Alicia Rasley (blog) is a wildly talented writer and teacher who should get more recognition than she does. I bought her e-book in PDF, Discovering the Story Within, before people were even reading e-books. (My only complaint: it’s full of awesome worksheets, but the PDF is protected against copying, pasting, highlighting–anything you right-click to do, so filling them out in a word-processing program is impossible.)


But, for today, and for GMC month, I’d like to point you to an article she did on her site called Plotting Without Fears.

In this article she tells you the quick and dirty way to plot a story. Find your one-sentence idea, your theme,  and your hero. Then, she shows you how to figure out what questions your story will answer and the goals and conflicts.  Finally, taking that information, she shows you how to use structure to form a plot.

There’s a lot of vital information packed in this article.


This article, also by Alicia, on motivation is made up of three parts to help you get GMC right.  First, knowing the difference between your (the author’s) goal and your character’s goal. This is a crucial distinction. Nothing should ever happen in a story because you need it to happen; rather, it should happen organically from the character’s goals, motivation, and because of conflict with the antagonist.

Second, she says motivation should pro-active:

Pro-active: Motivating movement TOWARDS something. Success is a pro-active motivation because it draws the character forward towards itself.

Reactive: Motivating movement AWAY from something. Guilt is a reactive motivation because it propels the person away from itself.

Finally, she urges us to know the difference between external and internal motivation.  To help you understand the difference, she says:

External motivations tend to be more or less universal. Internal motivations are what will individualize your character. Most of us want success; the question is why? Your internal motivation for wanting success (to win the love of your father) might be different from mine (to get revenge against those who scorned me).

Then, she includes a fantastic list of some external and internal motivations that are worth the click there, just by themselves.

She concludes by distinguishing between story and backstory,  goal and motivation, motivation and action.

Motivation is the past.
Goal is the future.
Conflict is the present.

I urge anyone who writes, whether they’re just starting out or have been doing it for years, to explore the wonderful articles on her site.

Photo by Patrick Hajzler used with permission. Find Patrick on stock.xchng.


Character Development Series

Turns out, I had so much to say about developing characters, I wrote a series of posts. Here they are, in order:
Develop Characters Without Worksheets
Writing Free Form Character Biographies
How to Find a Character’s GMC?
My GMC “In the Wild”
Plotting and Motivation

Before, I showed you how I created Sam’s GMC from his biography; let me give you an idea of how to use GMC once you have it:

So, that’s my actual wall.  Those are two of the seven GMC charts I have hung there.  My two main protagonists, actually.  On the top left, you’ll see an extra note: the lesson they need to learn by the end of the story.  In this novel, my antagonist and her minion don’t have these.  Because they fail to learn a lesson; they’re villains.  Not all antagonists are villains, though.  In some stories, an antagonist could be a friend or family member or even lover.  In order to for the antagonist have a happy ending, they need to arc as well.

This is hard, hard, hard until it’s not hard.  And then you have it, for this manuscript, anyway, and everything makes sense. Buy the book. Do some research.  If you’ve already written a story, do your GMC.

I by no  means claim expertness on this subject; but I know what works for me and how I use it. I would be happy to answer any question directed to me about my process in the comments or on Twitter.

Character Development Series

Turns out, I had so much to say about developing characters, I wrote a series of posts. Here they are, in order:
Develop Characters Without Worksheets
Writing Free Form Character Biographies
How to Find a Character’s GMC?
My GMC “In the Wild”
Plotting and Motivation

If you read a book or watch a movie, and you’ve learned even a little about GMC, then you can figure out a character’s GMC.  If you are a writer and feel intimidated, I highly recommend that you try it.  I did it, here on the blog, for the movie Sabrina.

In the same way, if you’ve written some of your story already or done your character homework, you may be able to pull out the goals and motivation easily.  (Conflict comes after–it’s when your characters’ goals oppose one another).

But, maybe you can’t.  Maybe you’re clueless and you don’t want to just make something up.  Maybe you want to get to know more about your character’s past first.  Like I did, last week, when I did a free form character biography.

Find Sam’s Free Form Character Biography here to help you understand this week’s post.

I know that’s hard to read, so if you click the image, a larger image will open in a new window.

If you read the biography, you can clearly see where I found these goals and motivations.  But, let me say this: these could be better.


External Goal:

The first external goal isn’t so great.  I mean, it’s a good goal for him and I guess if they live through the story, he did it; but, it’s vague and hard to measure.  So, here’s what I do: how does he do that? By catching Billy.  And now I have a positive, specific goal.  The second external goal is much stronger.  When he finds out, he will have met his goal.  It’s measurable and specifically attainable.

