Get Clear on Your Characters with GMC (Plus a Free Character Profile Template!)

Something I tackled in my most recent screenwriting assignment was getting clear on who the characters are and what motivates them, especially since they weren’t my original characters. This project was a rewrite of a writer-producer’s script so the characters were his, though they now feel like “ours.”

Part of the process of getting there was working through the characters’ GMC (goals, motivation, and conflict) to understand them more deeply.

Cathy Yardley first introduced me to GMC. I’ve done some plot work with her on other projects, and loved her book series where she describes the concept of GMC. The book series is offered collectively in print as Rock Your Writing, also available in a six-part Kindle series, including Rock Your Plot and Rock Your Revisions. She recommends another book called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, The Building Blocks of Good Fiction that I found helpful as well. (Amazon links for all of these books are in the References section, below.)

What I find most useful about GMC is that it gives me a way into my character’s head.

The jury is still out on whether or not I’m more of an intuitive writer (one who excels in character and dialogue but has a hard time with plot and structure) or a conceptual writer (one who does well with plot and structure but struggles with the character and dialogue). So far, my take is that I’m more of a conceptual writer.

In any case, it helps me to have a character profile for each character I’m working with, and adding GMC to my character profiles has been exceedingly helpful, so I’m sharing it with you. (This would be a useful tool for creative non-fiction writers too!)

Note: If you’re interested in seeing my entire character profile template, you can download a copy of it at the end of this post. 

How GMC Works

We break goals, motivation, and conflict down into both external and internal GMC. This helps us understand both what’s driving the character externally and internally. This syncs up nicely with Shawn Coyne’s External Content Genre and his Internal Content Genre, though they are different tools (I’ll write about this more in a future post — The Story Grid* methodology has completely rewired my brain for story in an incredibly useful way).

Here’s an explanation of External and Internal GMC.

External GMC

  • The character’s EXTERNAL GOAL is the WHAT they are trying to achieve or accomplish by the story’s end. This cannot be vague in any way. Cathy Yardley once told me that an external goal has to be something that you can easily check off in a box when it’s done. For example, disable the bomb, check. Or, catch the bad guy, check. It can’t be something like “get my mom to approve of me,” because it can be too unclear about whether or not that has actually occurred (although I suppose it could be verbally said, “I approve of you” but there’s still room for interpretation — does she actually mean it, etc.).
  • The character’s EXTERNAL MOTIVATION is WHY they are trying to achieve that goal. What reason do they have for trying to reach their goal? What’s at stake, what are the consequences if they don’t make whatever it is happen? That’s their why. For example, everyone in the building will die (if the protag doesn’t disable the bomb). Or, the bad guy may kill again. This can be considered the “Because” clause.
  • The character’s EXTERNAL CONFLICT is the OPPOSITION to achieving the goal. What or who gets in the way? Usually this is the antagonist but it could also be the establishment, the environment, etc., if it’s a human against the state or human against the world kind of story. This could also be considered the “But” clause if you think of these as a sentence.

For example: Carly wants to disable the bomb because otherwise hundreds of people will die, but the antagonist has hidden the bomb and is taunting Carly with killing people one by one as clues until she finds it. 

Internal GMC

  • The character’s INTERNAL GOAL is about HOW the character is trying to feel or hoping to feel. It may or may not be tied to the external goal. And it probably isn’t something that can be ticked off in a check box. It’s more of a feeling state, such as happiness or independence, or vengeance. It can also be a spiritual goal. The internal and external goals CAN be in alignment but they can also not match up — which can create excellent internal conflict for your character. (Don’t forget, we want them to suffer — our readers and viewers want to worry about our characters, that’s why they’re there!)
  • The character’s INTERNAL MOTIVATION is WHY they want to feel that way. Often this is tied to their backstory, or personal goals outside the story. The internal motivation is the emotion that drives the character. For example, a character may have been overly controlled for her entire life by her parents, so she’s trying to create an independent life for herself.
  • The character’s INTERNAL CONFLICT is WHAT might be stopping her from reaching that state of being. This could be caused by the character themselves, but it can also be tied to the external GMC and cause problems for in achieving it. With our example, our character might suffer from insecurity, and keep turning back to her parents for help.

I like to put these together in a chart, like the one below (spreadsheets are handy here), though I also just make bullet point lists when I’m writing in Scrivener since it doesn’t play that well with tables.

