Your protagonist wants something, for a compelling reason, and needs to break through all barriers to get it.
Ah, the ol’ GMC.
For some, it’s a struggle, for others, it’s a breeze. While I’m no expert, I’ve gathered pearls of wisdom on the subject and plan to share more as I continue my learning journey. But one thing is for certain, when it comes to crafting great fiction that keeps readers turning pages, you’ll need some serious GMC. Here’s six helpful tips to help you get started…
Keep it Calm. Don’t freak out if you don’t know going into your story what your internal and external conflict will be. Although you probably have your ultimate goal and you know what your protagonist is trying to achieve, you may not know how, or why, just yet. The goal is your basis for the plot. Whether she attains that goal is yet to be seen, and it can change as the story progresses, but they have a target they’re shooting for. So, give yourself a pat on the back. That’s a great start. But trust me, you’ll need it. Often books are birthed from a GMC, so if you can start with one, all the better. But remember, if you’re well into your words, it’s there, you just need to stop, look, then lay it out so the protagonist stays true to their destiny.
Keep it Related. Every single scene in your book should be feeding into the protagonist’s goal. There should be a reason you’re inviting the reader into that environment, or sharing a sub-character’s dialogue, or introducing a new twist. Otherwise, you’ll confuse the reader and lead them off track—which might result in them abandoning the book altogether. This is where your why—your internal and external motivation—come into play. When you know your character’s full backstory, the impetus for their goal, coupled with their emotional wounds, then you sync up your story and create a dimensional, relatable character your reader will root for.
Keep it Real. How? Two ways. First make it authentic. The story, and characters, should be ones that readers can identify with, even if they haven’t experienced it first-hand. While your story may be fantasy and fiction, when there’s a deep connection made between the character and reader, they can empathize with their plight. Yes, this even works with antagonists. The characters with rich internal conflict are the interesting ones with a fascinating character arc.
Keep it Honest. Pinpoint the lie. This approach really helped me round out my characters. Once I understood what “lie” my protagonist was “stuck in,” then I could better understand what caused their emotional wounds and why they act like they do. What lie have they come to believe? Why do they react the way they do? What must be disproved to spur their growth?
Keep it Going. Don’t stop even when you write yourself into a corner. I’ve done this numerous times but have found my way back when I return to the GMC planning process. Pull out your GMC chart, plot draft, or devise something that works for you. Then look at what’s driving your character forward. When each scene experiences a little of that push and pull, then the storyline starts to come together.
Keep it Conscious. I’ve written many a book where the GMC falls into place subconsciously. Meaning, I didn’t map it out, but surprisingly it worked. Still, when editing, I needed to go back and thoroughly think through my GMC for each character to ensure they had depth and growth, and the story was rich. While this comes naturally for many authors, I’ve found that when I consciously map out a GMC for my characters in advance, the plot flows smoother.
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