NO, I do NOT mean a GMC car!!! You don’t know what else I could possibly mean by GMC?!??! You think your characters are just bodies to occupy your awesomely fantastic setting or move through your utterly original and mind-blowing plot!???!?
WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!
Failing on the CHARACTER LEVEL will make your entire book FAIL!!
THAT’S RIGHT! I don’t care how awesome your setting is or how mind-blowing your plot!!!!
Without fully realized and FLAWED characters, your book will go nowhere but in a box under your bed!!!
And THAT IS NOT where you want your book, is it!?!?!?!? IS IT!?!?!?
NO IT IS NOT!!!!!
“But it’s so haaaaarrrrddd??” you say?!?
GET YOUR SORRY ASS INTO THIS BOOT CAMP AND FIND OUT HOW YOU TOO CAN WRITE CHARACTERS WHO WIGGLE THEIR WAY INTO READERS’ BRAINS AND NEVER EVER EVER LEAVE!!!!!!!
PREP WEEK TWO: ESSENTIAL TRAITS OF MEMORABLE MAIN CHARACTERS
REQUIRED READING: “Plot and Structure” by James Scott Bell
“GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict” by Debra Dixon
REQUIRED WORKSHEET: “GMC Wizard” by Shawntelle Madison
Thanks to the wonderful and talented and fabulous Cecily White for most of today’s points, as they are a general summary of her presentation on this very subject at Springfield, Missouri’s Writers’ Hall of Fame workshop (which I attended!).
She was able to put these concepts together in a way that was simple and easy to understand – just the kind of thing needed for a BOOT CAMP!!!
SO YOU HAD BEST PAY ATTENTION!!!!! Because she knows what she’s talking about!!!!
NOW LET’S GET TO IT!!!
THE PROTAGONIST’S FLAW OR FEAR DRIVES THE CONFLICT!!!!!!
A strong, perfect hero who makes the right decision every time is BORING!
Readers want someone to ROOT FOR!
Without some kind of FLAW or FEAR, your hero has nothing internal to overcome and therefore has stunted character GROWTH!
Readers want to see your character GROW and CHANGE over time… the protagonist cannot do this without some kind of internal fear or obstacle! (In addition to the external obstacles, of course!)
YOUR PROTAGONIST’S CHARACTER ARC SHOULD LOOK SOMETHING LIKE THIS:
1) INTRODUCE THE CHARACTER
— include scenes that reveal their biggest flaw or fear from the beginning
x DO NOT give the reader competent characters who can handle anything!
2) TORTURE THE CHARACTER
— find the line they won’t cross
— ask them to cross it repeatedly, make them hurt
— force them to make decisions! (ideally they will make bad decisions for good reasons, but don’t make them make bad decisions for illogical/bad reasons – if you’re going to do that, at least hang a lantern on it!)
— allow them to fail repeatedly
— take them out of their familiar and drop them into an unfamiliar!
— even two characters on the same side should have goals in contrast in some way to add further tension and conflict (ex] their end goal is the same, but one character favors action before planning, while the other favors meticulous planning before action, etc)
x DO NOT let the character succeed every time! (Although you should let them succeed just often enough to keep them moving forward…)
3) BLACK MOMENT
— flaw is exposed at a crucial moment
— they fail to act as a result of this flaw (see SECTION SIX of THE TEN ESSENTIAL SECTIONS OF YOUR NOVEL)
— they must then deal with the consequences of this… and ALL SEEMS LOST! (insert dramatic wailing and gnashing of teeth!)
4) DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
— character realizes the need for change in themselves
— consciously recognizes their flaw or fear and takes steps to improve
— the character overcomes their flaw or fear and wins!!!! (insert dramatic celebration and cheers!!)
— leading to a Happily Ever After (HEA) or at the very least Happily For Now (HFN – everything may not be bunnies and rainbows, but at least there were some positive steps in the right direction!)
— or just kill everyone … that works, too …
THE GMC: INCORPORATE INTO EVERY.SINGLE.SCENE!!!
YES. IN EVERY SINGLE SCENE.
Shut up, sit down, do it.
FOR EVERY SCENE OF YOUR NOVEL, EVALUATE THE FOLLOWING:
— What does your character want out of that scene?
— What is their end goal?
— What is their biggest desire and fear during that scene?
— What makes those goals/desires/fears urgent during that scene?
— What’s getting in the character’s way of achieving those goals or desires?
— What’s bringing out that character’s greatest fears?
— internal vs external conflicts (aka emotional vs physical, etc)
— should highlight the character’s vulnerabilities (Superman and Kryptonite, Iron Man and Pepper Potts, etc)
— should echo with that character’s unique experiences