Here’s an example:

  External Internal
Goal Carly’s external goal is to disable the bomb… Carly’s internal goal is to forge out on her own…
Motivation Because otherwise hundreds of people will die… Because her psychologist parents have been holding her back for years with their oppressive personalities…
Conflict But the antagonist has hidden the bomb and is taunting Carly with killing people one by one as clues until she finds it.  But she struggles with insecurity so keeps turning to her parents for support and encouragement, and even worse, now needs their help her track down the bomber.

 

It’s useful to see how the internal and external can work together here. 

I often rework these multiple times until I feel that I’ve landed on something that works. And then I’ll often rework it again, once I’ve finished a script, because I tend to pick up more nuance and information as I interact with the character over the course of the story.

It’s an ever-evolving process.

Want to Check Out My Character Profile Template?

It includes the GMC points I outlined above along with a handful of other useful and streamlined items I assemble for each character. It comes in a PDF and RTF format, along with a Quick Start Guide. You can import the RTF into Word or Scrivener for easy customization and editing.

Click below to subscribe to my mailing list and download my Character Profile Template (and other guidebooks for writers) now.


 

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References

* All book links are Amazon affiliate links:

 

Get Steven Pressfield’s latest book for free

If you haven’t seen the news yet, Steven Pressfield has a new book out called Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is and What To Do About It.

You can download a copy of the ebook for free for the next week or so (click this link to go to the download page). There’s no email opt-in required.

I love this for so many reasons. Among them:

1. I adore Steven Pressfield’s books about writing. He says this one picks up where The War of Art takes off, which is one of my all time favorite books about writing and always gets me to sit up a little straighter when I read it. My other all time favorite is one of his other books Turning Pro. So you can imagine that I’m thrilled to read the next one.

2. It’s a very cool marketing strategy. Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne, the co-founders of Black Irish Books, take the long view when it comes to publishing and marketing. They believe in building a loyal audience and spreading by word of mouth. They believe in the value of what they publish and know that getting it out there is a huge part of the process.

3. They’re taking a casual approach to their offer. They’re not forcing an opt-in (though there is certainly a time and place for that when building a list and a platform). And they’re leaving the decision as to how long the offer stays open up in the air a bit. This speaks to their confidence and experience in a powerful way. These guys are comfortable about what they are doing, and it shows.

4. It’s got a great title. I’m reminded of the oft-shared article, “I Will Not Read Your F*cking Script”, which had me in stitches when I read it. This title speaks to the angst we writers experience over trying to get our stuff looked at … and WHY people may not want to, something we all could use a little education about, I’m sure. I can’t wait to read it.

5. Because I’m a lifer when it comes to being a Pressfield fan, it’s fun to get to share this with you. Ordinarily I wouldn’t share a book with my audience without reading it first. But because I know, like, and trust Steven Pressfield and his work, I’m happy to put it out there. When we think about this from a marketing perspective regarding our own work, there are lessons to be learned in spades here.

Go forth and download!

Enjoy. And let me know what you think when you read it. I’ll be diving into it soon myself.

Warmly,

Jenna

Coming Up

Coaching CircleThe next session of the Called to Write Coaching Circle starts on Monday, June 20th and the last day to register and join us is TODAY, June 16 by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.

Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com. Join us!

  

 

fittingwritingintoyourlifeI’m leading a one-week intensive called “Fitting Writing Into Your Life: Becoming a Productive Screenwriter ” at Screenwriter’s University starting on August 11th and running for 7 days. It’s a three-part online recorded video presentation from me and plus online discussions, interaction, and support from me. Find out more and register here. *

* This is an affiliate link, which means I’ll earn an extra commission in addition to my teacher’s pay, if you register through me.

Free teleclass: Setting Motivating Writing Goals & Intentions

The fourth and final class in my free Master Your Creative Productivity series was last night and the recording is now available! 

If you missed the series, you can still sign up to get the recordings, which will only be available for another week, through Friday, April 8. You’ll get instant access to the recording archives when you register.

Here’s what we’ve covered in the class series:

Part I: Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively

  • Defining what being productive means.
  • 3 writing productivity principles.
  • 5 time principles to help you be more effective with EVERYTHING you do.
  • 7 writing productivity power tools you can put to use right away.

Part II: The Anti-Creativity Cycle and How to Break It

  • Defining perfectionism and 5 thoughts about the role perfectionism plays in our writing lives.
  • The Anti-Creativity Cycle of perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis and a laundry list of ways it shows up.
  • Other creative blocks and obstacles like impostor syndrome, fear of success and fear of failure, and more.
  • 15 solutions and antidotes for the Anti-Creativity Cycle and other creative blocks.

