Goal, Motivation, Conflict


I’m reading GMC by Debra Dixon for a book discussion at work. It’s a fast-paced, easy-to-grasp read with practical suggestions about creating solid characters and plots.

The first thing GMC made me think about was writing a book of my own. Yes, I used to write, before I realized I liked editing as much as, maybe more than, I liked writing. The results of my writing experiments were two really bad novels that will remain “under the bed.” Their biggest problems? They had no believable plots. And plot, since it is the core of the story, is kind of important.

The plot how-to laid out in GMC made me think (wish?) that I could fix my plot problems. Not for those two ghastly manuscripts, but for something new. But, since I’m barely hanging on to my once-a-week update here on the blog, writing a new novel seems unlikely.

The second thing GMC made me think about was the really good lunch I had a few weeks ago. During our book discussion, we agreed we liked “something else” to be going on in our books, something in addition to the romance.

Debra Dixon cuts this idea down to its essential elements.

I used to think about “conflicts” in romance novels as being the obstacles, both internal and external, that the hero and heroine must overcome before they can fully embrace a relationship.

But now I have a more interesting way to think about it. The romance—the relationship—IS the conflict. The romance is what’s going on while the hero and heroine are trying to get other things done.

The heroine’s goal in a romance novel is not to fall in love and get married. Ditto for the hero. The last thing on their minds is meeting a soul mate. In fact, it’s darned inconvenient. Romance will be a conflict for your characters.
~~from GMC by Debra Dixon


10 Responses to “Goal, Motivation, Conflict”

  1. 1 Sir John May 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I am glad you are posting insights into becoming a better writer. Plotting has always been the easiest part for me and the most fun I have in the writing process. Understanding the goals and fears of all characters and how they interrelate set the stage for a good story.

    I will definitely be adding this book to my library. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. And let me know when you have completed a novel. I would love to read it.


  2. 3 Wynter Daniels May 2, 2011 at 7:45 am

    This book is always close to my desk. I heard Deb speak twice – she’s just as awesome in person.

  3. 5 Catherine Bybee May 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    This ranks up there with… things that make you go hummm? I’ll have to sit on this and chew for a bit.

  4. 7 Sir John May 4, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I have a request for a topic I would love to see you accept–Germanism.
    Words have a way of growing in a certain pattern and what is correct now is not always easy to determine. Grand Mother to grand-mother to grandmother for an example. And, then to great-grandmother, and not to mention, the step side thus giving us my stepgreatgrandmother. I know I should stop but what about my exstepgreatgrandmother.

    I would love to hear how you handle this in editing. And, I know you have some great-comical-pieces as well.


    Sir John

  5. 9 Cody Young May 12, 2011 at 2:33 am

    That was a really good post – insightful and interesting. I too agonize a lot about Goal, Motivation and Conflict. I wish you luck.

  6. 10 www.sirjohn.us May 24, 2013 at 3:43 am

    To me it is all about fully flushing out the character before starting to write a book. On cases where that was not accomplished, I find myself having to rewrite the book.

    It is good to hear that you have a book in mind that you want to write.

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I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
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