What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Happy Friday! Casey Wyatt here!

Quick! Romance writers – how would you finish this sentence:

My hero or heroine’s goal is to_____________ ?


If you said, “To fall in love”. <buzz>. No gold star! At least not yet.

I’m not a big fan of saying you should do this or that, but I’m going to make an exception. Your hero/heroine’s goal should not be to fall in love. No worries, I’ll explain.

A goal, by its nature, is selfish. It’s something the protagonist wants more than anything else. It’s their hearts deepest desire, the thing they want more than anything in the world.

But it’s a romance novel. Isn’t that what the reader wants? For them to fall in love?

Absolutely. But falling in love is the outcome of other events – a by-product.

The hero or heroine should have their own unique inner life – their own, goal, motivation and conflict. And to add to that, they should have an inner and external version of each!

The inner goal is that selfish heart’s desire I mentioned earlier. The external goal is the more tangible, save the world type stuff.

Before I begin each book, I determine the GMC for my heroine, hero, and depending on the story, the antagonist.

I ask myself the following questions:

  • What does she/he want? (Goal)
  • What’s driving her/him to achieve said goal? (Motivation)
  • What’s holding her/him back? (Conflict)

For example, my worksheet from The Undead Space Initiative:

Character: Cherry Cordial

External Goal: stay alive while proving she didn’t kill the Queen and establishing a Martian colony.

External Motivation: being framed for a murder she didn’t commit and survival

External Conflict: every vampire on earth is out to get her/Martian environment

Internal Goal: Do something right for a change/figure out what she really wants in her life.

Internal Motivation: Wants to prove to herself that she’s more than a stripper

Internal Conflict: past failures/mistakes are holding her back – fear she’s not good enough.

I did the same thing for Ian, (the hero) and Thalia (the antagonist). Notice, there is no mention of falling in love anywhere in here. Does this mean there will be no romance? That Cherry and Ian won’t fall in love?

Of course it doesn’t mean that. But what it does mean is that you must use the GMC to guide their thoughts, actions, and desires throughout the story. How they handle a given situation depends on their personality and what they want out of life (GMC). The obstacles you throw their way should, in the end ,ultimately grow them as a person so they can finally get that brass ring.

 And non-romance writers – a clear GMC is a must for you too!

If you find you’ve hit a wall with your story, it could be because you don’t have a handle on what their true desires are. If you aren’t clear, then the reader won’t be either.

What’s love got to do with a romance novel? Everything. Just remember, to know your goal, be clear, and help your character’s achieve them through thoughtful plotting.

Scribes fans – here’s my challenge to you – go back to your story and see if you can answer the questions above. Share your results with us, then give yourself a gold star!

And if you have time, stop by my blog where I discuss When Good Cookies Go Bad

23 thoughts on “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”

  1. I believe this is where you start. If you don’t know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts, you’re probably not ready to draft. These concepts should underlay every single scene. Great post.

  2. Awesome Casey. I went right to word and did the exercise for my hero. It was not easy, I will do it for the others, then I will do it again. It would have been wonderful to have plot this earlier. But in any case, it will be a tremendous help. I cannot figure out my hero’s motivation though. He falls for her beauty. It’s gotta be more than that. She is in an unhappy marriage, he will be her savior. Although he really doesn’t care that she is married to his best friend. I guess I could create a conflict with the situation. But I am a third done in my WIP and she has filed for divorce. Hmmm, I’m thinking, I’m thinking. Back track I guess. Boy what a challenge I took on writing a book. This writing though has improved my memory. I think? Thanks for a great writing lesson.

    1. I agree your hero’s internal motivation should be something he wants for himself (like acceptance or to be trustworthy). How he feels about the heroine is not his internal motivation. And don’t be afraid to try the exercise on something totally new either. Sometimes when I’m stuck on my current WIP, I work on another project and that clears my mind to find a solution.

  3. Halle-freaking-luejah! I’m glad to hear you say this. Usually falling in love, for my characters is the last thing they do, a byproduct of all the other stuff they have to wade through first. You know, saving the world and so forth. *innocent look*

  4. What is the saying… love is something that happens when you’re doing other things? Yes, love in a romance novel is a side effect of whatever activity the hero and heroine are engaged in.

  5. Thanks, Casey! I’m copying and pasting this into a Word doc right now so I can use it on my current WIP. I actually know all those things about my characters except my hero’s internal motivation — I had kind of left that out, b/c the story isn’t told from his POV, but now I see that that really is important as far as shaping his actions and dialogue. It will be very helpful to write it down. Excellent advice! Can’t wait to get my hands on your new MS! Tell those betas to hurry up 🙂

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