Monday, February 16, 2009

Sharing My GMC Chart. Have You Done Yours?

Missy here. I’ve been thinking a lot about goal, motivation and conflict lately. Deb Dixon, of the popular GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict, will be doing a workshop in Atlanta in April, and I’m signed up to go. She does the best workshops and is a great teacher. For those who may not be familiar with the book, I thought I’d share a GMC chart I did for my upcoming June Steeple Hill Love Inspired, His Forever Love.

Let me say, first, that I do a sort of blend with Carolyn Greene’s Magic Conflict Chart (from her Prescription for Plotting Notebook). I start with a basic GMC from Deb’s book in my head. Then I fill out Carolyn’s chart. Since I have no idea how to actually post a chart here, I’ll just type each section. But please picture it as a chart. :)

First, a little backstory. My hero, Bill, is a brilliant physicist whose parents died when he was a child. He lived with his grandmother, and was always a sort of outcast geek. One person who was kind to him was Lindsay, the heroine. They became best friends and study partners. She was beautiful and popular. And he had a terrible crush on her growing up. When they got in high school, he fell in love. But she was clueless (of course!). And when she got engaged to someone else near graduation, Bill was devastated. He left right after graduation, moved on up to Boston where he was going to go to college, and had no more contact with her. And of course, she was devastated because her best friend left her. And he didn’t even come home after her fiancé left her standing at the alter.

So, here’s the chart for His Forever Love

Need (gut level): 1. Family and a sense of home
2. To be accepted and fit in

Motivation: 1. His parents died, Lindsay fell in love with someone else, and now he’s wrapped up in his job so he has no social life.
2. Was outcast as a child

Obstacles: Work fills his time; the desire to achieve to prove himself; his family is far away in Georgia

Goal (misguided): To keep achieving and to attain the position of department head at the university (he’s accepted in the academic world)

Consider: No amount of success can fill the void for family, love and acceptance

Need (to gain or accomplish): Take care of his family (his grandmother)

Motivation (recent event): Granny fell and is at the hospital

Obstacles: Taking the best care of her would require giving up his career and moving home.

Goal: To bring her to Boston to live with him.

Story Question: Will Bill be able to go to Magnolia, GA, and successfully move Granny to Boston to live with him?

Need (gut level): To risk loving again (with someone she can depend on)

Motivation: Her mom died when she was a teen, her fiancé dumped her, and Bill (her best friend) deserted her.

Obstacles: She’s made herself so busy caring for others that she doesn’t have time for herself; plus, she’s scared to risk loving again.

Goal (misguided): To make everyone else safe and happy; to be indispensable

Consider: She can’t make everyone happy or always protect them. They may get tired of her interfering, anyway. Plus, she still won’t find the love she needs.

Need (to gain or accomplish): To start her new career and get it off the ground (a new community center with a program for kids with senior volunteers)

Motivation (recent event): She loves working with children and seniors. Plus, she enjoys Granny’s company (Bill’s grandmother is like a mother/grandmother to Lindsay)

Obstacles: Bill wants to take Granny away to Boston.

Goal: To convince Bill that Granny is okay on her own in her home.

Story Question: Will Lindsay convince Bill to leave Granny behind so they can launch the new community center program together?

What’s really cool is that you can take the story question from each character and come up with a sort of back cover blurb that can also make a great pitch for an editor or agent appointment. Here’s the one I came up with using my chart:

Will Bill move Granny to his Boston home and find the sense of family he’s been missing? Or will Lindsay persuade him to let Granny stay in Georgia where she and Granny are actively pursuing a community center ministry together?

While the two face off, he might fall in love with Lindsay all over again. But is Lindsay willing to take the risk?

Okay, have you done your GMC chart yet?

If not, here are links to the resources I used (and no, I have no connection and don’t get any of the proceeds!) :)

GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon

Carolyn Greene’s Prescription for Plotting Notebook

And here's a link to a post with the information on Deb's workshop if you're in the Atlanta area:

Oh, and if you're interested in seeing how this chart plays out in the book, it's available for pre-order (and yes, I guess I would get a little of those proceeds eventually. :)) His Forever Love.

So I'll ask again... have you done your GMC chart yet??



sherrinda said...

