Thursday, March 29, 2012

Then Along Came Conflict


I'm still playing blog catch-up and hope to be back on schedule by the end of the week.  It's been a blogging frenzy, over the past few days!  Well, not really, but I'll have a nice word count to add to this month's total. ;)

For the past week, I've been sharing my thoughts on and blogging about what's often referred to as Debra Dixon's GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict.  It's the perfect basis for any writer, whether just starting out or a publishing wiz with tons of books written and sold.

To keep a reader interested in the story, whether it's romance or any genre of fiction, the characters need to want something (GOAL), a reason for wanting it (MOTIVATION), and something that's keeping them from getting it (CONFLICT). Goal-Motivation-Conflict.

It goes like this:

  • Character wants (goal), because (motivation), but (conflict) is keeping character from reaching it.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?  Until the discovery that lack of conflict is one of the biggest reasons a story is rejected by an editor.

So what is conflict?  It's the struggle between opposing forces in the story.  There are two basic types of conflict: internal and external.  Internal conflict is what affects the character personally, such as changing (or needing to change) the way he/she thinks or the kind of person he/she is.  External conflict is the character changing his/her environment.  When it comes to external and internal conflict in a story, the external is always solved first.

Conflict is the heart of the story.  Without it, even if the character is fun and entertaining, the story has no substance.  Something or someone needs to be keeping the character from reaching that goal.  The more difficult or deep the conflict, the better the story.  The character must either solve the conflict or find away around it.

All major characters in the story will each have a GMC, even if it's short term for a minor character, such as the main character's best friend, family member, or any other reappearing minor character.

Reread some of your favorite books and see if you can spot the main character(s) GMC(s).  Make notes in the beginning and watch what happens over the course of the book.

Once you learn to use GMC, writing will be easier and your stories will be better for it.  Remember that characters' goals can change throughout the story during the process of character growth.  But until The End aka the Resolution, the emotional conflict needs to remain strong.  Give your character a goal that's important, a solid and emotional reason for that goal, and a conflict that will keep the character fighting to reach the goal.

More about conflict next week.  Until then...
The greatest rules of dramatic writing are conflict, conflict, conflict. - James Frey

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