Monday, February 04, 2008

Okay, okay, I know I said....but....

I know I said the 'how-to' books would have to wait until after I finished another rough draft, but I had already ordered this one, and it was sitting on my bedside table just begging me to dip into it.

I have heard various authors refer to Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation & Conflict before. Always with very high praise. But the book was only available through a small press! How good could it be if didn't sell it new??

But more authors whose work I admire mentioned it as a great resource and teaching tool. So I ordered it.

Boy howdy, am I glad I did. I've been wallowing in the 'want to be a plotter' and 'born to fly by the seat of my pants' battle for some time now. I can see all the merits of an outline, scene cards, timelines, character charts, style sheets, and snowflake methods, but once I start down that path, the joy of the story seems to wane, the heat of anticipation snuffs like a guttering candle, and I lose all enthusiasm to write the book.

But Debra Dixon cuts right to the heart of the matter for me. She asks four simple questions:





Why Not?

Who refers to the character, hero, heroine, or villain. What is what that character wants (the Goal). Why is why that character wants that particular thing (Motiviation). and Why not is what is keeping that character from reaching his/her goal (Conflict).

Debra uses several well-known movies to break down the various parts of GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict). The Wizard of Oz, The Fugitive, Star Wars, The Client, Casablanca, and Ladyhawke. (How did she get her hands on a list of some of my favorite movies?) By dissecting the GMC's of these films, she shows us why these are some of our favorite movies. The characters all want something, they all have pressing needs as to why this thing must be accomplished (and some of them have a time crunch too, which ups the ante) and they all have roadblocks standing in their way that make them chose between their goal and the easy path.

Having this simple plan in mind makes it easier to craft characters, to visualize plots, and to keep the conflict ramped up enough to make the reader want to keep turning pages. And all without going into so much detail that the delights of discovery are rubbed out for the SOTP writer.

The authors who recommended this book were right. A great tool I endorse!


  1. I need to add this one to my reading list. It's seriously the only craft book I don't have, because I think I have almost everything out there, LOL! I like books that give good examples too.

  2. I have heard this book recommended many times, but haven't read it. Like you, I'm swearing off how-to books until I finish the first draft I'm working on. I do use the GMC in making my character sketches and will have to look into her book for some deeper thoughts on that.

  3. I love this book, and I recommend it to clients all the time. To me, it's the perfect blend of character-driven writing and plot-driven writing. When you know your characters this well, the plot is going to flow.

  4. I'll have to look for this title. Sounds really great. I like the idea of having examples to use.

    Speaking of swearing off writing books--I've been reading ones written for kids in preparation to speaking at our girl's group at church. It's funny how complicated they make writing seem or how super easy! In fact, I've gotten a few good pointers from the juvenile books.

    It's inspiring to see how much you actually DO KNOW.