Goal, Motivation & Conflict

Well I just finished reading Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction.  It’s not a long book at 144 pages before all the appendices, but it’s absolutely worth its weight in gold.  So much of what Dixon shares feels like it’s obvious–very much a “Why didn’t I think of that?” sort of sensation.  She takes these concepts and distills them down into simple language and easy to apply methods such that it becomes very clear how and why goal, motivation, and conflict are the backbone to any story worth reading.  I feel like I’ve been running around thinking I could see, and suddenly I’ve been given an updated prescription for my contacts–everything’s clear!

I think I underlined at least half the book.  There are nifty little summary lists at the end of each chapter so you can easily review the key points of each one.  After reading this book, it feels like the answer to every case of writer’s block I’ve ever had could have been answered by some component of GMC.  It half makes me want to go back and revisit all those places I got monumentally stuck and abandoned past projects!  Which I may do someday, but right now my focus is on my wolf story (the title of which I have decided will have something to do with Shadow).

One of the fascinating things about this idea to me (and again, something obvious) is that it can be applied at so many levels.  Every character, no matter how small, has GMC.  And as an author, even if it doesn’t make it onto the page of the finished book, you need to know what that GMC is.   It, of course, applies overall to the hero and heroine.   And it also applies to each individual scene.  I really feel like this concept is going to help me eliminate a lot of the deadwood in my work.  We shall see.

Tomorrow starts my big push to get the last 11 lectures written for next semester’s class.  This is an absolute necessity that I can’t afford to put off any longer.  So my plan is to aim for 1 lecture a day (outlined, put into powerpoint, the script for the audio lecture written).  When I finish that, then I can sit down and play with the GMC for my wolf story as a reward.  I simply cannot allow myself to get sucked into the writing of the thing until I have my responsibilities for the paying job taken care of.

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