Understanding GMC-Goal, Motivation, Conflict

Goal: I want…

  1. This is what a character wants or thinks he/she is after.
  2. It must be important to the character.
  3. Best if it is urgent for the character to achieve the goal.
  4. Long-Term Goal: This sets up the forward motion for the story and often changes as the story goes along and conflicts are faced and met.
  5. Short-Term Goals: These are specific tasks, objectives, or actions the character believes must be accomplished in order to achieve the long-term goal.

Motivation: I want…because…

  1. This is why a character wants something or what makes them go after it.
  2. Best if it is compelling, urgent for the character.
  3. A strong motivation will bring on conflicts; force the character to choose/change their goal.
  4. Coincidence is not motivation; it is lazy preparation on the writer’s side.
  5. A misunderstanding that can be easily talked out by the characters involved is not motivation.

Conflict: I can’t get… because…

  1. Without conflict to keep the character from reaching their goal immediately, there is no story.
  2. This is why a character can’t get to or have his goal.
  3. Meeting and dealing with each conflict, strengthens the character and makes them decide how to continue toward their goal or if the goal needs to be modified.

Types of Conflict


  1. The character’s emotional issues that complicate reaching their goal.
  2. Try not to make a character too whiney.
  3. Some emotional needs include wanting to belong, to be loved, to be feared, to be rich, to be famous, to control others, to be safe, to be free, to achieve revenge, or to now something.


  1. The events, other people, or situations that work against the character reaching their goal.
  2. This can be anything that happens physically to a character.

© 2010 Starla Kaye

The Smarts

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This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.