External Motivation:

Motivation is always sticky for me.  As long as I can make it personal and real to the character, I consider it a win.

External Conflict:

You can see here, conflict comes when a character’s goals oppose another character’s goals.  That part is easy.  If it’s not, your characters are in the wrong story with each other.

Internal Goal:

Internal stuff?  Also sticky.  I try to make it something emotional and not tangible and… loftier.  But, still?  That’s a little vague.  I realized after I’d posted Sam’s bio that he probably has the weakest GMC of anyone, but I’m all in already, right?

So, to make that a little more concrete, how could he measure it?  He could seek out relationships that encourage him to pursue his own dreams and accept him for who he is. Or he could remove people who didn’t do that.  But, even though the second one is measurable, it’s a negative goal.  It’s like a goal of not losing your house.  Every day you live there, you meet your goal–makes it mundane.  In fact, that would probably make a better motivation than a goal.  But, moving on!

Internal Motivation:

Well, he’s made a mess of things.  A brief but very bad marriage on the rebound would make anyone not trust their own judgment, right?

Internal Conflict:

And, again, conflict gets all tied up in what other people want or don’t want.

Turns out, I actually have a lot to say on GMC.  In fact, I see at least two more posts on this subject, so maybe, September is GMC month here at Ink Diva!

Character Development Series

Turns out, I had so much to say about developing characters, I wrote a series of posts. Here they are, in order:
Develop Characters Without Worksheets
Writing Free Form Character Biographies
How to Find a Character’s GMC?
My GMC “In the Wild”
Plotting and Motivation

I read a post a few days ago.  It’s not the one linked below, because I had Kindle Klipped it to myself and read it there.  In fact, I can’t track it down at all, because a Google of “brainstorming 100” comes up with lots of posts from different sites.  It didn’t even hit me that much when I read it, except to say, “Hmm.  That idea doesn’t suck.”

But then I started reading a novel and, while trying to go to sleep, began looking for the GMC in that book.  I was impressed to realize that while the hero’s GMC is obvious from the beginning, the heroine’s changes (although they’re all connected to what her real goal and motivation was all along).  Sometimes, we don’t know what we want.  Sometimes we do things and we don’t know why we do them, except they have to do with this immediate thing we want that isn’t such a huge thing.  But, in the doing, it evolves and we learn more about ourselves and, if that need is met, we start looking for more of what made us feel good about meeting that need.

Does that make any sense?  I think I slipped into therapy-speak for a minute.

Anyway, so I’m examining the GMC for a book that is certainly well-written but is not at all my story or similar to my story.  And then, I think I figured out where the term brainstorm came from.  Because, like lightning flashes, I got hit by realizations of why the 76 page outline (let’s just stop kidding ourselves and admit it’s a first draft at that point since I’m still in the first act) petered out.

I NEED goals.  I know this.  This is not news to me.  Understanding the need for goals, motivation, and conflict completely changed writing for me.  It made it actually do-able.  And yet… there it was.  No. Freaking. Goals.

So, I made a choice.  It’s 76 rough pages.  If I don’t keep a word of it, who cares?  It can’t hurt that I’ve put my characters in situations just to see what happened.  It can’t be bad that I got a really good idea of how they interact and converse and feel.  Even if exploring completely outside of what I’ve written means I have to start over, it’s not really starting over.

I tried the idea.  In one sitting, brainstorm 100 things.  And the thing to remember about brainstorming is, you write EVERYTHING down.  Even if it’s “stupid” or it doesn’t make sense.

Sometimes, we can write ourselves into a corner and there’s no coming back until you are ready to chuck the corner, the wall, the whole damn structure to see how you get there and where you need to go.

Just for kicks, here are some directions on Brainstorming 100.  Let me know how it works out for you!

Oh, you’re wondering if it actually worked?  It opened the story up.  I’m still working on it, but I’m no longer banging my head on the keyboard.  That means it worked, right?

Working on a new story that I’m really excited about.  Written down my backstory, written where my characters are immediately before the story starts.  Now I’m working on the GMC charts* for my two protags, my secondary characters, and my one (maybe two?) antagonists.  Once I have this, it will be awesome and make the story better to the nth degree.  But, how much do I hate doing these?  I always have to get the book out and go over the parts I highlighted (thankful for that foresight, go me) and make sure I have concrete, measurable external goals and then the internal part which should be easier but somehow isn’t.

Then, I think, I’m going to write little autobiographies in character voice.  And this, friends, is why I need a novel notebook.  Let me know about your process–comment!


