A PSA on GMC
Goal, motivation, and conflict is so incredibly necessary sometimes it just astounds me. Yes, it’s very helpful if a writer knows everything about the world in which their book is set. And yes, a knowledge of story structure is extremely helpful when writing a book. Knowing how to write dialogue and how much exposition should be there is important as is a number of other aspects of writing craft, but without knowing your characters’ GMC you have no story. It is not always absolutely necessary for every book, but I would argue that a book is better for the author having known their characters’ GMCs from the beginning.
It is possible to write a book which is all about the plot where the characters are just puppets the author uses to enact the story. But, in my opinion, a good book is one in which the story is driven by the characters. Stories where it is the characters’ goals which creates and moves the action forward are much more compelling.
Knowing your characters’ goals will tell you where the story needs to go since the whole point is for the character to achieve their goal (or fail, depending on the type of book you’re writing). How they achieve the goal (or not), what steps they need to take to get there is what makes up the book. It doesn’t much matter whether they are successful in each step—in fact, it’s more interesting if they’re not—but seeing them try and work hard toward their goals is the fun of a story.
Knowing what drives the character toward attaining their goal—their motivation—will help you (and them) to push forward. Knowing why someone is doing something will give you a more well-rounded character as well.
And of course, the conflict is what makes the story interesting. We need to see people triumph over adversity. Without conflict, the story would be boring. And it is a rare reader who wants to read about someone to whom things come easy. No, we’d much rather see our protagonist struggle and have to work hard to achieve their goal. We want to see how they react to adversity and what they do to overcome it. It will tell you a lot about a person and make their eventual success (or failure) that much more satisfying.
But not only do we absolutely need GMC in order to write our story, we also need it to write the description of the story. It is where I start when I sit down to write my book description or blurb. In the standard format of
(Character) needs to (Goal) because (Motivation), but (Conflict), therefore (what they have to do to achieve their goal).
I write out my sentence and from there I’m able to concisely sum up my entire story.
For example: In my next book, Jack of Diamonds, which is coming out on May 15th, the GMC sentence for my heroine is as follows:
Lydia Sheffield doesn’t want to die in childbirth but fears that she will because she watched her mother die after giving birth to her brother, but Lydia’s father and society is pressuring her to get married, therefore she’s going enter into a fake engagement.
There it is. The sum of my story in my protagonist’s GMC. Of course, my hero has his own GMC. I write a paragraph about each one and then a concluding paragraph highlighting the romance (and what they have to overcome in order to be together) and voila, a description:
Lydia Sheffield is always laughing, always joking, always charming, always surrounded by adoring gentlemen. She wants to enjoy the season, and not yield to Regency society’s expectation that she quickly marry and have children. She also has a secret lurking within her—one that will keep her from ever taking a risk on love.
Lord John Welles has a secret of his own, but Lydia has discovered it. She noticed what no one else did, that this attractive, upstanding gentleman is filching diamonds from unsuspecting ladies. Lydia extracts a price for her silence—a fake engagement to her for the season. John never expected to want to make the arrangement real, nor that Lydia would be so dead-set against it. There’s something she’s not telling him, and he’s determined to find out what it is.
Can John discover Lydia’s secret in time to save his heart from breaking? He’ll need to convince her to take a chance on love, on life… and on him.
It will take the Ladies’ Wagering Whist Society to help John win his diamond.
I couldn’t do that without knowing my protagonist’s GMC, just like I couldn’t write the book without knowing them. So, if you are writing a book and haven’t written out your characters’ GMC sentence and posted it someplace prominent in your writing space, I would strongly recommend you do so. It won’t just help you write your book, it will help you after the book is finished to write your book description and tag lines.