Writerly Reads: GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon – Part 2


This book was one of the suggested texts in an online writing course I took last year. The course was offered through Ed2Go, an online adult and continuing education school, whose courses my library offers free of cost to patrons. I read only portions of the book during the course. Now I plan to go through it cover to cover.

Following are notes from Chapters 1 and 2.

Chapter 1:  Who, What, Why, and Why Not

It is the writer’s job to answer these questions

Who = character
What = goal
Why = motivation
Why Not = conflict

~ compelling characters are unique, interesting and well-rounded
~ compelling characters have goals, motivations, and conflicts
~ character interview is a useful way to develop characters
~ interviews often reveal information that adds plot points
~ your first chapter is your first impression
~ avoid introducing too many characters in the first ten or twenty pages
~ first chapter must establish what’s at stake
~ characters must be motivated to achieve a goal
~ conflict causes worry and engages the reader

Neat story blurb: A character wants a goal because he is motivated, but he faces conflict.

Chapter 2:  Goal: What Your Character Wants

~ readers want to see characters overcome obstacles
~ all characters must have GMC
~ characters should want what they don’t have so much they take action
~ active characters create plot
~ best goals are important and urgent
~ sense of urgency makes the reader care
~ large goals should be accompanied by a number of smaller goals that drive the action of the book
~ character goals can change over the course of your book
~ characters need external and internal goals
~ readers expect closure – writers have a contract with readers, must earn trust
~ writers use various methods to plot character goal, motivation and conflict

~ following is a chart the author uses in developing character GMC ~

Goal, Motivation and Conflict Chart

Character : External Internal
External GMC sentence:
Internal GMC sentence:

~ as an example, here is a chart filled out for Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz ~

Wizard of Oz, Dorothy GMC Chart

Character : Dorothy   from Wizard of Oz External Internal
Goal —To get back home —To find someplace where she can be happy and not always get in trouble
Motivation —Her beloved Auntie Em is sick —She just isn’t content with herself and where she is; she’s tired of being in trouble
Conflict —The Wicked Witch is out for revenge so she’s after Dorothy —She’s a teenager; she doesn’t really know how what she wants or how to figure that out
External GMC sentence: Dorothy wants to get back home because her beloved Auntie Em is sick, but the Wicked Witch is out for revenge and she keeps getting in Dorothy’s way.
Internal GMC sentence: Dorothy wants to find a place where she’s happy and not in trouble all the time because she’s just not happy where she is, but she’s a young teen and isn’t able to figure out what she really wants.


Debra Dixon is a novelist, CEO, national speaker, publisher, business consultant, software developer. You may find her web site here and her books here.



For the most part, this blog is about reading and writing m/m romances, but there are a few personal reflections, some writerly information, and a bit of writing practice. Thank you for stopping by.

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