The Inner Turmoil of Your Characters

by 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, and how each character shows or doesn’t show their inner turmoil makes for some great characterization.

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 a problem 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, begins to experience the full onslaught of Empty Nest Syndrome as one by one her children cancel their plans to come home for Easter dinner. Empty Nest Syndrome taps into LaTisha’s greatest fear, that of not being needed.

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’s inner turmoil—how often do we experience the need to cork emotional upheaval (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. 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.
Finding the MLR for your story takes some research. Let’s say you have done your research and found that the most likely reader of your romantic suspense are females between twenty to forty years of age. This is the group who you want to target when planning the inner turmoil of your heroine. Write the story with them in mind, their struggles and fears, hopes and disappointments. Not only will your story be stronger for it, but you have also simplified your marketing plan by understanding the makeup of your MLR.


S. Dionne Moore is a historical romance author who resides in South Central PA with her family, surrounded by the beautiful Cumberland Valley and lots of fun, historically rich locations. Brides of Wyoming is a repackaging of three historical romances set in Wyoming and due for release November 1, 2016

Dionne Moore, an obvious pseudonym, is the author of the LaTisha Barnhart Mysteries. Books one, two and three (Murder on the Bunions, Polly Dent Loses Grip and Recipe for Deceit aka Your Goose is Cooked) are all available via Kindle.

For more details:

Murder on the Bunions (A LaTisha Barnhart Cozy Mystery Book 1)
LaTisha Barnhart’s bunions tell her something’s afoot as she delves deeper into the murder of her former employee, Marion Peters. When LaTisha becomes a suspect, the ante is upped, and she is determined to clear her name and find the culprit.

She’s burping Mark Hamm’s bad cooking to investigate his beef with Marion. . .getting her hair styled at a high falutin’ beauty parlor to see what has Regina Rogane in a snarl. . .playing self-appointed matchmaker between the local chief and a prime suspect. . .and thinking Payton O’Mahney’s music store lease might be the reason he’s singing out of tune when discussion of Marion’s murder arises. LaTisha’s thinking she just might use the reward money to get her bunions surgically removed. But she’s got to catch the crook first.

Writer’s Block ~ Hillary Manton Lodge

A graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of Simply Sara and the best selling novel Plain Jayne. When not working on her next novel, Hillary enjoys photography, art films, and discovering new restaurants. She and her husband, Danny, live in the Pacific Northwest. You can follow her adventures in life and publishing at

Writer’s block.

It scares the living daylights out of me. When the words dry up, when I can’t see three seconds into my protagonist’s future, I panic. What if that’s it? What if my brain anomaly, the one that prods me into writing fiction in the first place, has suddenly healed itself? What if the stories have dried up? What if I can’t write anymore?

I never said this was a logical thought process, but it’s the truth.

I spent a lot of time stuck when I was writing Simply Sara. It wasn’t Sara’s fault. I just didn’t know what to do with her. I didn’t know how to be in her head.

I tried doing other things. I tried immersing myself in the Sara experience, taking up projects Sara would do in the book. I cleaned. I took walks. I read other people’s book. I watched Gilmore Girls. I talked with friends, talked with my husband. My efforts would help for a while, but before I knew it, I was back in the gooey gumdrop forest.

“You don’t have a synopsis,” my agent pointed out. “That’s your problem.”

Not the answer I wanted. I hate synopses. But the fact of the matter was that at some point I would need to turn in my book, and handing over a partial manuscript while twirling my hair and whining about writers’ block wasn’t going to help my career.

So I buckled down and got stubborn, learning a few lessons about writing along the way:

1.)If I’m not sitting at my writing station, it’s amazing how much work I won’t get done.

2.)Thinking about writing is not writing. Talking about writing is not writing. Researching is not writing. It’s not a quality writing time vs. quantity writing time issue. You can’t get quality without putting in the quantity.

3.)That said, skimping on preparation is a recipe for disaster. I used to be a seat-of-the-pants writer. But I also used to take two years to finish a book. Like I said, I hate synopses, but I found a way to trick myself into writing them.

Behold the magic of the 3×5 card. Frankly, I get a little emotional about them. Every time I have a plot point, a line of dialogue, a joke, or a character insight, I write it down on a 3×5 card. I write it down, and then I insert it into the stack in chronological order. If I don’t know where it goes, I let it float around near the back for a while. If a card doesn’t fit into the scene, I hold it out for later. If I get additional ideas that center around what’s written on the card, I scrawl it in the margins.

