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GMC - Or Why Are They Doing That?

I'll be the first to admit, I tend to have a few characters that don't do much of anything in my WIP's. Oh, they are there for a reason (in my mind) but have no real depth. It's something that gets pointed out to me during edits.

The dreaded questions appears as a Word comment from betas and/or agent and I cringe.
"But what does he want?"
"But why is she doing that?"
Or even worst, "This character adds nothing to the story."

When I first started writing I was a pantster, ie, writing on the fly. It worked good for MY motivation, but my plots were all over the place. I knew I needed to figure out my own style, so I tried to plot an entire novel. It worked decent, I was able to stay on track and finish the book. But again, my characters were a little flat.

After a few moments of "I can't do this" whining, I begged my betas to help me figure out where I was going wrong. My AHA moment came when I realized I may have planned out the entire novel, but I really had no idea what was driving my characters to do what they were doing.

I've seen writers who spend days on character worksheets and I watch from afar (So not to catch the craziness! LOL) but in doing so, removed myself too much. So I bought one writing book. The first one ever. It was Deb Dixon's GMC. It was brilliant. I didn't need to spend weeks fleshing out my characters because there was a handy little chart in the book to help you break down the G-Goals, M-Motivation, and C-Conflict. In one chart I could see everything and a lightbulb clicked.

Doh! THAT's what I was missing. Sure my character may be obsessed with order and control, but why? Because that's 'just how she is' doesn't cut it and can't carry a storyline for an entire book. I thought about what had happened to her and realized she was scared of abandonment. Her mom left when she was younger, and now she thinks that if she's not absolutely perfect, everyone else will leave too.

AHA! Now I have walls to break down and wrenches to throw into her plans. I can make her suffer and grow because I know what makes her tick. This adds a whole new dimension to her and to her interactions with her family and friends. It was what the story needed.

A simple grid with a few words and suddenly it all clicked into place. IMO you don't need to do pages of character interviews or delve into the psyche of them at $300 an hour, just ask yourself the questions, Who, Why, and What If.

Then sit back and diabolically plan how best to make them suffer. (You can twist your Snidley Whiplash mustache for effect too.) Tear them down, make them give up, then....then the magic happens. This is where they grow and change and endear themselves to your readers. (Or instill a loathing that would rival any CW show's bad girl.)

The main point is that the reader needs to feels something. The one thing you don't want is for someone to close your book after that last page and look up and think, "That book was just okay."

Okay is not good enough. Strive for great! :)


**If you want to buy Deb Dixon's book, don't use Amazon. For whatever reason, they charge $80 for a $20 book! Go right to the publishers website and you'll get it for $19.95.
Lee Bross

Lee lives her happily ever after on the coast of Maine where she has written Tangled Webs, her historical YA debut, and fantasy YA books Fates and Chaos under pen name Lanie Bross. She also writes contemporary books for New Adult under the name L.E. Bross, debuting with Right Where You Are.

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12 comments:

  1. very very helpful-- thanks for this!

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  2. wonderful advice! :) with my first draft im always at a lost cause as to why my character's are the way they are. but the more i delve into the backstory the more 3d they become.

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  3. This is great insight. You know I always tend to have multiple characters in my works. For some reason, I guess because when I was a teen I always had a lot of people around me, whether or not I interacted with them. I just read a book where the author had tons of characters, some had purpose, others were a light touch, but I enjoyed everyone of them. They all gave me a feel for the environment around the main character.

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  4. Great post. I love the idea of finding out the "why" behind what they do versus filling out a sheet that just says what it is they do. Because that same root problem--say, fear of abandonment--will affect the character's other actions, not just her need for control

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  5. I've had to learn to let the character carry the momentum of the story, instead of creating a story and trying to jam a character into it. Seems like a lot more work, but things proceed with much more logic. Great post!

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  6. Oh, I hope I can have an "AHA" moment like yours! Thanks for the post and book recommendation.

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  7. I had an AhA moment-- I turned into a cartoon who was in love with a human and I drag my human love into the comic strip but we were being chased but some evil drag racers or something....

    Tee hee hee- fun joke for anyone who grow up when MTV played videos.

    Anyway back to the point- I had my own aha moment when I released I could cut 60 pages of back story and give all my characters motivation to DO stuff, instead of stuff happening to them.

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  8. Good questions to ask. That "Why" is especially important. If you can't answer that question, then it probably means you don't need that character.

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  9. That book seems like the perfect book for me! I can't stand doing character interviews. I never use half the information I get from them anyway, and my characters are still flat!

    But this sounds perfect! Thanks for mentioning it!

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  10. I've never thought about character from this angle. Great post! I'll have to add GMC to my ever-growing TBR pile

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  11. Ugh, editing the characters is the bit I'm dreading when I start my editing in Feb. Shall need to keep this idea in mind in case I have to rework any in a major way.

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Item Reviewed: GMC - Or Why Are They Doing That? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lee Bross