Part III: Keeping Your Creative Energy Vibrant for Optimal Writing Productivity

  • The trick to managing the emotional ups and downs of a long-form writing project.
  • Simple but important ways to take care of your physical body AND your creative mind.
  • 3 energy boosting strategies.
  • 3 nifty techniques to balance and recharge your energy.
  • 5 creative recovery skills for whenever (or if ever!) you get off track.

Part IV: Setting Motivating Writing Goals & Intentions

  • 5 ways to set yourself up for success with your goals in advance.
  • Smart goal setting that works.
  • Reverse engineering your writing timelines.
  • The power of a plan for revisions.
  • Using intentions to supercharge your writing sessions.
  • How to set motivating rewards and celebrations.
  • BONUS: Managing distractions.

I’ve been getting terrific feedback from the writers who have participated and I’d love to have you take advantage of this opportunity too. You’ll find that the series is packed with practical tools and strategies you can put into place right away to help you boost your productivity as a writer.

 

[otw_shortcode_button href=”http://programs.calledtowrite.com/creative-productivity/” size=”large” bgcolor=”#006666″ icon_type=”general foundicon-right-arrow” icon_position=”left” shape=”square” text_color=”#ffffff”]Get the Recordings Here[/otw_shortcode_button]

  

Free Teleclass: Keeping Your Creative Energy Vibrant for Optimal Writing Productivity

The third class in my free Master Your Creative Productivity series was last night and the recording is now available! We had some technical line challenges so I rerecorded the call and the fresh, much better quality recording is now available. It’s super exciting to see our list of registered participants continue to grow — we’re up to almost 120 now.

In case you’ve missed the first three classes, you can still sign up for the four-part series (we’re continuing tomorrow with Part IV on Tuesday, March 24 at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time). The important thing to know is that each class stands on its own, so it’s perfectly okay to jump in at any point in the series.

You’ll get instant access to the recording archives when you register and you’ll also get the call-in information for the next class. 

Here’s what we’ve covered in the classes so far:

Part I: Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively

  • Defining what being productive means.
  • 3 writing productivity principles.
  • 5 time principles to help you be more effective with EVERYTHING you do.
  • 7 writing productivity power tools you can put to use right away.

Part II: The Anti-Creativity Cycle and How to Break It

  • Defining perfectionism and 5 thoughts about the role perfectionism plays in our writing lives.
  • The Anti-Creativity Cycle of perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis and a laundry list of ways it shows up.
  • Other creative blocks and obstacles like impostor syndrome, fear of success and fear of failure, and more.
  • 15 solutions and antidotes for the Anti-Creativity Cycle and other creative blocks.

Part III: Keeping Your Creative Energy Vibrant for Optimal Writing Productivity

  • The trick to managing the emotional ups and downs of a long-form writing project
  • Simple but important ways to take care of your physical body AND your creative mind
  • 3 energy boosting strategies
  • 3 nifty techniques to balance and recharge your energy
  • 5 creative recovery skills for whenever (or if ever!) you get off track.

Each of the first two recordings are 60 minutes each and include 15 minutes of Q&A time at the end of the classes. The recording for the third class does not include the Q&A time since it’s a do-over recording.

TOMORROW, Thursday, March 24, for Part IV, we’ll be covering Setting Motivating Writing Goals and Intentions, plus I’m adding a bonus section on managing distractions.

Join us!

[otw_shortcode_button href=”http://programs.calledtowrite.com/creative-productivity/” size=”large” bgcolor=”#006666″ icon_type=”general foundicon-right-arrow” icon_position=”left” shape=”square” text_color=”#ffffff”]Register for the Series & Get the Recordings Here[/otw_shortcode_button]

 

And don’t miss our New Member Special!

New Member Special 

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New Member Special for the Called to Write Coaching Circle

Spring is here! It’s a great time to dig in to getting your book (or screenplay!) out into the world.

To help you take advantage of the spring energy, for the April session of the Called to Write Coaching Circle, we’re running a New Member Special where you can save 50% on your first 28-day session in the Circle.

This is a great opportunity to get a jumpstart on building a lasting writing habit if you’ve been struggling to write regularly, and to get a first-hand sense of how the Circle works at a low introductory rate.

 

New Member Special

 

The Coaching Circle is unlike most other writing groups out there. We provide personal coaching in a small group and online setting with writers focused on the task at hand: Getting writing projects written — and finished. 

To take advantage of this new member special, go to JustDoTheWriting.com and select the Single Session Recurring Membership option, then enter the coupon code APRILSHOWERS at checkout. There’s no obligation to continue beyond the first session. You may cancel at any time. 

