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