GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict, by Debra Dixon
This is an awesome book and it’s a classic for a reason. Dixon has found a way to help writers create three-dimensional characters. By using her method, you’ll know the goal, motivation, and conflict of each character.
So, what is GMC exactly?
Goal: what a character desires.
External: this is a concrete goal, usually something physical.
- a big family
- new house
Internal: this goal is an emotional one; the character might not consciously acknowledge it.
- to be the best
- to be loved
- to feel safe
Motivation: what is the reason behind these goals?
- Promotion: to impress family and friends with success
- Big Family: was put up for adoption as a young child, lived in foster care and never found a permanent home
- New house: wants a place with excellent security in well policed neighborhood
- Wants to be the best at everything: has only ever received mother’s approval when he succeeds
- Love: has spent a lifetime feeling lonely and unwanted
- Feel safe: he was burglarized and assaulted in his current home
Conflict: the obstacle directly blocking the character’s goals.
- Promotion: boss is his ex-wife
- Family: has agoraphobia and never meets people
- New house: doesn’t have enough money to purchase a new place
- Wants to be the best: is super anxious (from having an overly critical mother) and often fails
- Love: doesn’t feel worthy of love
- Feel safe: is always frightened
Wow! What amazing information, Sarah. Would you mind doing a GMC of Buffy and Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Of course. No problem. This is what I think their GMC would be in season one, the first few episodes.
- Goal: Kill all vampires/demons.
- Motivation: Not only is she the “Chosen One,” vampires/demons are actively seeking to destroy her.
- Conflict: Angel (a vamp) is helping her and she might be falling in love with him.
- Goal: Gain acceptance/friendship from peers at new high school.
- Motivation: She’s the new kid, and as a lonely teen she’s desperate for friends.
- Conflict: She’s the “Chosen One,” with special powers that make her weird.
- Goal: Help Buffy fight evil.
- Motivation: He has his human soul and is full of remorse/guilt for his past.
- Conflict: Buffy doesn’t trust him.
- Goal: Avoid falling in love with Buffy. (This could be an example of an unconscious goal.)
- Motivation: He will lose his human soul if he ever has one moment of pure happiness, such as love.
Conflict: He can’t stay away from her.