GMC 101

So, today we’re taking questions from the audience.

First question comes from Cousin Leslie: When do I get to read it???XXXOOO Your Cousin

Answer: When you buy your copy from that Borders bookstore down the street from your house in 2007 just like everyone else. I’ll send announcements complete with MapQuest directions to the book retailer nearest you.  Love ya!


Ms. K writes (very articulately, I might add): “Ummmmmmm… GMC? k”

Answer: Guess I should remember that I don’t have just writers reading this blog. In my last post I mentioned that I plotted my entire book on my drive home Monday night and then stayed up later and wrote out the GMC so I wouldn’t forget it.

GMC, for those writers who don’t know (but should!) and those readers who have neurotic writers for friends and must put up with our idiosyncrasies (like needing our friends to entertain us should we become bored), is the foundation of every work of fiction. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a TV episode, or a movie. Anything that has characters must have GMC.

GMC stands for Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Every character has a Goal (sometimes more than one, i.e. an internal goal and an external goal, or one that changes partway through the story). The character has to have Motivation for wanting to reach that goal. If you properly motivate a character, ANY goal can be realistic to a reader. You can give your character the goal of committing a murder, and the character will still be sympathetic in the eyes of the reader IF there is enough motivation to make the reader see where the character is coming from.

And, last, but probably the most important is Conflict. There MUST be conflict in the story. Look at it this way. If the heroine wants money (her goal) because she needs to feed her family (her motivation), and then just wins the lottery the first time she buys a ticket…you got no story. How uninteresting is that? Now, if the heroine wants money (goal) to feed her family (motivation), but no matter how hard she tries she seems thwarted at every turn (losing her job, not being able to find another one, purse stolen, etc), now there is conflict and a story to tell.

If any of these three things are missing from your story, you might end up with reactions like this from editors and agents when they read your manuscript:

  • “You didn’t make me care what happened to your character.” (Motivation lacking).
  • “Your plot was weak.” (Lacking goals?)
  • “Not enough conflict.” (Not enough conflict.)

Writers can see if their GMC is intact by filling out the following sentence:

So-and-so wants ____________ because ______________, but ____________.

(First blank is the Goal, second is the Motivation, third is the Conflict. )

As an example from my first to-be-published-book, VENUS ENVY:

Venus (goddess turned fairy godmother) wants to set up a Rachel (the Cinderella of the story) with Luke, because she needs to create more love-matches to get back to Mt. Olympus, but Rachel doesn’t want to be set up with her Prince Charming.

So, there we have a Goal (setting Rachel up with Luke), the motivation or what makes her want this (so she can get back to Mt. Olympus), and the conflict (Cinderella isn’t cooperating).

See how any of those things missing would mean the lack of a real story? Especially the conflict part.

When I was first writing VENUS ENVY, Venus wanted to set up the heroine (a different heroine than in the final version) with Prince Charming, and the heroine was perfectly happy to go along with it. That version of VE didn’t get very far. At the same time, I was writing a completely different book about Rachel, who was being courted by a great guy, but because she was afraid of repeating past mistakes with men, she didn’t want to go out with him and turned him down constantly. It wasn’t until I realized that I had the wrong heroine in the book with Venus and moved Rachel into Venus’s book that I had my conflict…A fairy godmother with a Cinderella, who doesn’t WANT a Prince Charming.

End of lesson. Hope you all got some enjoyment out of it. All you beginning writers out there…go get this book: GMC: Goal, Motivation, & Conflict, by Debra Dixon. This book changed my writing (in a good way!) forever. If you are floundering, having a hard time understanding why your stories don’t have the punch they should, read it. Oh, and it also touches, in a very simple way, on the Hero’s Journey. Much easier to understand than the Writer’s Journey by Chris Vogler, although that is also a great book.

Anyway, end of lesson for the day.