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.

  • promotion
  • 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?

External:

  • 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

Internal:

  • 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.

External:

  • 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

Internal:

  • 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.

Buffy:

External GMC

  • 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.

Internal GMC

  • 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.

Angel:

External GMC

  • 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.

Internal GMC

  • 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.