Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Nailing Down Your GMC by Vonnie Davis

Writing the final book in The Red Hand Conspiracy Series, my romantic suspense trilogy, has been a battle of wills.
 

Me against myself.
 

My desire to go off in another direction—with new characters and a fresh storyline—against my innate need to finish what I’ve started.


I just have too many characters and plot lines in my head. I want to pop from one sub-genre to another. I'm driving my agent nuts. "Pick one or two sub-genres of romance and stick to them. Build your reputation on them. You cannot write everything."
 
 
My mulish chin juts out. And why not??? One might say I have ADD where writing is concerned. If my current project isn't grabbing me by the throat, then I'm dabbling in other projects. Flitting from one thing to the next. Oh, I'll come back to my WIP occasionally and slowly pound out a chapter, but I'm writing as if I'm mired in muck. Just to show you what I mean, from the time I started book three of this series, I've written and contracted two novellas and a short story. This final book of my trilogy has become akin to our tiny bedroom filled with boxes of junk. I keep the door closed, because I don't know where to start in cleaning it out.

 
Thus, I’ve been struggling with Jazzbeat of Surrender for months and months. Finally it hit me. Where was my GMC? Sure I had carefully crafted characters. The action rang true. There was an equal balance of romance and suspense. But where was the GMC for my heroine and hero?


Although I had a vague idea, I hadn’t nailed it down. I hadn’t made use of my simple GMC sentence. And without a clear GMC, folks, there just isn't a story no matter how "cool" the plot line seems. GMC is critical. So what was my GMC sentence? Here's what I mean...


Your POV character wants (goal) because (motivation), but (conflict) keeps her/him from attaining that goal.

Let’s expand on that with an example or two.


A teenager wants to return to her home (goal) because her beloved aunt is ill (motivation), but she can’t without the approval and help of the wizard (conflict). Thus, we have the GMC for “The Wizard of Oz.” Think about it. Everything that happened on the yellow brick road helped Dorothy reach the wizard to beg for his help.


A young man wants to win the hand of a beautiful teen (goal) because she makes him feel things he’s never felt before (motivation), but their families are bitter enemies (conflict). Did you recognize the GMC of “Romeo and Juliet”?

 
Some anchor GMC for each chapter and perhaps each scene. I’m too much of a pantser for that detailed process. However I do like to keep my heroine and hero’s GMC firmly engraved in my mind. I hadn't with Jazzbeat of Surrender. No wonder I was struggling. No wonder my characters were silent. In effect, I'd abandoned them and went off on my own to write their story. And, as writers, we know that never works, especially for those of us who are character-driven.

 
 
Now I've got their GMC nailed. And Simone and Derrek are getting a chance to tell their story.

How do you nail down your GMC? And I'm not talking about your truck...

36 comments:

Joanne Stewart said...

There is just something about the way you explain things, Vonnie. I've seen your GMC sentence before, but I'm a visual learner. So without the examples, that sentence means nothing to me. So, thank you for giving your examples along with it. They helped a lot

I'm beginning to think this might be the problem with current WIP. Like you, I've been waffling around this one for months. I think it doesn't have the framework of the GMC behind it.

How to fix that, I'm not entirely sure yet. But at least you've given me a direction to push in. Wonderful informative post, Vonnie! Thanks for this.

Vonnie Davis said...

I hope it helps, Joanne. Going back to the sentence and laying it all out had given me a strong sense of direction. Of course that means going back and tweaking, deleting and rewriting some things, but the story is stronger for it.

AJ Nuest said...

Hi toots! I am like you in that I usually start a story with just the "idea" in mind. GMC is as far away from my creative process as the Sun is from Pluto. However, I also like putting my characters through a ton of heartache on the rode to their HEA, so GMC usually comes to me as I ponder over the many obstacles I plan to have them face. I ask myself, "Okay, if I want them to experience "this", why is that such an issue? What is it about that certain set of circumstances that's going to drive them completely bonkers...and how do I craft the character to heighten this tension?" But I will fully admit, because I'm a panster a lot of it is sheer dumb luck. I am, however, totally anal when it comes to GMC, so I sometimes walk around for days trying to work out the conflict in my head until I've got it right. Once the idea comes, I'm usually pretty good to go.

