Goal, Motivation, Conflict- Something The Author Should Know


The Nice Girls are sharing some fabulous writing tips to help with the craziness that is #NaNoWriMo.

My writing process changes and I don’t always do the same thing for each story, but I always determine Goal, Motivation and Conflict.

A couple of years ago Debra Dixon came in for a one-day workshop to the Toronto Romance Writers. Debra in an author of fiction and a publisher for Bell Bridge Books. But in the romance community she is best known for writing a book called “GMC-Goal, Motivation and Conflict”.

It is my bible:).

Even if you don’t outline or are a complete pantser, I recommend to at least do the GMC for your heroine, hero and villain. It will keep you much more focused and will answer the all important question: Why?

In case you are not familiar with GMC, the grid looks something like this:

Wizard of Oz

Dorothy                  External      Internal
Goal  Overaching Goal: Get home She wants to find her heart’s desire and a place with no trouble
Inermediate Goals: get to Emerald City, see the Wizard, get broomstick
Motivation  Auntie Em is sick and Dorothy wants to get back to her (the Wizard has the power to send her home, but he has a price for sending her home, wich leads to an intermediate) She is unhappy and trouble follows her everywhere
Conflict  The Witch, the balloon lifts off without her She doesn’t know what she wants

The character can have one overarching goal (get home), but to get there she has to fulfill a number of smaller goals (get to the Emerald City, see the Wizard, get the broomstick).

I look at my idea, my characters and what I’m thinking off as the plot and then set out to discover what my heroine’s ultimate goal is, both for the plot of the story and for the internal growth, why she wants to reach these goals and what stands in her way. Every time I do this I gain insight into my characters and focus the story.

During the first half of the workshop Debra looked at Vogler’s ‘The Hero’s Journey” (tons of links out there, this is just the first I came across) and how GMC connects to that story structure. I prefer Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat beat sheet, but looking at GMC for each step of the journey was really interesting. It demonstrated in explicit detail how important it is to know your characters and why they behave like they do. You can’t just have them find a dead body in a ditch ‘because you need that to happen’. At the beginning of the session Debra said to make notes if we liked, but, more importantly, to think of our current WIP and how anything she said affected that. She described how she’d done this wokshop at RWA National and chatted to one of the authors there: the author had six bullet points of notes on the talk, but pages of notes on how it affectd the author’s current project.

During the afternoon Debra looked at the Big Black Moment and walked us through one of her novels. It was amazing! From the very fist time hero and heroine meet the BBM is set up. ‘Compare and Contrast’ was Debra’s favourite phrase. Basically in any way the characters could be on opposite sides of the coin, they were. Not in a heavy-handed way, but in a way that made you think ‘OMG, how are they EVER going to get together?!’ The book was a contemporary romace, looking at family and duty. It really showcased to me that you don’t need demons and the end of the world for there to be conflict on every page of the book.

I am a plantser. I outline what will happen (sometimes in more detail than other times;), but then pants the individual scenes. If you’re interested, here’s the link to buy GMC. Or you can just google it, loads of info on the web:). I definitely recommend the book and suggest if you do nothing else before you start the story, determine your GMC.

You can leave a comment through Nov. 26, after which I will randomly select a winner who can choose one of my books.

All commenters will be entered to win a grand prize of $25 USD from All Romance eBooks! And don’t forget to leave a comment on our other NGWN NaNo blogs for a chance to win some of these other cool prizes:

From Leela Lou Dahlin, her NaNoWriMo novel, Rumor Has It

From Ella Sheridan: $10 Gift Card for Amazon

From A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder: Copy of SEALED BY FIRE (or choice of backlist)

From Angel Payne: Free e-copy of either NO PRINCE CHARMING or NO MORE MASQUERADE

From Harlowe Wilde: Copy of Kitty Kitty Bang Bang & $5 Amazon gift card

From Dani Wade: Choice of Backlist book

From Nona Raines: ecopy of Her Perfect Man and Don’t Let Go or another of her backlist

A prize from Dakota Trace

From Lara Archer: $10 Amazon e-gift card

From Taige Crenshaw: $10 All Romance ebook e-gift card

Thanks for stopping by. I hope the blogs help;).

Happy NaNoWriMo!


8 responses to “Goal, Motivation, Conflict- Something The Author Should Know

  1. Amazing post, Tina! It always helps me to plot out a story before I begin writing. Trying the GMC will be a great exercise to help with that process. Thank you!

  2. Great info, Tina. I always seem to have more problems with external conflict than internal. Maybe because my stories are usually more character driven than plot driven. But the GMC is such a helpful guide for writers.

  3. Absolutely, GMC is the absolute must have for every story….no conflict, no story. And that conflict has to arise out of a mismatch between the goals of hero and heroine.

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