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Fun with Dick and Jane

But, why did they run?

Goal: Determine GMC for my main characters

Motivation: To write a better story with believable actions and conflict.

Conflict: It's hard work!

I want to know what my characters want, why, and why they can't have it. Yes, I'm working on my new book's GMC. Again.

Here's the thing. This time around, I really need to know that I have plausible, believable goals, motivations, and conflicts for each of the main characters before I move too far into the story. Not just my main characters, but the antagonists too. I think the reason I've struggled in the past is because my GMC wasn't as solid as I thought, and it only became evident once I wrote enough words to get stuck.

GMC goes right to the heart of internal and external conflict. What's keeping my characters apart, as well as what's bringing them together. External conflict is much easier to come up with. Physical barriers are like mosquitos in my backyard. Plentiful! It's the internal conflicts that I need to solidify before I can go on.

This Mills & Boon article on emotional conflict makes the following suggestion:

A good exercise to try is deciding what story you would tell if your characters were trapped in one room for the entire book! Think of the emotional journey your hero and heroine would go on without any outside influences. How would you sustain the tension between the couple, build up to the highs and lows, when all they can do is talk to each other?

I'm not going to write this, but I am going to think about how the story would develop without any of the suspense plot that I've spent so much time trying to get right. Focusing on the internal conflict before throwing gun-toting bad guys, back-stabbing best friends, or evil CEOs into the mix should make the story stronger. And, I hope, easier to write.

Got any advice for GMC or internal conflict? I'd love to hear it!

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    I have been working (and re-working) the GMC for my WIP. What has worked best for me is starting at the end and working backwards. By writing the ending first, I know where I need to get my characters. Then I brainstorm about what situations would have brought them to that end – this generates a lot of the conflict and/or motivation for taking actions they may not have normally taken. I can’t speak for how effective this approach will be in terms of the finished product, but it has helped outline the story more efficiently.

    • Reply

      Heather, that’s an interesting approach. I may have to give it a try. I’m bad about knowing my endings in advance, even if I have some idea of what it entails. Food for thought, though. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Curtis


    I think, I don’t know, but I think that internal conflict grows out of the ambiguity of being a person. Is your hero pure? There will be no internal conflict. Is your heroin a single minded person. No internal conflict.

    So called works of “literature” are almost all internal conflict. They can be set in the middle of a bloody war, but the real struggle is within.

    What happens when the hero has a slight character flaw that leans him toward the potential of being like one of the bad guys? What if he has the potential to jilt her. Internal conflict grows from the potential for bad, the possibility of tripping over a temptation, potential for duplicity. Unrequited love is major internal conflict.

    I love him. I love him not. Great internal conflict. But those are obvious.

    My guess is for a feel for internal conflict tone down the word conflict and use the word issue or even concerns. Few of us are internally exploding every minute of the day. Sometimes what starts as a small issue grows into an explosive conflict.

    Probably our best way to get a feel for internal conflict,- look within and focus on some of our own. Not to write about but to consciously get the feel of the ambiguous nature of being a person trying to make decisions wandering toward a goal.

    If that fails go to the library and take a look at a psychology 101 text book. Most of these things are written from the stand point of problems, i.e. internal conflict. Flip through that, let it soak then check your characters temperature.

    Enjoy the turmoil. It will make our characters less cardboard and more real.

    • Reply

      Wow, Curtis. I think you just wrote your own blog post. 😉 So many good points to ponder. As always, I appreciate you chiming in with so many good ideas.

  3. Christine


    I interview my characters and make them tell me their story. Whenever I try to impose plot onto them, they rebel. I’m a simple person. This works for me.

    • Reply

      Christine: I’ve been trying to work with my MCs and I must be asking the wrong questions. 😉 But I’m starting to let go of my original plot premise and just see what happens. Not completely, but some of the “cute” stuff that got me started.

      I think this book is my figuring-out-how-I-write book. Or maybe I just need to figure out how to write *this* book!

  4. Reply

    I’m trying to think of something clever or witty but I have nothing. I’m sure you’ll get it just right after some more pondering.

      • Reply

        I know right? Funny has gone on vacation. I re-read my own blog post from a couple of days ago and I also noticed the funny wasn’t there either. Oh well, win some, lose some.

        I will say I didn’t go after the easy Dick and Jane joke, rather going with nothing then the obvious. I should get points for that.

  5. Pingback: No spoilers! | Gwen Hernandez

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