Writers discuss the concepts of GOAL, MOTIVATION and CONFLICT over and over, often abbreviating them to GMC. We sprinkle our conversations with these letters, exactly as people in other professions have their own language. When we are at a writers’ meeting discussing a book, we’ll say, “I don’t know what his goal is.” If I’m critiquing the chapters of a friend, I might say, “I don’t see any conflict.” My husband hates it when, after we come out of a movie, I say, “George Clooney’s actions were completely unmotivated.”
GMC are what keeps our stories moving and makes our characters seem real because, of course, we all have goals and motivation and conflict in our normal lives as well.
I realized this even more strongly when I had to take my little hermit of a cat to the veterinarian yesterday. When we came home from a ten-day vacation a month ago, she had this odd habit of like fabric—the sofa, my arm—then nibbling on it every time I scratched her at the base of the tail. After a week, I realized this wasn’t an anxiety response to the separation but that she had fleas and none of the medications I bought at Walgreens were getting rid of it. So I got an appointment for nine ‘o’clock Wednesday morning to take her to the vets.
MY GOAL: to take Maggie to the vet.
MY MOTIVATION: she seems so uncomfortable.
MY CONFLICT: Maggie hates getting into the carry case.
Of course, Maggie had her own GMC:
MAGGIE’S GOAL: to stay at home on the sofa and have her woman (that’s me) me scratch her back while I read the newspaper.
MAGGIE’S MOTIVATION: she doesn’t like to get in the box because she knows she’s going a place she doesn’t want to go and she loves to sit on the sofa and be scratched.
MAGGIE’S CONFLICT: she’s a very small cat.
Because we are bigger and—only occasionally—smarter, my husband and I got her in the case. She immediately collapsed into a boneless lump and glared at me. The veterinarian says she does, indeed have fleas and gave her a treatment which she did not enjoy.
We have now entered a new phase of GMS. My goal is to bomb the house to kill the fleas, but I can’t because Maggie refuses to come out from under the bed in the guest room. I cannot reach her because this is where I store my books and she has, cleverly, barricaded herself behind those boxes. I’m sure you can guess her GMC.
I wonder how long she will stay there. I think she walked across me last night, feeling safe that I couldn’t grab her and stick her in that box again. But this morning, she’s again under the bed. Still not talking to me. Still didn’t curl up beside me to be scratched while I drank coffee this morning.
I feel so guilty! And lonely.