Registration closes on Thursday, March 24th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. The session starts this coming Monday, March 28th and runs for 28 days. 

Join us!

[otw_shortcode_button href=”http://justdothewriting.com” size=”large” bgcolor=”#006666″ shape=”square” text_color=”#ffffff”]Register for the Circle Here[/otw_shortcode_button]

 
Notes:
  • This offer is applicable for new members only and only for the Single Session recurring option. If you’re a current or returning member, please contact us with any questions about this offer.
  • There is no obligation to continue beyond the first session, though we expect you’ll want to do so once you have a chance to experience how powerful the Circle is at helping you write regularly. If you choose to cancel, you must do so by the last Thursday of the session. We send an email reminder the Sunday beforehand.
  • All other billing and cancellation terms as detailed on the registration page for the program apply to this special offer as well.
  • Questions? Click here to ask my awesome team.

 

 

Free Class: The Anti-Creativity Cycle and How to Break It

The second class in my free Master Your Creative Productivity series was last night and we had a terrific time! With over 110 writers now signed up for the program, I’ve loved getting to work with the writers who’ve been able to be there live so far and I know more will be listening to the recordings.

In case you’ve missed the first two classes, you can still sign up for the four-part series (we’re continuing next week with Part III on Tuesday, March 22 at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time).

You’ll get instant access to the recording archives when you register and you’ll also get the call-in information for the next class. 

Here’s what we covered in the first two classes:

Part I: Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively

  • Defining what being productive means.
  • 3 writing productivity principles.
  • 5 time principles to help you be more effective with EVERYTHING you do.
  • 7 writing productivity power tools you can put to use right away.

Part II: The Anti-Creativity Cycle and How to Break It

  • Defining perfectionism and 5 thoughts about the role perfectionism plays in our writing lives.
  • The Anti-Creativity Cycle of perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis and a laundry list of ways it shows up.
  • Other creative blocks and obstacles like impostor syndrome, fear of success and fear of failure, and more.
  • 15 solutions and antidotes for the Anti-Creativity Cycle and other creative blocks.

Both recordings are 60 minutes each and include 15 minutes of Q&A time at the end of the classes.

Next Tuesday, March 22, for Part III, we’ll be covering Energy Strategies and Softer Skills to Keep you Operating at Peak Performance, and Recovery Skills for Whenever (or If Ever!) You Need Them.

Join us!

 

[otw_shortcode_button href=”http://programs.calledtowrite.com/creative-productivity/” size=”large” bgcolor=”#006666″ icon_type=”general foundicon-right-arrow” icon_position=”left” shape=”square” text_color=”#ffffff”]Register for the Series & Get the Recordings Here[/otw_shortcode_button]

 

 

Free Class: Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively

The first class in my free series, Master Your Creative Productivity, was great fun last night. With almost 100 writers signed up for the program, it was terrific to get on the line and share these tips about how to write more productively.

In case you missed the live call, you can still sign up for the four-part series (we’re continuing tomorrow, Thursday, March 17 at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time). You’ll get instant access to the recording archives when you register and you’ll also get the call-in information for the next class. 

Here’s what we talked about in the first class, “Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively:”

  • Defining what being productive means.
  • Three writing productivity principles.
  • Five time principles to help you be more effective with EVERYTHING you do.
  • Seven writing productivity power tools you can put to use right away.

Tomorrow, for Part 2, we’ll be covering the Anti-Creativity Cycle and how to break out of it, as well as covering other obstacles to productivity that trip us up.

Join us!

 

[otw_shortcode_button href=”http://programs.calledtowrite.com/creative-productivity/” size=”large” bgcolor=”#006666″ icon_type=”general foundicon-right-arrow” icon_position=”left” shape=”square” text_color=”#ffffff”]Register for the Series & Get the Recordings Here[/otw_shortcode_button]

 

 

Free Teleclass Series: Master Your Creative Productivity

Registration is now open for my free four-part Master Your Creative Productivity teleclass series that starts on Tuesday, March 15.

In the class series we’ll cover:

  • Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively
  • The Anti-Creativity Cycle and How to Break It
  • Energy Strategies and “Softer” Skills to Keep You Operating at Peak Performance
  • Recovery Skills For Whenever (If Ever) You Get Off Track
  • How to Set Motivating Writing Goals & Intentions
  • … and much more 

Find out more and register here: http://programs.calledtowrite.com/creative-productivity

I’m looking forward to “seeing” you in the class series.

