My writing process changes and I don’t always do the same thing for each story. But since Gina X. Grant has introduced me to GMC that is the minimum I do for each story.
Last year Debra Dixon came in for a one-day workshop to the Toronto Romance Writers. Debra in an author of fiction and an editor 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?
Since reading the book I always GMC my characters before I do anything else.
In case you are not familiar with GMC, the grid looks something like this:
Wizard of Oz
Dorothy External Internal
Goal Get home (get to emerald city, to find her heart’s desire and a place with no trouble
see wizard, get broomstick)
Motivation Auntie Em is sick (the wizard is there, she’s unhappy and trouble follows her everywhere
he has the power to send her home,
the price for sending her home)
Conflict the witch she doesn’t know what she wants
the balloon lifts off without her
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 character 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.
Last year I realised that I may have started one of my WIPs in the wrong spot. I like opening with action, so started when the first assassin attempts to kill my heroine, but I didn’t ground the reader in her ordinary world. Think of any films you’ve seen or openings in books, usually you get a moment of insight into the character’s life before everything goes to hell, a grounding into why Lily (my heroine) would jump at the chance to take the dirigible to London and get away from her aunt in San Francisco. So I went back and wrote a scene that, once it’s polished, will hopefully show why she takes this rather drastic step.
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, but then pants the individual scenes. The workshop didn’t necessarily tell me anything I hadn’t heard before, but Debra approached it from a different perspective. I definitely took something away from it and it helped me to clarify some of the steps in my head.
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.