Writerly Reads: GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon – Part 3

GMCThis 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 3 and 4.

Chapter 3:  Motivation: “The Why”

Motivation drives your character to achieve his/her goal
“First time authors should give their characters one good strong motivation.” (pg. 31)
Motivation should be simple, strong and focused
Motivation is the most important element of GMC
Motivation allows the reader to accept your story – suspend disbelief
Motivation encourages empathy with your character
Good blurb for motivation: The character wants a goal because he is motivated
Your character must have compelling reasons for every action
Motivation must be important – larger-than-life
Two kinds of motivation – external and internal
In the Wizard of Oz Dorothy’s external goal is to get home
In the Wizard of Oz Dorothy’s internal goal is to find her heart’s desire
Internal motivation creates emotion

Questions to determine if GMC and characters match (pg. 41)
Is the goal important to the character?
Is the motivation urgent?
Is the goal within the realm of possibility?
Does the character have skills and flaws that make this story unique to him?
Can you use this GMC to help the reader understand your character?

Coincidence does not equal motivation
Instead – motivate plot actions, develop backstory

If using multiple goals for your character, be sure there are logical motivations

Character motivation and choices effect the reader – with proper motivation, the reader will accept even reprehensible behaviors

Chapter 4:  Conflict: Caution! Conflict Ahead!

Conflict is the “why not”
No conflict = no story, boring
Conflict = struggle, bad things happening, friction, tension, opposition, disruption
Conflict must be clearly defined
Conflict must not be unrelenting
Conflict should fit your story
Conflict should not be fuzzy, eratic, slow-paced
Conflict should be focused
In complex stories, make multiple characters’ GMCs collide
A villain is a well-defined conflict
Conflict tests characters
Cowards make excellent heroes
Internal conflict keeps your hero from learning his life lesson
Inner Conflict + Outer Conflict = Multilayered Characters (subtext & depth)
Escalate, move from vague to concrete, let the readers see it coming
Bickering is not conflict
Misunderstanding is not conflict (exception: a comedy of errors)
Sharing a conflict bonds characters
Conflict produces a winner and a loser
For Romance: Conflict requires compromise, compromise comes from within


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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