This was very helpful, seeing it played out in a "chart" (I tried to imagine it charted). Plotting is so hard for me and I tend to have little holes here and there as I go.
Nice post!

Janet Dean said...

Thanks, Missy, for sharing your GMC chart for His Forever Love. Isn't it fun to give our heroes and heroines opposing goals? Makes for strong conflict, essential for a great story.

I've attended Deb Dixon's workshop and have her book. Like you, I highly recommend both.

I brought fresh peaches and coffee cake this morning. The coffee isn't flavored, but strong...a perfect way to start the day.


Tina M. Russo said...

I love GMC. I live for GMC.

Cathy Shouse said...


Although I'm keeping GMC in mind, I haven't written it out.I'm going to because I think it will clarify things.

Thanks for the reminder.


Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Sherrinda. And thanks for picturing it at a chart! :)

I'm glad it was helpful. I always feel better about my story once I get the chart on paper.

Okay, coffee anyone?? I'm about to have Starbuck's Sumatra blended with Verona. And the Italian Sweet Cream creamer. (That stuff is so hard to find. It's always sold out!)

Ruthy, anything good to eat this morning? I need to go to the grocery so the cupboard is bare!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, yummy, Janet saved the day and brought food! Thank you!!


And yes, we have to have those opposing goals before we can write the story!

Missy Tippens said...

Tina, I'm stuck in Valentine's mode and picture little hearts emanating from you as you declare your love for GMC. :):)

(Wish I could insert some hearts here but I can't do anything fance in Blogger. I bet Mary could, though.)

Missy Tippens said...

Cathy, one reason I have to do the chart is so I can look back at it the whole time I'm writing the story. I just have to keep reminding myself so I don't get carried off on little tangents, and so I don't forget what's going on with my characters.

Thanks for stopping by this morning!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL!! That was supposed to say I can't do anything FANCY in Blogger in my previous comment. :)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Great example of a GMC chart! Thanks!

Missy Tippens said...

You're welcome, Nancy!

Okay, I just had my daily breakfast of cheddar melted on a croissant. How many of you are like me, and if you eat something sweet, it knocks you out? I get so sleepy that I can't write! So I eat protein with my carbs in the morning. And I avoid sugar. :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Missy! Great info.
Wish I could go to that GMC workshop!

Missy Tippens said...

I wish you could, Melanie! It's not too terribly far. You should try! They'll probably offer a discounted hotel rate for the night before. Or I've also stayed at the Hampton Inn nearby which is even less expensive. And bring a friend to split it with! :)


Pam Hillman said...

Missy, I LOVE Deb's GMC book. I'm working right now, but will come back in a couple hours and read all your tips and the comments.

Missy Tippens said...

Pam, won't they let you play at work?? :)

Hope you have a great day! We'll see you later.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


(and I quote from the 2004 Surgeon General's report to the American Medical Association):

Avoiding sugar is unnatural, abnormal, unpatriotic and probably uncouth. According to overwhelming evidenciary studies, sugar IS the breakfast of champions.

Sheesh. :)


I love how you laid out the book so articulately. I can 'see' it, literally and it makes perfect sense.

Can I use your chart?

Pshaw. I'd rather slip red hot pepper slivers beneath my nail beds, but at least I can appreciate the visualization from afar! And even those of us who don't 'chart', use GMC to check our books, make sure we're fulfilling the promise, you know?

And since Janet brought food (and great coffee, btw!), I'll wait and treat you guys to fresh Snickerdoodles my young friend Casey and I are making today. Snickerdoodles are her mother's favorite cookie so this is a labor of love for us.

You know what's funny? I developed a class to teach other writers Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake" method. A really good class, too, if I do say so myself.

Do I use it?

Can't do it. I get nervous thinking about it, LOL! So if any of you are like me and real 'pantsers', don't be scared or intimidated by this because this method works great for people who 'see' it this way. And it's a great tool to help deepen perspective, conflict and reason.

Now back to cookies.

Do you guys want your snickerdoodles with or without M&M garnish????


Erica Vetsch said...

I love GMC! Reading that book was like switching on the light in a dark room. I'm working ont the GMC for my H/H right now.

