Saturday, May 18, 2013

Motivation - The M in GMC by Jannine Gallant

There's a lot of talk about GMC - Goals, Motivation & Conflict - in writing circles. Editors tell us we can't have a story without it. Authors agonize over it, using the following formula: Your POV character wants (goal), because (motivation), but (conflict) keeps him/her from attaining that goal. I'll admit, about the third or fourth time I saw this posted, I wrote it on the inside cover of my catch-all notebook, feeling more than a little nervous for having ignored GMC up to that point. Now, even though it's there, staring me in the face, I still tend to ignore it when jumping on a new project. Occasionally, when I'm in the mood to torture myself, I'll contemplate one of my completed novels and try to fill in those blanks. Sometimes it works. Other times, not so much.

Does this mean my books are weak? Probably not, since I'm not overly filled with self-doubt. I think it means I fill in the blanks on a sub-conscious level as I write. Goal is never an issue for me. My books tend to have lots of action with a plot that moves right along. A common goal in all romance novels is to find love, but most of my characters also have the goal of survival. I write suspense, so there's usually a bad guy hindering their chances of making it to the end with their skin intact. So, there you have it, my surface level conflict - outwit the villain. The internal conflict generally goes along with the finding love goal. What makes our characters tick that keeps them from skipping merrily down a smooth path toward happiness? That's where the M comes in.

Motivation. I rarely think about this. Which is why I was plenty shocked yesterday to find myself worrying about the motivation of my heroine in my current WIP. Grace was the sister of my heroine in my very first published book, Victim Of Desire. I gave no thought to a sequel when I wrote it way back when. And now I'm stuck with the traits and history I gave Grace. She's single, beautiful, sarcastic, motivated to succeed, and not afraid of much of anything. I can work with all that. BUT, she had the reputation for going through men faster than takeout pizza. Yikes, not the best quality in a heroine. So, for the first time ever, I started thinking about why she would act this way. What was her motivation for her love 'em then run for cover attitude? My CP suggested an early marriage that ended in tragedy, so she's afraid to love again. Good, but no go. She'd never been married in the first book, so I can't toss in a husband now. So after a couple of unsuccessful ideas, I finally came up with one I liked. My CP likes it, too! Now I have my motivation for Grace's behavior - but you'll all have to read the book to find out what it is. LOL

So, is it easier to sit down and plot out your GMC right from the beginning? Or are you like me, letting it develop as you delve deeper into the story and learn more and more about your characters? Motivation often comes from something that happened in our pasts, but we have to slip it into our writing gradually, keeping a bit of mystery surrounding it. No info dumps! But that's a post for another day...

Find blurbs and links for all my books on my website.


JenaGalifany said...

Thanks for sharing this, Jannine. I've never come across GMC but will be keeping it in mind from this moment on in my writing. Great post.


Jannine Gallant said...

You're welcome, Jena!

RT Wolfe said...

Gorgeous cover. Great post. Thank you, Jannine.
-R.T. Wolfe

Margo Hoornstra said...

Hmmmmm. Your CP must be very, very wise! Great post.

Alison Henderson said...

I use my own version of GMC when I do my pre-writing character sketches, then I usually don't look at it again. I need to to get to know my characters before I write their stories. If I'm struggling with a manuscript, it's usually because I didn't take enough time with my characters before I started.

Jannine Gallant said...

RT, Thanks for stopping by!

Margo, You are sooo funny.

Alison, I know what you mean. Once you get in your characters' heads, you have so much more insight into how they'll act in any given situation.