Friday, March 15, 2013

Do Opposites Attract?

Spring Break came two days early for us, and yesterday involved keeping five children from driving us over the cliff of insanity.  Writing anything--even my name--was nearly impossible with an interruption every five or less minutes.  This morning they're keeping themselves busy with other things.  Yes, I'm grateful. ☺
 My writing group has been discussing plotting on our email loop, which brought us around to GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict), a method offered by author Debra Dixon.  For me, it's a starting place.

GMC is a quick telling of what the character wants, why the character wants it, and what is getting in the way of not getting it.

Does that mean that the two main characters need to be opposites?  No.  But they must have opposing goals, somewhere along the line.

A few weeks ago I posted the following opposite traits.

Disciplined/Free Spirit
Driven & Determined/Lives for the Moment

In the above, any could be negative traits or positive traits.  And, yes, they are a bit cut and dried.  We, as well as our characters, don't have only one trait.  We're a mixture of many, both positive and negative, weak and strong.  Our characters should be this way, too.

If you've chosen to have one character  who is disciplined, follows a strict path in life and never waivers from it, while the other is a free spirit, spontaneous and loves to do things on the spur of the moment, you've already set up a conflict, simply in personality types.

But what if you have two characters who are both Driven & Determined?  Where's the conflict?

Within a relationship, whether it's family, romantic, or even business, no two people will be exactly alike, even if they share the same major traits.  Two driven or even rigid people can have conflict with the other character, especially where their goals are concerned.  Neither is willing to give an inch, when it comes to what they want and what they'll do to get it.  Two cheerful people won't always agree.  Somewhere they will differ.  That's where knowing your characters comes in.

And that's when GMC steps up to the plate.  On the surface, these two seem perfectly compatible, but somewhere they'll differ.

  • Two sisters are close to each other, they share a room, they share their life, they share secrets.  But one sister loves red, while the other loves green.  It's never been a problem between them, until they have an opportunity to make changes in their personal environments.  Their goal is to paint their room.  Suddenly, this goal is going to raise some conflict.
  • A woman and a man are driven to be successful in business.  But what if they're vying for the same job?  Or have competing businesses?
  • A couple planning their future together want to buy a home, expecting a happily ever after.  They share many of the same likes and dislikes, whether it's music, movies, dancing or no dancing, TV and reading, and things to do in their spare time.  Her dream is to live in the city, while his is to live in the country.
These are simple, basic things that set each of us apart.  A courageous person can become fearful, while a fearful person can be forced to become courageous.  Rigid people can adapt, when needed.  A homebody may find that he/she enjoys a bit of traveling.  Those sisters above may find a perfect way to mix their favorite colors.

As people, we learn to compromise, and that's what our characters will also learn to do.  Even if they share basic traits, each will have something that is different than the other.  If they don't, if there is no conflict, we'll become bored with them.  Each character is different in some way.  Find it and run with it.  Create memorable characters and you'll end up with a memorable story.
If you're writing about a character, if he's a powerful character, unless you give him vulnerability I don't think he'll be as interesting to the reader. - Stan Lee

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