Jenna

 

Intensive Starts Thursday: Fitting Writing Into Your Life

Need help fitting writing into your life? Want to get a sense of working with me? Check out this online writing intensive I’m leading this week through Screenwriter’s University — it starts on Thursday!

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Fitting Writing Into Your Life: Becoming a Productive Screenwriter

fittingwritingintoyourlifeWHEN: January 7 to 14

HOW: A weeklong intensive with a three-part online recorded video presentation and discussions online (with lots of interaction and support from me).

WHAT: The Fitting Writing Into Your Life: Becoming a Productive Screenwriter course is about making your writing happen, one day at a time. Although this class is offered as a screenwriting program it is relevant and useful for other writers too. This is an online program with a prerecorded class (by me) and interactive writing prompts on the site with daily feedback from me also.

DESCRIPTION: If you aren’t making progress on your screenplay, or you feel blocked every time you sit down to write, it’s time to break the chains of unproductive writing. Adopting the techniques that will make you a consistently productive writer is imperative to seeing any of your writing projects from beginning to end. Get all of the tools to develop an effective strategy and a schedule that you can stick to.

In this week-long intensive, you’ll first watch and discuss (via discussion boards) a three-part video lecture exploring 10 habits and techniques that will keep your writing schedule consistent and productive. Then, you’ll use what you have learned to create a personalized writing plan that you will submit for feedback. At the end of just one week you will have a fail-proof strategy for the most productive writing of your life.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Myths about writing that may actually be sabotaging your progress as a writer.
  • Simple, fresh strategies for handling writing resistance and creative blocks.
  • Ways to design your life and your writing time so it happens regularly.
  • Mindset shifts to help you write more consistently and productively.
  • Techniques to cut down on the time required to “gear up” into writing mode.

Click here to find out more and register: Fitting Writing Into Your Life: Becoming a Productive Screenwriter *

 

* Affiliate link: The links I’m providing are referral links so the company involved will a pay me a small commission for referring you to them if you sign up after clicking on the link.

 

writing

Are You Called to Write?

I believe in callings.

I believe that each of us has something that we were put here to do, and when we find what it is, we must do it with all our hearts.

And… it isn’t always easy to get clear on what our calling is.

Why?

The noisy, busy world we live in and the noisy, busy minds we are encouraged to cultivate by the mainstream makes it hard to hear ourselves and the deeper whispers of our souls.

And that’s often how a calling comes through, as a whisper.

It took me a number of years to come around to realizing that my deepest call is to write. I spent my 20s and 30s sorting myself out in that regard, changing careers, soul-searching, and more (like helping other people get clear on their life callings!), only to come back to the insight that my 6th grade self already had hit upon: I want to write.

Are you called to write?

If you’re here, reading a website named “Called to Write”, I’m going to assume that you also feel that call. That you have the inner compunction to put words to the page in some form. You may or may not be doing it yet, or maybe not yet quite the way you want to be doing it, but I’m guessing that one way or the other, you’ve been feeling the call to write for some time.

When I conducted a survey a little while ago, 71% of you said that you felt called to write without a doubt. That’s huge. And fantastic!

And, interestingly, 71% of you also said that you struggle with procrastination.

Isn’t that fascinating?

The very thing we feel called to do is the very thing we tend to avoid.

And it’s entirely normal.

One of my favorite things Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art (aka “Jenna’s Bible”) is this:

“The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

In other words?

The bigger the dream, the more we fear and avoid it.

The good news

The good news is that it’s not as hard as it feels to help yourself write the way you want to. You just need to understand what’s really going on behind the calling, behind the resistance, and along the life journey we’re making as writers so that you can start to match up what you’re doing on a daily basis with your deeper calling.

I’m leading a free teleclass next week to help you do just that.

It’s titled: “Called to Write: How to Align Your Daily Actions with Your Soul’s Deeper Purpose”.

In the class, I’ll be talking about:

  • Symptoms you may be experiencing if you’re not living your calling — and what to do about them.
  • Mistakes you may be making that might be stopping you from pursuing your calling.
  • How to know you are called to write — no more second guessing what you were put here to do.
  • Things you think may be signs you shouldn’t write but are not accurate — and you should ignore!
  • Surprising facts about how you can fulfill your calling to write more easily than you expect.
  • The mythic journey you must complete in order to fulfill your calling.
  • Action steps to align your daily actions with your soul’s deeper calling.

If you’d like to join me, please register here: http://programs.calledtowrite.com/teleclass