*The file above is an MS Excel Spreadsheet template. A screencap is included to the left, click to enlarge. It was virus free when it left my computer, but because I don’t want any mean emails, etc., you are downloading at your own risk, I make no guarantees as to how it will affect your computer.  Usual rules apply.  Use it all you want, but don’t share it.  Just link back here.  Thanks!

So I’m watching movies considered to be some of the most romantic movies for many decades. I’ve watched Gone With the Wind and An Affair to Remember more times than I’ve changed my clothes, almost, so I wanted to start with something new (to me). This is, technically, research for a character, who would’ve been watching these movies at a certain point in her life. But, I thought, if I’m watching some of the best romances ever, why not examine the GMC? Maybe I’ll learn something.

Movie: Sabrina

Hero: Linus

Cold-blooded corporate raider

Internal To be compensated for the life his brother took by being irresponsible. He feels cheated out of life, out of making his own choices, and weighed down by responsibility. His brother continues to be irresponsible David, and he is the one Sabrina loves.
External To complete a billion dollar deal with Tyson Electronics. He’s always been the best. He needs this deal because Tyson has the best television of the future. David, his brother, is ambivalent about marrying Tyson’s daughter and Sabrina is the perfect excuse to cancel the engagement.
Heroine: Sabrina

Transformed chauffeur’s daughter

Internal To fall in love. Sabrina wants David because she has watched him sweep women off their feet; she’s shy, has no self-confidence, and is the chauffeur’s daughter. She doesn’t see herself has lovable. She believes she’s in love with David, but that’s just a fantasy. When she falls in love with Linus, he admits he was just using her to get her out of the way to protect his merger.
External To be seduced by David. Sabrina has been obsessed with David her whole life. His seductions are a symbol of love for her. Linus keeps interfering with her time with David and spending time with her in order to make her fall in love with him and forget David.

Okay, I don’t know if that’s right, and welcome any opinions, but that’s what I took from it. When I first watched it, I couldn’t think of a single thing Sabrina wanted. I wondered if she had a goal at all. In this movie, Linus’ external goal is obvious; it’s his internal goal you have to search for, hidden in the character. With Sabrina, her internal goal isn’t obvious, but it is the ruling one. Her external goal is tied tightly to her external goal. Linus’ is, too, but he doesn’t realize how much of his life he’s missed out on, and how much he resents his brother for that, until he sees his brother living a life he would like.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is next. I’ll try to have that for next week.

You know I have a GMC spreadsheet.  Fine, here it is (Usual rules apply.  Use it all you want, but don’t share it.  Just link back here.  Thanks!)

Okay, so I talked a couple of weeks ago about walking away from the keyboard, listening to music and driving along, and my story becoming.  No other way to describe it.  My characters started talking to me, and everything became clear.  The ending.  The GMC of EVERYONE.  Who the real antagonists were.  Who these people were.  Idiosyncracies, jobs, inside jokes.  All there.

Still, I’d fallen into a rut.  I couldn’t write.  So, I made my writing area less comfy / creative and more workable.  I can still have the pretty, still do.  But the keyboard is lower, perfect for typing–not so much for lounging in the chair and stumbling through websites. I guess I used to think a writing office should be a temple to creativity and reading.  Now, I understand that it needs to be those things… but it also needs discipline.  To remember why I’m here.

And here I am.  I just completely deleted my entire GMC charts.  All of them.  I moved previously written scenes to the discarded folder.  And I am thrilled.  Because I’ve got this story.  I’ve got the people.  And I’m writing.

I bought GMC by Debra Dixon. It’s genius, I’d heard, and it’s true. It’s like having someone explain brain surgery in a book you can read in a day or two, and you finish and say, “Duh.”

Before I go on, I’d like to point out that used copies can go for more then $40 on Amazon. I love Amazon, nothing against Amazon, but you can purchase the book from the publisher for $19.95. Worth every dime, btw.

If you really want to know how useful it is, just google GMC and Dixon. You’ll find thousands of hits. That’s how widely accepted, adopted, and appreciated her work is.

The GMC one sentence checker (my name, I can’t remember THE name) works perfectly. Character wants GOAL because MOTIVATION, but CONFLICT. It really is that simple. I know–duh, right? It’s full of these nuggets, like an external goal can be experienced by the five senses. Well, that makes it easier. Now I know revenge isn’t an external goal. It’s internal, because internal goals are about emotion.

However, once you have your “Duh,” moment, this hits: “I am so screwed.” Or it does if you’ve written a word. I always knew I was a little vague on my goals. I think I even started out with goals, but… maybe I didn’t like what having those goals said about my characters, so I… got vague. Either way, I think I figured out why my first act was so slow… pointless?

But, I’m making my charts, and I think I can fix it. Maybe. Doesn’t matter, not for this–my point is buy the book!