote from my comment: Mary and Dionne are AMONG my very favorite authors in the whole wide world.
    That little word AMONG is not synonymous with the word TWO OF. Got it?
    Mary, since you're so adept at using a dictionary, LOOK IT UP.
    By the way, the sumo-wrestler cozy has distinct possibilities!

  30. Sandra said:

    Hard to believe, but I cut and pasted that above and googled it, and found a picture of Sandra in a Sumo Wrestler outfit.

    It burned into the retina of my eyeballs and now I have to live with it for the rest of my life.

  31. Us older folks have learned one thing. . .not to waste time, which is why I'm home so early from the wedding. My friend and her new husband skipped out of that reception real quick to run off on their honeymoon. No grass growing under their hooves!

    Cathy S. I'm pleased you enjoyed my story. Hardy is quite the handful, isn't he? He made up a song to sing at wedding rehearsals, it's starts out, "Here comes the groom, walking to his doom. . ." He started to hum it today at the wedding as the bride glided down the aisle. I had to hush him up quick-like. When you hear Polly Dent is releasing, e-mail S. Dionne for a free book. She's really quite generous. . .every eighth day of the week.

    (E-mail her through her Website,

  32. Susan, I did see that. And I totally understand how careful you have to be.

    I totally respect that you can't admit it.

    I like the sumo thing, too, Sandra.

    Sumo Like it Hot
    Sumo Enchanted Evening
    Sumo Day my Prince Will Come

    Three book series. TADA

  33. Hm. Susan posted that twice, Mary. Think she means it? I did notice she didn't say anything to deny the they're-so-pathetic-and-have-such-a-hard-time-stringing-words-together-I-have-to-bolster-them-by-saying-how-much-I-love-them-and-I'm-sick-of-it-but-they-have-books-due-so-it's-my-only-choice.

    Is she sending us a secret message?

    You're no rock star sumo wrestler! I Googled too (so there!) and saw your rock collection. The big rock was dressed up like a Sumo wrestler and wearing the MARY sash across his chest, and all the little Sumo rocks surrounded it, genuflecting. Rock star indeed!

  34. Just reading these comments is so entertaining!

  35. Honey, save that tea for someone else, the stuff makes me belch.

  36. That was one comment for Mary and one comment for Dionne. So there. And I'm not commenting further on the grounds that I may incriminate myself.

    I'm not afraid of you sumo-wrestler rock-star authors. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. (She said as she ran as fast as her legs would carry her.)

  37. I'm not a tea-lover either, Ruth, but the bored editors reading Mary's manuscripts would probably buy it by the case--Sleepy Time, Constant Comment.

  38. I really like the Sumo wrestler idea! I'm already seeing the cover: One huge thigh in the foreground with his inadequate Sumo "uniform" on, lying dead in the street, with the title, Sumo to Watch Over Me.

    Mary and Sandra should definitely collaborate. There should be two heroines, sisters, who constantly argue and take pot shots at each other.

  39. I thought of the titles, we can add Melanie's adn make it a four book series. Your turn, Sandra. You write the books, Sandra.

    Hot tea sounds so good right now. The air conditioner in my building is on the Frost setting.

  40. Hi Sandra

    Thank you for a most interesting interview. I've read several of your interviews on various blogs now and each time I learn something new about writing- this time it was about MLRs- a very useful concept.

    Best wishes to LaTisha and Hardy

    God bless

    Ruth Dell

  41. You guys are having a party here and I'm late. Great fun! And and awesome book, Sandra. My observation about LeTisha? She and Hardy have it going on, even after all those years!

  42. I'm to pooped to plot. Maybe a one liner?

    Sumo Like It Hot:

    Sumo wrestler fired up after OD on Wasabi, blames rival. Rival's (law)suit is vague. LOL!

  43. You caught me, Ruthy. Some people think my middle initial stands for Suzanne, but it's really Sumo. Who do you think cleans up all the goodies around here at the end of the day?

    Thanks for bringing the tea. I can't live without it. You know I can't give blood, don't you? I bleed brown.

    *fans self* Is it hot in here or is it me?

  44. Kimberli, there is help. Weight Watchers does wonders, honey.

    And the sumo wrestlers (how much fun would THAT be to watch on cable, oh mylanta!!!!) are having the time of their lives taking very well-aimed (and well-versed) potshots at one another.

    And that poor nice Susan Downs, caught in the middle, bless her heart.

    Wonder how she does it????


  45. Kimberli, there is help. Weight Watchers does wonders, honey.

    No can do. If I don't clean up the daily goodies, we'll draw mice. I'm taking it on the chin (or rather, the thighs) for Seekerville.

    Who decided we needed three birthday cakes???? Ruthy, pass the Mylanta.

  46. These comments were a hoot...and the post was an education.

    Kimberli, I had no idea we had so much in common.

    S. Dionne, thank you so much for being here..your post really has me thinking (not sure that is good but I am going with it). I like being challenged.

  47. I just stopped in and realized you all had too much fun in Seekerville today. Why was I busy working?

    Dionne, thanks for joining us today. Loved your MLR idea! Missy and I are giving a workshop at the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference this weekend, and I'm talking about knowing your readers. It's so important!

  48. Hi Dionne. Welcome to Seekerville.
    Thanks for the great post!

    I love the title Murder on the Ol' Bunions. Your debut sounds like such fun! I also love messed-up characters. Exactly what I relate to. :-)

    After reading LaTisha's post, I have to read this book.


  49. I'd hoped my Most Likely Reader would be readers who don't normally read Inspirationals but are just on the fringe.

    According to reader letters, there are a lot of those, but there's also a mix of everyone else. I'm surprised at the numbers of letters I receive from preteen girls, military men or fathers who have sons or daughters serving, and ladies upwards into their nineties who write. My youngest readers are around nine years old. my oldest said she was 98.

    Some church-goers. Some not.

    A total mix.
    Very cool!

    I'll take another cup of that coffee.

    Never will think of MLR or inner turmoil the same way again.

    Thanks for the cyber java and a very though-provoking post.

    Cheryl Wyatt