Lesson #18: GMC Charts

(Note: At the end of this post is a downloadable GMC chart.)

So this lesson will be relatively short (hopefully) because you will need to try it out on your own – and because Kayla did such a great job with the introduction of the subject.

*** But before we go any further – I want to give a shout out to the best resource on the market for this topic of GMC. The book is titled, Goal, Motivation & Conflict – The Building Blocks of Good Fiction, and it is by Debra Dixon. http://www.amazon.com/GMC-Motivation-Conflict-Debra-Dixon-ebook/dp/B00DZ01FRY

I’m also going to give you a disclaimer here: GMC isn’t anything new or brilliant in the writing world. It’s been around a long time and you can take classes on the topic at many writer’s conferences. Lots of authors and editors teach on this and Kayla and I (Kim) don’t presume to think that we are the experts on this topic, but it is important for YOU to know that this is a major one to learn. Do your homework. Study. Read. Don’t gloss over this lesson. And lastly, my favorite (and simplest) way of charting GMC came from good friend and fellow author, Kim Vogel Sawyer http://www.kimvogelsawyer.com/ . The sentence structure that we’ve used to describe GMC and the chart are very similar (if not identical) to the same ones she uses in classes. All of that to say, take it from Kim, Kim, and Kayla, (and the hundreds who’ve gone before us) GMC will keep you from having sagging middles, writer’s block, and many other unsavory-writerly-problems.

Let’s get to the process of the chart. It’s not hard, I promise…

Attached you will find the chart I use for all my characters. I do a GMC chart for each primary character, and also my secondary characters. (This includes my villain [or sometimes villains], who is/are usually a primary—but once in a while a secondary.)

It’s pretty straight forward: Write in the character’s name and the title of your WIP.

Next, you need to really think this through. Take your time. Don’t rush it – or it will show in the manuscript. There should be three arcs in your story: an external, an internal, and a spiritual. (You can also think of them as journeys.)

1 – External – this is the “man v. outside source”

2 – Internal – this is the “man v. himself”

3 – Spiritual – this is the “man v. God”

In all three of these journeys, there should be a goal- (what the character wants), a motivation – (why he wants what he wants), and a conflict – (what is keeping him/her from the goal – there should be one pretty large conflict and probably numerous smaller ones).

Just like Kayla taught in lesson #17 – you should be able to make a sentence (albeit lengthy) for each of the three journeys. In Debra Dixon’s GMC book, she talks about the external and internal journeys. But for all of us who write Christian fiction—and I’ve even seen it in secular fiction—we know how important it is to have the spiritual journey. In fact it is often the most significant (as well it should be!) journey.

So – go print out the chart or draw up your own. Sit down and look at lessons #17 & #18 and re-read the examples Kayla gave for the sentence structure of the GMC. Now it’s your turn to take your WIP to the next level. If you can’t do a GMC chart for your characters, you might be lacking some key components for your story. So go back to the drawing board with your chart and see what holes need to be filled. A lot of times, it could be lack of conflict that is holding you up or the shallowness of your character. If you’re too heavy on plot, your characters could be weak. If you’re too heavy on character development, your plot could be dull and boring. Tear your story structure apart on paper and analyze it.

I want to leave you with some inspiring words from Donald Maass. Brilliant New York agent who is an incredible teacher and wrote the book Writing the Breakout Novel.

“Make it worse, make it worse, make it worse…”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry! We’ll have to do a whole ‘nother session on “making it worse” later on.

Keep writing!

With pen to paper,

Kim Woodhouse


GMC Chart Attachment: GMC Chart

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