Tuesday, August 10, 2010

GMC Revisited

Mindy here. Sorry I missed my post last week. Our quick trip to the family ranch turned into an extended weekend for me when the back window on my van shattered. No one was hurt, and it's all fixed now, but it made me think about how we need goal, motivation, and conflict to lend realism to our stories.

Like I said, this was supposed to be a quick getaway. We weren't able to leave until Friday afternoon and knew we had to be back Sunday. But it would give us one day to get some much-needed work done. So we set out on the four and a half hour journey, only to have it turn into five and half hours, thanks to heavy traffic, ill-functioning stop lights, and a potpourri of other unplanned events. Throw in an unhappy three year old, and you've got one LONG drive.

So what was my goal? To get there. Why (motivation)? To relax and check a few things off of the to-do list. Conflict? Everything/event that tried to stop me from achieving my goal.

Again, we were set to have a quick turnaround. However, while I was mowing on Saturday, a rock flew into my rear windshield. We promptly called the insurance company, only to learn that the repair would not happen until Tuesday morning. What? I'm supposed to go home tomorrow.

Okay, time to regroup. My husband and I had brought separate cars. Our need to be home was based on his job and our older son's band commitment. Number two son, however, had nothing planned, and he'd brought a friend with him who was also free to stay. No problem. I'd stay and come on home as soon as the work was complete.

So I started gathering things Monday evening, ready to pack up the van as soon as it was fixed. Knowing the workman was due  between eight and eleven, I got up early so I'd be prepared to meet him. At eight thirty, my phone rings. It was the glass man telling me that although I was scheduled for morning, he would not be able to come until late afternoon. Are you kidding me?

Needless to say, I was not happy. Everyone in the camphouse was bored and cranky, ready to be home. I waited and waited, not knowing if I'd be able to make the trip or if I'd be forced to wait one more day.

Goal? To get home. Motivation? Because that was the plan. My family would be separated, not part of the plan, and my daughter had arrived home from college for the week. Conflict? Broken windshield. Delayed repairman.

Now apply reality to your characters. While they need an overall GMC, we also need to approach each scene with goals, motivations, and conflict. How do they react when things don't go the way they planned? If they don't reach that minute goal? Do they shrug it off or freak out? And, according to Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel, you want to keep them from achieving that goal. Make it worse. Not only was I not able to get home when I'd planned, I was forced to wait even longer than I'd originally anticipated.

Let's face it, life never goes according to plan. The same needs to be true for our characters' lives.

By the way, I'm happy to report that the glass repair guy did finally show up and I was able to get home on Tuesday, though much later than I had anticipated.

Do you have good example, real or fictitious, of GMC? Share it.

Happy Tuesday, y'all.


  1. Oh, Mindy, I know that had to be so frustrating!

    Here's a real life example from a couple of weeks ago:

    Goal: quickly pick up my car from service dept. after tune up.

    Motivation: must hurry to go home and get ready for a wedding rehearsal dinner for our friends' daughter and fiance.

    conflict: but when we arrive to get car, the engine light is now on, so they have to take the car back to find out what's wrong.

    New goal: be patient. Still have time to get ready for the dinner if they don't take too long.

    Complication: Finally get away from car shop, and in less than 5 mintues, while sitting stuck in traffic at a stop light, the woman in front of me (stuck on the railroad tracks in the traffic) panics when the bell starts clanging, and before I can back up far enough, she rams into my front bumper.

    How does this fun tale end?? :)

    We call the police to write a report to file insurance, hurry home, shower and change (did I mention it's like 98 degrees out and I've been standing there looking at my bumper, trading insurance info with the other driver, answering questions to the police for about 30 minutes??).

    Rush to the rehearsal dinner with my neck getting stiffer by the minute and a migraine starting.

    The happy ending: We made it to the dinner right on time. It was wonderful! The young couple is so in love and happy that nothing could have spoiled the evening. Oh, and my car is now fixed. Well, almost. I still have to go back one more time later this week because the new paint dripped. :)

  2. Missy, that sounds like a Murphy's Law kind of day, for sure. I'm glad it all ended well, but what a pain when you're going through it.
    So, will it show up in a book somewhere?

  3. Mindy- I'm so glad no one was hurt even though inconvenience can be just as bad sometimes. Look at the bright side...at least the rock didn't hit a person which could've sent you to the hospital.

    GMC did you ask?
    Well, here's all I can think of right now since my brain is half-dead.

    Goal- finish my current WIP!

    Motivation- I'm sick of thinking about it and ready to be done!

    Conflict- Life!!! (You know, work-family-errands-merging 5 schedules. That type of thing.)

  4. Mindy, I doubt I'll use that in a book. But I plan to eventually use my speeding ticket incident. :)