Something I’ve never really thought about before is GMC. Goal. Motivation. Conflict. Of course I’ve thought about it in the way that every novel needs to have the conflict and resolution between the characters. Without conflict, the story would be boring, predictable and generally yawn worthy.
On Saturday, Anna Campbell and Yvonne Lindsay visited Adelaide to speak at Romancing The Novel. This one day intensive is the second SARA have held and it was awesome! I’ve heard Yvonne speak before at RWA’s Brisbane conference last year and I’ll never forget her class on characterisation. But Anna Campbell was a whole different matter. Apart from last year’s historical panel and the contact we’ve had on the net and blogs, I had no idea what to expect. What I got were a couple of lightbulb moments that could have lit a small city.
The first was at 10:27am. Yvonne and Anna were giving the GMC talk and I was all ears. Luckily. Usually when I start a book, I have the hero and heroine and their problem. I don’t usually have much else. At that stage, I don’t know what they want, they don’t know what they want and they have no clue how to get what it is they don’t want.
I’m a pantser, or a flimmer (flying in the mist) if you will. I don’t plot out the novel with what’s going to happen in each chapter. Someone asked me once how I write a romance novel. I said ‘I don’t write it. My characters do’. Sure I tap the keys and fill in the blank page but they tell me what they want and what direction to take. It’s when I’m faced with the insurmountable brick wall blocking their paths that I realise they’ve taken me on wrong turn and it’s up to me to bail them out. So then, between the three of us, we backtrack, find out what went wrong and then fix it. So many times on this journey of mine, I’ve realised one of my characters has GMC in oodles but the other lacks it. Is it not enough that my hero’s only goal is to be happy? To have a family to love? No! It isn’t. I realise now what I didn’t know then even though it’s probably stared me in the eyes and beaten me over the head a dozen times. Why does he want a family? Everyone wants to be happy. That’s a given. But why does he think a family will make him happy? How will she threaten his goals? How will he threaten hers? She probably hates her suffocating siblings and craves independence. She needs to be on her own. This is where the conflict arises. It’s where the motivation comes from to reach the goals they have. So basically it’s ‘so and so wants this because of that’. And then you go on and fill in the blanks around that. Awesome! Bulb one!
Bulb two came at 4pm. I know you’re thinking why did it take that long? Was I having a nap? No, I was enjoying, taking part, listening and idolising.
At 4pm Anna told me I’m probably a kinetic person. There’s audio – the person who can remember everything they hear and hear stuff first. There’s visual – seeing what’s in the room but not thinking about the other senses. Then there’s kinetic. What you feel. She wasn’t talking about touching stuff. That comes into it but it’s so much more. It’s the feel of the air on your skin. It’s the way your heart beats faster in your chest and your fingers tingle to touch. Anna asked us to write down in three stages what we feel, what we see and what we hear. I’m going to share that with you. (yes this is going to be a long and hopefully awakening blog)
Take a scene from your novel and try this exercise but make a list don’t write paragraphs. My scene is in the dining room of my rake’s house and his mistress has just slapped his mother across the face after championing him. No one has even done that for him before and he’s overwhelmed...
See – Her. Blue eyes sparkling in anger. The way her mouth quirks at the edge and her teeth worry at her bottom lip.
Hear – His heart thumps in his chest and his pulse pounds in his ears. Over that he can hear the hitch in her breath when she realises he has turned predatory.
Feel – His hands tingle to touch her. His fingers curl into a fist so he won’t take her in his arms and crush her to him. His ears and jaw hurt with the need to smile but his mouth is stuck shut in shock. His feet won’t move with any other purpose.
That’s what I got. You only need a minute or two for each. Write down exactly what you notice in the shoes of your POV character.
Now smell – The scent of possibility
Taste – Nothing. He only wants to taste her.
So basically he is numb with wanting. She has stuck up for him when not another soul ever has. He doesn’t deserve it. He is a cad, a rake, a bounder yet she sees something redeemable in him that makes her slap a countess across her aristocratic face. All he wants is to take her into his arms and never let go.
For me, this scene was all about feel. The way he wanted to smile but it’s a foreign concept to someone who only ever forces the action, never does it happen voluntarily. Well, not before he met her.
This also helps with his GMC. The past makes him who he is. The present makes their story what it is. The future makes the possibilities endless and the happily ever after highly anticipated. So if I’m a kinetic person, then I need to make sure I pay more attention to the other senses. If I only write down what they feel and then ‘tell’ you about the other stuff, it will be an okay book but not an awesome one. You don’t need to saturate your reader with all five (or six) senses at the same time but you do have to pay attention and give them what they need in the moment they are in. If she is swimming in a cold pool, then I’m not too fussed about what she smells but I do want to know how the water feels against her skin. I want to know what she smells if she has just jumped in a dam because the fields around her are on fire. Again it depends on the cadence of the scene. Is it frantic, is it relaxed, is it the love scene? Different senses for the different actions and cadence. Sprinkle them about and see what happens.
Another thing that resounded for me on Saturday was the filter words. Thought, felt, saw. These words are found in every book, in every story, but are they necessary? Are they slowing your pace and telling rather than showing? Apparently I have great deep POV. That’s awesome if you know what it is. But that can wait for my next post =)
Have a great week people! I’m off to do another round of deep edits and then sub to some agents…
And if you want more, head on over to the gallery and check out the pics.