The fiction holy grail, well maybe not. But it is a vital tool that any writer should know, learn, and love.
There is internal (character) GMC, and external (plot) GMC. You can find the definition on a ton of blogs, and in pretty much any creative writing textbook.
But the bottom line is for each scene, chapter, and most importantly story you should write down the Goal, Motivation, and Conflicts. Your main character or characters must have a separate internal list.
My pocket-sized example:
Bram Stoker’s Dracula-External
Goal: Kill Dracula
Motivation: Save family, friends, and London from the undead fiend.
Conflict: Dracula fights back! Fairly successfully…
Jonathon Harker- Internal
Goal: Advance career.
Motivation: Wants to marry.
Conflict: Runs into fiendish vampire…
These three little words can guide your story telling to a new level, and help you solve problems with clarity and flow.
I read a short story a few weeks ago that redefined GMC problems. The author and story will remain entirely anonymous, but I want to share what I saw in that story help other writers not make the same mistake.
The story concept was interesting, the descriptions and dialogue had promise.
But from line one I started asking questions for which there were not any answers.
Why does this character do that?
What what happened to cause that emotion?
What is the MC afraid of?
Why is he afraid of it?
What expressions did those people have?
It went on and on…
This like most fiction was written in 3rd Person Omniscient, and it was clear from the story that the writer intended it to be dramatic and suspenseful.
No Doubt that writer believed that by leaving those questions unanswered he would draw the reader in, leave it to their imagination, etc…
But instead of adding tension the lack of MOTIVATION resulted in a blah tale that told us all about the bad things without letting us see, hear, or feel them.
Too much back story can bog down a story, but a complete lack of it results in a breakdown of the entire GMC structure.
Without that motivation the conflict and goals are confused and messy. The reader gets lost and frustrated…and in really extreme cases the story makes no sense.
So don’t forget your motivations!
And no this doesn’t mean you need five pages of back story before your plot.
A Sentence here and there goes a long way to explain why your character acts and thinks they way he or she does.
Read through your piece. See what questions you ask then answer the important ones.