The cards are small, so they’re easy to carry around. They also provide the feeling of accomplishment every time I write through the sketch on the card. It’s a good way to trick myself into making preparations for a non-linear process. Also, when it comes to writing the synopsis, those cards are the perfect roadmap.

4.)Sometimes when I’m stuck, it’s because I don’t know my character as well as I need to. Some people will do pages and pages of character analysis before they start a project. I don’t. It doesn’t make me a bad person. I like diving in the deep end and letting my characters introduce themselves as I go. It works for a while, but like any introduction, it’s just the start.

Maybe one of these days I’ll be the sort of person who fills a notebook with notes about a single character. I’m just not that self-actualized yet.

5.)When you stop writing for the day, consider writing a note or two about what you see next in your head. If you finish a chapter, start the next one, even if it means writing something really stupid as a first line. I find it easier to rewrite something stupid than start from scratch first thing. For me, even creating the new chapter document helps. I’m weird like that.

6.)Figure out what works for you. Writing is an act of introspection. Just because so and so does such and such doesn’t mean you have to. Writers, I’m convinced, only do so because something is amuck with our brain wiring. Seriously – we spend untold hours writing stories about our imaginary friends. This not a bad thing, it’s just different from everyone else. No two writers are wired the same; it’s hubris to think one methodology will work for everyone. Just because one author uses a typewriter, or another swears by a fountain pen filled with India ink and parchment made from the skin of a virgin goat…it doesn’t mean it has to be your thing. Writing on paper rather than a computer doesn’t produce a purer product. Writing in the morning isn’t better than writing after dark. It’s personal preference. Do you think better in the late afternoon? That’s your best writing window.

Writing a book is like a long-term relationship – it’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, but it is rewarding. At least I think so. And I like to think Sara agrees.

Writing. For the Fun of It. ~ Don Reid

Don Reid is a member of country music’s legendary Statler
Brothers, has three Grammy awards, nine CMA awards, thirteen gold albums, and eight platinum awards and is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. He has published four non-fiction books, and /O/ /Little Town/ was his first novel. Reid lives with his wife, Deborah, in Staunton, Virginia. Learn more online at

I have read so many times of writers bragging about their work schedule. “I get up every morning and write 500 words before dawn,” they like to say.
And I like to say, “Are you sure? Every morning? Always 500?”

My next question to them is do you really enjoy
writing? Are you sure it’s not a burden to you?

Come on now, don’t take the fun out of it. I love to eat but I don’t get up early to do it.
Writing should be a pleasure. You shouldn’t feel pressured to have something to say. If you force a paragraph, it will usually sound as if you have. Let it flow. Let it be a joy and a release.
Every day does not have to be a production as long as you are comfortable inside the deadline you give yourself to finish a project. Just be sure you’re being reasonable when you set those guidelines and you’ll see the thrill come back in what you’re doing.
I’m serious about my writing but not about my schedule. I like to live with an idea long before I commit anything to paper. I may walk around with an idea for a novel perking in my head for a month or six weeks.
I toy with it and change it and test the logic of it. I talk about it inside my head. I scold myself, praise myself, disagree and argue with myself until something akin to a plot completes itself somewhere in the foyer of my mind. Now I’m ready to develop but not write.
Believe it or not, my dog Chipper plays an important part from here on in. We stand in the driveway, sometimes for hours, and toss the tennis ball. I throw and he retrieves while I think of names and locations and settings for scenes. We go to the track and walk untold laps while I test dialogue out loud. Chipper turns every once in a while and looks at me with his head cocked to the side. He thinks I’m talking to him.
I don’t fear losing ideas with this technique. I figure if the idea is good it will stick with me; if I lose it, it probably wasn’t any good anyway. So after all this time of living with these people and a story in my head, it has become as much a part of me as my memories. Now I go to the desk and begin to type. Chipper is lying at my feet and glad this stage has finally come as he likes sleeping much better than the track or even the tennis ball.
Still I’m only typing the outline. I list the characters that I want to interact. I list the chapters and note to myself what I want revealed with each one. This keeps the plot from surprising me someplace along the way.
I always know what I want my characters to do and where I want them to wind up, but I’m not always sure how they will react to certain situations and conversations. This is one of the real thrills of writing – surprising myself with little unexpected jolts as the people take life.