Vonnie Davis said...

Writing the heartache is tough for me, AJ. Perhaps because I've had so much of it in real life, I tend to shy away from it. Writing it creates an emotional toll on me, but I keep trying. Thanks for your comment.

Jannine Gallant said...

I can honestly say I've never started a story with a GMC in mind. Then I read a blog like this one, and I get a giant case of nerves. I look back at completed books and ask myself, "Self, do you even have a GMC?" Usually I can find one. I'm going to write your GMC sentence down and actually try to plug in words before I start my next book. I swear I will. LOL Thanks for the kick in the pants, Vonnie.

Mackenzie Crowne said...

Sheesh. Sitting on layover at O'Hare and saw this post title, I thought, are you talkin' to me? Then I thought, oh hell, V IS talking to me! And you know what? I really needed the talking to. So how do I find my GMC? I read great and timely reminder posts from my book chickies. That's how. :-)

Linda Carroll-Bradd said...

Going back to the basics is so important for the cohesion of the story. Thanks for the reminder.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Vonnie -
I think we've had this conversation via e-mail. I fill out a Conflict Grid with seven areas that both the hero and heroine must be at odds.
I keep it on a clipboard stand next to my computer while I write.
short term goal, long term goal, conflict of circumstance i.e. station in life education etc, conflict of personality, conflict of relationship, emotional danger (character flaw), epiphany.
Your GMC sentence is very, very important!
Stephen KIng says those other stories start messing with your head in an attempt to keep you from finishing the project you're working on.
Another way of looking at it is - think of those distractions as satan and deny, deny, deny!

You'll get this book done, I know you will. You've got people waiting for books #2 and #3 after reading Mona Lisa's Room.

Niecey Roy - Romance Author said...

Wow, Vonnie, you seriously just nailed my issue with my WIP. Put down on paper like that, suddenly all the pieces click...THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I know it should be common sense (GMC)and I wrote over and over and over summaries, outlined, went back to my character descriptions...and none of that hit home until reading this post.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Vonnie, I swear we're related...too many coinkidinks! I'm putting off my third book in the series...heck, I haven't even started...the door to that puppy doesn't exist. Your stuff on GMC is spot on, but as your evil twin, I like to add another layer. Regarding the goal...I like to have my heroine 'think' she wants a certain goal...when she really wants another (complicates the growth arc). Thanks for the great post!

Andrea Downing said...

Vonnie, I think I'm going to pin that sentence up on my wall in front of me. Huge help! But I am wondering if by putting GMC in your labels you'll be getting a load of cowboys stopping by your blog...

Maddy said...

I tend to get sidetracked too, however now I'm going to cheat - cut and paste this - "Your POV character wants (goal) because (motivation), but (conflict) keeps her/him from attaining that goal" - in big bold font, print it out, and stick it above my computer.....if that's okay?

I wouldn't mind so much if I hadn't bought [and read] the whole darned book.

Unknown said...

Vonnie,

A review on GMC never hurts. I've seen your sentence or others like it, but I haven't tended to use it as much. Instead, I do a chart. I think I'll try the sentence model for my WIP, because I can see how it might convert to a great elevator pitch, and I need all the help I can get with those, because my mind always goes blank when someone says, "Tell me about your book." My GMC book by Deb Dixon is close by me on my bookshelf.

Barbara Barrett

Joanne Stewart said...

You're not alone on having a hard time writing the emotional stuff. As good as I am at it, I have a really hard time with the hard emotions, the deep stuff. My last WIP, I gave my characters all my pain. The book was really hard to write and I'm honestly not sure if I got it right or not and won't until Dawn has a chance to read it.

