During the eight years I've been writing I've read Debra Dixon's book Goal, Motivation and Conflict several times. I assumed by this time I'd mastered GMC. After all when I begin a new manuscript I faithfully fill in my GMC chart (among other sheets) and then off I go into my story world. I pay special attention to goals and conflict because they seem to be the most crucial story pieces.
But wait a minute. It turns out I was neglecting the importance of motivation.
I always thought motivating a character was the easiest part. The hero wants something (goal) because--you fill in the blank. That's his motivation. What's so hard about that? But I discovered editors pay a lot of attention to why a character does what he does. Without strong motivation, a character's actions are unbelievable.
When I first began to write Love on a Dime, I decided my heroine Lilly penned dime novels because she loves to write. Many of my author friends write because they enjoy it. It's as simple as that. Or maybe not. I can't look inside their minds to search for hidden reasons they might not wish to acknowledge. And maybe they have reasons they haven't even thought about. (Money is usually the reason for most people to work, but for authors, maybe not so much.)
In Lilly's case, she doesn't need the money for herself because she comes from a rich family. Having any kind of job in 1899 is unacceptable for a woman of her class. So I had to come up with a credible reason why she would do something that her family and friends disapproved of. I knew I had to strengthen her motivation. Otherwise it made little sense that she'd risk her reputation and her family's social standing just to pursue a career she didn't need. And in most ways Lilly is conventional, so carrying on a secret occupation is out of character. Unless she has a very strong, solid reason.
I considered her personality, values etc. Lilly is a serious minded and dedicated Christian. Why would she write romance dime novels many people consider scandalous? Because her books encourage the working girls who read them to keep their standards high. Her tales have moral value. Now I have a good reason for Lilly to write.
But I wanted to increase her motivation even further. Lilly gives her earnings to the Christian Settlement House. She doesn't keep the funds for herself. She donates them to a worthy cause. She helps others and feels happy to be able to help in such a tangible way. Her motivations are important enough for her to risk exposure. If her motivations were weak, she wouldn't seem believable. Story people need larger-than-life motivations.
Think about why your characters have the goals they have. You can give them several motivations, not just one. Create compelling reasons for every action they make and remember they have to make more sense than real people do!
I'll be giving away a copy of my debut historical romance, Love on a Dime. If you'd like a chance to win, please leave a comment and your e-mail address.
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