photo © 2008 James Jordan | more info (via: Wylio)
This week, my son is working on his first piece of fiction, a short story he has been assigned as part of his English curriculum.
This has been interesting to me as we get down to the very basics of writing fiction and he's faced with all those decisions that come when starting a story.
The most important thing he has had to do is fill out a GMC worksheet for his main character, a brainy teen nick-named 'Stein after his hero, Alber Einstein. (Pretty cool, huh? He thought it up all by himself.)
Some writers might be thinking "GMC? Like a truck?"
Nope, GMC = Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Without those three things, you haven't got a story.
So, today's 3 Tips Monday is: GMC in a nutshell.
1. Goal. The character has to want something. To get out of Oz and back to Kansas. To find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. To stop a bomber from blowing up an elevator, a bus, and a subway train. To be the best villain in the world.
If there is no goal, if the character doesn't want something, then what will keep the reader turning pages?
2. Motivation. There has to be a reason for the character to want what she wants. Nobody lives in a vacuum, and nobody wants something for no reason. At least interesting people don't behave that way. Is there something in the past that makes the heroine's present goal make sense? This can be an inner motivation that she keeps to herself, like she's been passed around from foster care home to foster care home and the thing she wants more than anything in life is to have a home, or a clearly defined outer motivation such as get off the bus before it blows up because she doesn't want to die.
If there is no reason for the heroine to want what she wants, if she doesn't want it so badly she's willing to risk everything, life, limb, and future happiness to get it, then what's to keep the reader turning pages?
3. Conflict. What stands in the way of the hero getting what he wants? A villian? A mountain? His own self? Is there a clock ticking? A catastrophe in the offing? Something has to be preventing the hero from walking up to his goal, grabbing it, and stuffing it into his pocket. If things are too easy for the hero, the story is boring. (Write this one down. No conflict = No story. I still have to work on throwing enough trouble at my characters.)
If there is nothing standing between our hero and his goal, then what's to keep the reader turning pages?
Question for you: Which of these is the hardest for you to come up with when starting a story? Which is the easiest?