Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Writing Tips: GMC (goal, motivation, conflict)

Over the next few months, I’ll be posting some writing / self-editing tips for fiction writers. 

In this first post we’ll go over GMC (goal, motivation, conflict), which is a very basic concept.

Bottom line – your characters need GMC, so make sure they have it.

Their goal is what they want, their motivation is why they want it, and their conflict is what’s keeping them from getting it. 

A few things to remember: 

1) The motivation should be bigger than the conflict. If it’s not, then when the character runs up against the conflict, they simply...well, give up.  

2) Conflicts can be external (someone is trying to kill them) or internal (their conscience tells them that what they’re going to do is morally wrong).

3) Goals are not always accomplished, and they can change. For example, in the beginning of a book, the hero’s goal might be to become the most wealthy man in town, and he’s willing to do whatever he has to in order to accomplish that, but by the end of the book he may have realized that there are more important things than wealth, leading to his goal changing / not being accomplished.

Many, many years ago I took my kids to the movies to see The Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy, and there was a great example of GMC in the movie, and on the drive home we talked about it, and they rolled their eyes and said, “Mom, why does everything have to be a writing lesson with you?” Which just made me smile :)

So, I’m going to show you the scene, but first I’ll tell you some background...there was a scene prior to the one I’ve embedded below in which the viewer learns that the son in the movie, Michael, is afraid of spiders, and his father teaches him to roll up a magazine and whack the spider with it. And I added that last bit of information to explain why, in this scene, Michael says, “I don’t have a magazine”.

This scene is a perfect, although very simple, example of GMC.

His goal – he wants to open the door.

His motivation – his father and sister are on the other side, and they’re in danger of being attacked, and probably eaten, by zombies.

His conflict – the door is covered with spiders, and he’s afraid of spiders.

In the end, he opens the door because his motivation is bigger than his conflict.

If you wish to learn more about GMC, there are numerous online articles, and I recommend the book GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon.
Note: If you plan to purchase the print version, I suggest you order it directly from the publisher (, because it will be cheaper.

Until next time...happy writing!

Pamela Tyner
Publisher, Beachwalk Press, Inc. 

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