My agent said to me not long ago, “Isn’t
writing fun?” And you know what? It is. Working in the coal mines, farming, standing the factory line, greasing cars; that’s work.

But writing should have plain old, scrubbed-down, unadulterated joy right in the heart of it. It should leave you so exhilarated and high that you can float across the furniture. And if you’re not feeling this, make a change and try it my way. Don’t leave that keypad tired and exhausted; weary and drained. Leave it with an expectation that you can’t wait to get back to. Some days I get so involved I can’t even remember if I’ve eaten or not.
That’s when Chipper figures in again. He always lets me know when it’s time for lunch.

Connectins in a Fictional World ~ Leanna Ellis

*Leanna Ellis*, formerly known to readers as Leanna Wilson, sold more than one million romance books and won numerous awards before taking a new creative direction with her much-acclaimed 2007 novel, Elvis Takes a Back Seat. She makes her home in Texas with her husband and two children. More information can be found at

Whenever I write a novel, I’m usually asked what connection I have to the story or characters. Am I really writing about my own mother? About my best friend? My mother-in-law? Is there some secret connection with the story, some buried secret?

Well, here’s the truth: no and yes. I am not writing about my actual mother. Or my son’s teacher. Or the guy who cut me off in traffic yesterday. Then again, maybe I am.

Think of it this way: you are what you eat. Really. I’m that Diet Coke and bean burrito, strawberries, cantaloupe, even the chocolate chip cookie that I swiped from the kids’ lunchbox. Now, I don’t look like a metal can or a swathed bunch of beans and cheese. Or maybe I do. Maybe we don’t want to go there. But I think you get my point. Part of who we are, what we think and believe naturally filters through us and into our work.

I’ve been writing for twenty years, so here’s how it works: I write a proposal, a very short synopsis and a chapter or two (the shorter the better) and hopefully that proposal sells. If it does, then maybe six months or so after I conceive the idea, I’ve got to plan out that story a bit more carefully and begin writing it. Then I have a certain amount of time to write it and finish it and get it sent to my publisher. The end. Right? Wrong. Because it’s often after I write the story, do revisions and line edits and read galleys that I realize the story I’m writing isn’t really about a crazed mother-in-law moving in with her ex-daughter-in-law. Or a facelift gone bad. Or an ex-husband that won’t behave. Or a crazy labradoodle (yes, there’s one of those in FACELIFT too). It’s really about hope.

Now, I will admit that when I was writing FACELIFT I characterized the crazy labradoodle after my own, The Hilo Monster, and all of her crazy puppy antics—think MARLEY AND ME and more. Frankly, I needed a laugh and our puppy made me laugh, even when she was making me pull my hair out…or my glasses out of her mouth.

You see, when I sat down to write FACELIFT, my father had just passed away. I had to utilize all the professional skills I had garnered over the past twenty years to get that book written. Some days I could only write ‘Chapter five.’ Literally, two words. That was it. I tried not to berate myself and gave myself time. And eventually the words began to flow. But honestly, having gone through a difficult, painful experience gave me insights into the characters. Because FACELIFT wasn’t about a surgical procedure or getting your ex back or dealing with a teenage daughter or a crazed ex-mother-in-law. It was about finding hope and joy in spite of circumstances and situations.

So back to that original question: what’s my connection to the story? Hey, it’s fiction! But then again, that kernel of an idea and those weird, quirky characters came from my warped little brain and soft heart. They are a part of me. So sometimes the connection may not seem to be there at all. I haven’t had to go through a divorce. I don’t have a teenage daughter…yet. I don’t even have a mother-in-law. But the connections are much, much deeper.

I have been through difficulties. Sitting beside my father, holding his hand, waiting and watching that heart monitor as he took each breath, my own breath trapped in my throat, I understand heartache. The desire to stay in bed. How tears spring forth at odd times. How a dark cloud can descend and make it impossible to see sunshine or rainbows or hope of any color.

But just as my character Kaye learns that life is filled with choices. It’s a choice to get out of bed. It’s a choice to go for a walk rather than stare blankly at the TV screen. It’s a choice to smile. Trials and difficulties are going to come, getting through them isn’t easy but it is possible. I received my own internal facelift and the joy and peace that comes from the Father, the Almighty, who helped me to smile again. So whatever problem you’re going through, whatever trial or tribulation you are facing, it is a choice. Not in going through it. Not in the outcome. In your response. In my response. So, choose hope. Choose Christ. Choose to trust.