This was so helpful to see your examples, Missy. Thank you!

Audra Harders said...

LOL! Where would we be without a little self promotion? I'll be watching for His Forever Love.

Great combo of techniques, Missy. I love the extra pieces you included. I always have left over emotion when I do the GMC chart and never know where to put them. I love the way your blurb comes together, too.

Mom did always say you were the smarter child : )

Jessica said...

No, I've never done one but it sounds good. I probably do need one since my character's motivations and goals are not always clear.
Thanks for the helpful post!

Your new book sound great, btw!

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

Wonderful post.

Everyday I learn more about writing. Thanks.

However, do you know this website is very frustrating? You keep showing pictures of books that you can’t buy for months to come. I guess I’ll just have to wait and wait and wait and ‘offer it up for the greater glory’ as the nuns taught me school.


Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy, I think the Surgeon General made that declaration before studying my poor health after eating years of poptarts and wondering why I couldn't stay awake. :)

And, second, you know what? It would be really fun to see you use the same chart and then compare the books!! :) Think how different they would be. Someone did this experiment once and published it. I can't remember who, now. But several authors took the same premise and wrote the stories. Very fun!

And third,
I find it really interesting that you developed a class for a method that breaks you out in hives. :) But I would love to take it sometime! Let me know if you're going to be teaching it.

Missy Tippens said...

Erica, I'm glad it was helpful. It's not as easy as it seems to come up with a chart. It took me forever to get this one. It was about my 10th try. Of course, the story had 3 or 4 different versions. :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Audra (my twin separated at birth). :)

I wasn't going to put that little self promo blurb in there, but then thought, hey, why not? It's a hard part of this business for me.

Missy Tippens said...

Jessica, I find it helpful even if I do it after writing the book to make sure things are simple and clear.

One of the things they say is important is to make sure you don't have a whole list of things. It's better to try to foucus it, make sure you have a strong goal, motivation, ect. But as you can see, I have 2 things listed. Sometimes I just have to include more than one.

Give it a try and see if it works for you! :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Vince! You just need to keep a list by your computer with release dates. Then check them off as they come out. :)

Thanks for stopping by!


Ann said...

Thanks for the example. I had another "light bulb" moment when I read your post.

A good example is just as illuminating here as it is DD's sixth-grade math book!

Thanks for the coffee, too, everybody! Just what I needed.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Ann! I have to admit that once the kids get much past 6th grade, it's hard to help them with math anymore. I had to quit in about 9th grade. After that, it became a joke when I offered to help with math. :)

I'm glad the chart helped.


Missy Tippens said...

Lunch time everyone! We have meatless spaghetti today (because I still haven't been to the grocery!) ;) But never fear. I did use the Meat Flavored Ragu. LOL

Sandra Leesmith said...

Missy, Thanks for the chart and applying it to your book so we can see how it works. I've heard about them and haven't been to her workshop yet. Will look for it.

Janet, the peaches were delicious. A nice change from my oranges. And Ruthy, how can I lose weight with Snickerdoodles, my favorite cookie.

Mary Connealy said...

I've been to Deb Dixon's seminar. She does good work. I wish I had a seminar I could give. I'd need to have some idea hwo to communicate with others first.

So far, no luck. except with fiction and sarcasm. :(

Thanks, a nice post, Missy.

Lisa Jordan said...


I LOVE Deb Dixon's GMC book AND Carolyn Greene's Prescription for Plotting. I use both when I begin a new novel. I met Carolyn at the 2006 ACFW conference and gushed like a groupie at a Bon Jovi concert. She probably thought I was a nut, but she was too kind to say so.

Strangely enough, I'm really struggling with one character's GMC right now. Never happened before, but I'm hoping things will come together soon.

Loved your example. I'm a visual learner so this was an educational post. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Sandra! Glad you stopped by. Are you back in the cold weather with Glynna right now? Or are you traveling?