FWIW, hon, it shows in your writing. Your characters have a realness to them that never ceases to touch me.

Katherine said...

Hi Vonnie,
I always struggle with getting my GMC put into words so I write it several different ways and then run them all by a friend who's just a reader, not a writer, and ask her which one would make her want to know more and want to read the book and why. Most of the time her responses help me nail down the dreaded GMC.

Karyn Good said...

Another great and very helpful way to sum up GMC! I use want they want (the future), why they want it (the past), and why they can't have it (the present). Both short term and long term. I have a basic sense of this for each scene or sequel and I keep track. Easy to do with the writing software I use, Scrivener. This comes in very handy when writing a synopsis, too. Thanks for the great post!

Nancy Jardine said...

Hello to everyone! Yes, again, a very well explained issue, Vonnie. My thanks to you and and for all the other great ideas.
Now...how many 'post it notes' can I pop around my monitor and still see the text? My pinboard is full and my notebook is a mess! Hoo!Ha! :-) Keep on smiling!

Angela Adams said...

Vonnie, I think you should lead a workshop on this topic!

Vonnie Davis said...

Jannine, I think you're such a good writer, you unconsciously construct your h/H's GMC. Sometimes that works, but for this story I've been struggling with, it didn't. And I was lost.

Vonnie Davis said...

Have a safe and productive trip, Mac. Thanks for commenting from the airport. I hope the post was helpful.

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks for stopping in Linda. Learning the basics is so important. Once we know them, we can start bending the rules. :-)

Vonnie Davis said...

Yes, I recall our conversation via email, Lynne. I need you to send me a copy of your grid. LOL Oy! I need all the help I can get.

Vonnie Davis said...

Niecey, darlin', I'm so tickled my post clicked for you. Writers helping writers is a win-win, isn't it?

Vonnie Davis said...

Awesome insight, Rolynn. Yes, there are times we don't truy know what we want, aren't there? So why not for our characters? Yes...I agree.

Vonnie Davis said...

Cowboys? Oh, Andrea, one can hope. LOL

Vonnie Davis said...

Maddy, take whatever helps you!

Vonnie Davis said...

Barbara, using the sentence to craft an elevator pitch is an AWESOME idea! Yay you for seeing that possibility. Thanks for stopping by.

Jill Paterson said...

I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!

Vonnie Davis said...

Awww, thanks so much Joanne. And I'm betting Dawn will love your manuscript.

Vonnie Davis said...

Awesome idea, Katherine. So wonderful you have a reader friend you can trust.

Vonnie Davis said...

Karyn, that's a great idea. I like it! You know I've heard of Scrivner, but haven't a clue how it helps one write. You'll have to share...

Vonnie Davis said...

Nancy, I have post it notes all around me, mainly as a reminder to avoid all my bad writing habits.

Vonnie Davis said...

Angela, you're always so supportive. But, you know, that's no a bad idea. LOL

Jill Paterson said...

Goal, Motivation and Conflict. We wouldn’t have a story without them. Wonderful information for aspiring writers, and a good reminder for those of us in the middle of plotting our stories. I love your blog, Vonnie, and am awarding you a Versatile Blogger Award. You can read about it here http://www.the perfectplot.blogspot.com.

Georgie Tyler said...

Hi Vonnie,

I've nailed my GMC not long ago. I am working with my editor on my first book SEEKING EDEN which will be released in April with SMP! It was liberating. Put everything into perspective like never before.
Am enjoying this journey immensely. Have met so authors and read their wonderful books, yours included. I just finished A TASTE OF CHOCOLATE. What a beautiful story! And the flowers...Oh my. I'm glad I took a break from my editing to just sit back and relax with your book. No doubt, I'll catch you on the SMP forum.
Georgie Tyler

Calisa Rhose said...

OMG I think you hit my nail on the head! I've been struggling with that very thing with another story lately. Now I know why. Thank you!. :)