Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, January 24, 2015



If you click where indicated, you will see a video news clip of a sharp response by the Polk County Sheriff to a question by a reporter. Polk County neighbors my own county here in Florida, and Sheriff Grady Judd is frequently on the local news, but this time he surpassed himself. No matter how you feel about guns, I think most of you will enjoy his response. For the sheriff's promise to criminals,  click here. 

The Christmas gift that arrived in Argentina in 2 days, but took 34 more days before it was delivered! (I suspect every last gift was unwrapped & inspected - I wonder how many actually made it to the family . . .)


Unlike the 1,059 books on "How to Plot," when it comes to GMC, one book stands out above all the rest. In fact, I suspect Deb Dixon in her book, GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict, may have invented the modern concept of GMC as vital ingredients in every book.What you see below is merely the nutshell version. If you feel you are having trouble with these concepts, don't hesitate to add Deb's book, print or e, to your library.

Every author has a different approach to plotting—from "out of the mist" to extensive outlines, storyboards, photos, etc. But no matter which method you use, you should always have a goal in mind. A goal for the book, a goal for a chapter, a goal for a scene. Short-term and long-term goals for both hero and heroine, and for the villain (if you have one). I may be one of those people who does not sit down and make a list of any of these goals, but I could not write a good scene if I didn't have a pretty good idea of where I wanted that scene to go, what I wanted it to accomplish. Yes, sometimes the scene surprises me and goes off in a quite different direction than planned, and then I have to ask myself: did this surprise direction add to the story, or did it distract?  And there's a question that applies to every scene you write. Have I moved the story forward? Have I achieved my goal for this scene? Or have I wandered off into the wilderness, giving too much emphasis to unimportant details, unimportant people and events? Have I allowed a secondary character to grab too much intention? Or perhaps you've accomplished your goal but inadvertently shot yourself in the foot by giving your hero or heroine qualities so negative there's no retreat, no redemption. For example, have you tossed off remarks about a main character gathering a stack of speeding tickets? Unless this personality quirk is necessary for your plot, it simply weakens your character without adding to your goal of making readers like your hero and heroine. (Risking an accident - hurting other people - is not a sign of daring. It's sheer uncaring recklessness. Definitely not the stuff heroes or heroine are made of.)

Example: do not have someone bump into your main character in a bar unless there is a reason for that bump. Unless the bump moves the story forward. Colorful secondary characters can enhance a plot, but extraneous characters who do not contribute to the story just get in the way.

Example:  A group of friends enjoy a kaffeeklatch where the conversation never rises above "cute." The dialogue does not reveal character, does not move the story forward. It serves as nothing more than a "filler." (Filler = Distraction, plot coming to a screeching halt.)

As mentioned under "Plot," you can get away with almost anything, no matter how bizarre, if you give your characters proper motivation. Never forget to make it clear why they do what they do. For example, you can't have a person who seems perfectly normal suddenly grab a knife and stab someone. A reader's reaction is going to be: "Aw, come on!" You need to establish some kind of warning, like a creepy atmosphere, or establish that the villain is insane, a drug addict, or comes from a family with mental instability. Something to account for what he/she does. Even if your plot demands the murder (or dramatic event) comes as surprise, you need to get some explanation in there as soon as possible. Otherwise, your book becomes a wall-banger. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've commented in Track Changes: Clarify. Explain. Why on earth would he/she do that?

Amendment to the above:  I recently encountered a situation, while editing, which I felt no amount of motivation/explanation, however clever, could justify. My recommendation - delete. Exorcise that particular bit right out of the book. I strongly felt the plot could survive without it, while readers would definitely dig in their heels and balk if that scene was allowed to stay.

The "too stupid to live" heroine has been out of favor for some time, but you can still have your heroine do something stupid - like investigate a dark cellar - if you cite her motivation: she thinks her child might be down there and needs rescuing, or maybe her lover. She's in law enforcement and it's her duty. The house has gone dark and that's where the fuse box is. Give readers a decent "why" and they'll go along. Toss off cockamamie things without explanation, and you've lost them.

 Without conflict, your story is: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, and live Happily Ever After. (Or Boy meets Boy, Girl meets Girl, depending on your genre.)* Your book would be four chapters, tops. Conflict is an essential ingredient in Romance. Conflict is not bickering between the hero and heroine (or the h/h with friends). It has to be much more serious. Some seemingly insurmountable object, such as the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, incompatible backgrounds, lifestyles, jobs, medical problems, etc. Or outside influences, such as someone trying to kill the h/h or a family member; they're caught in a blizzard, a hurricane, car wreck, war zone, etc. On a more personal level, the hero and heroine live and work in two different towns, neither wants to move. Just keep in mind the Conflict has to be serious.

Then, just to make it trickier . . .

The conflicts mentioned above are External - conflicts superimposed from the outside. Internal conflict is also vital to Romance. This would include the hero's and heroine's private agonies and introspection: their reactions to the serious external problems, their feelings about their relationship; their worries about how they're going to get out of whatever mess they're in. Or is it all going to blow up in his/her face?

In Romantic Suspense and Mystery, the conflicts are frequently more External, such as escaping from a dangerous situation or finding a killer. Nonetheless, Internal conflict remains essential (and is particularly important in the development of the romance).

*When I gave this workshop at Moonlight & Magnolias in Atlanta, a young woman came up to me afterward with tears in her eyes, telling me she was so glad I had included alternative lifestyles. Truthfully, I had thought this a battle that had been fought and won. Guess not. So I hope anyone who reads this will make an effort to be more tolerant of other people's lifestyles.

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Thanks for stopping by.

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

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