Mary, you also communicate with groups by throwing out candy. Don't forget that great communication method. :) Seriously, you should offer a workshop on how to crank out books, on how to be productive. And on how to use humor.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Lisa!! I can just see you stalking Carolyn. :)

I had a big problem with my GMC on my heroine in the book I just turned in. My chart sat there with her stuff blank for the longest. Part of the problem was that I had changed her so many times. The hero had been in a previous book (Lindsay's brother), so he was pretty much set. But I just couldn't decide what type heroine to put with him. So she morphed over and over. Once I finally got approval on my proposal synopsis, I was able to figure out her GMC. So I guess I worked in reverse that time since I had the story idea before the character.

Very different for me!

Melanie Dickerson said...

I sure would love to, Missy. Unfortunately I'm not expecting a financial windfall between now and then! Or a windfall of eager babysitters!

Missy Tippens said...

Melanie, sometimes the eager babysitters are the hardest part! :)


Pam Hillman said...

Finally got around to reading the blog today, and this jumped out at me:

Goal (misguided): To keep achieving and to attain the position of department head at the university (he’s accepted in the academic world)

I've never seen anyone describe the character's original goal as misguided...even though it usually is.

This is SO freeing, Missy!

To be free to admit that I KNOW my character is misguided and that his/her goal will change later.


Pam Hillman said...

Missy said: My chart sat there with her stuff blank for the longest.

Oh, I can SO relate. I worked on my characters this past weekend and some of the questions just stared me in the face.

I have a hard time leaving ANYTHING blank on a test, but I'm forcing myself to leave some of that blank and come back to it after I've had a chance to think about it for a while.

Missy Tippens said...

Pam, the misguided goal is part of Carolyn Greene's chart. I love it, too!! (can't take credit for it, though.) :)

Good luck with your blanks!

Leigh said...

Thanks for the post, Missy -- very helpful. I especially like seeing how you pulled from the chart to start the back cover blurb.

Thanks for the heads-up on the GMC class, too. I'm near Atlanta and would love to go but our son has a big-deal recognition party that day. I should probably be a good mom and take him there instead of spoiling myself. [Sigh]

No, I'm not jealous ... no, I'm not jealous ...

Missy Tippens said...

Leigh, I guess maybe you should choose the good mom route. :)

The day of the workshop is actually my husband's birthday, but I promised him dinner. So I think I'm okay. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Great post, Missy. I remember the first time I heard Deb Dixon speak...I was a newbie writer and GMC sounded so doggone confusing. Then I got her book and finally had that "ah-ha!" moment when everything fell into place.

I need to make my reservations for the April GRW event! See you there!

Cheryl Wyatt said...

As an author, I live and breathe by GMC. This book really clicked with me when Harlequin author Kathy Denosky(spelling?) presented it.

It totally transformed my writing for the better.

Great post, Missy!


Patty Wysong said...

Thanks for this post, Missy. Seeing the misguided goals part really cleared some things up for me. GMC is a huge help to me!!

Missy Tippens said...

Yes, Debbie, get that reservation in! :)

Cheryl, the GMC book was like a light bulb for me, too. I bought it and was studying it while we were on spring break one year in Gatlinburg. I was doing research for my book while I was there, and sat in the car working on my GMC chart while my family played putt putt golf. :) That's the book that ended up being my first sale! Her Unlikely Family. :)

Missy Tippens said...

I'm glad it helped, Patty! In Carolyn Greene's workbook, she does a great job of explaining the misguided goal part.


Julie Lessman said...

Missy!!! Sorry I am so late ... I actually got caught in writing and forgot to come by (I guess I thought it was still the weekend :)).

Anyway, wonderful post and VERY helpful. I have never read GMC, but it sounds like I need to. Thanks for the jolt.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Missy, coming back to this as I work through my next book.

I'm stricken again by just how great a teacher you are.

I hope you're presenting at a lot of writers' conferences.



Cheryl Wyatt said...

Forgot to say that I'm going to look for Carolyn Greene's chart. I hadn't heard of it before your post and am very interested in seeing it and maybe trying it out.


Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Cheryl! I've been going back over your characterization posts!! :) I think you're a great teacher. And I've really learned from your great examples.

Carolyn Greene's chart is in her Prescription for Plotting Notebook. It's excellent!

Anonymous said...

Oh what a treat! I own GMC and it is a much loved book. I went to several of Deb's workshops. She is terrific and I thank you for sharing her message with us today. Sally