The whole point of plotting a book is to have a system to make it easier to write. For linear thinkers, an outline is obvious. For us random types, a.k.a. pantsers, it’s torture. So again, I’m looking for a system to help me out.
Debra Dixon’s excellent book, Goal, Motivation and Conflict, is not the first book I’ve ever read on this topic, nor the tenth. But last night, the information I needed about a secondary character came to me easily from her questions about the goals, motivations and conflicts. The idea is not a new one to me, but her list of questions was much more helpful for me than the chart that she starts with.
The chart itself is a graphic organizer, a simple place to put the phrases to help the writer think about what drives the character: what she wants, why she wants it, what’s in her way.
But I needed more than that, and the list of questions that are in the book, some 20 of them, helped me dig deeper into the character who does not have a simple goal in mind, who has no idea why he can’t achieve it, and what he is willing to do to resolve his conflict. It’s another type of system, a framework that allows the mind to answer a question, rather than facing a blank page.
Answering those questions brings up more information about each character and their interactions with other characters as I go through the process. What’s important to me is that within an hour or so, I know how the relationship with the other characters plays out, since this character is not the hero, not the romantic lead, and certainly not the villain. He is basically a little more than a walk-on, a person for another character to interact with, but a potential client.
But his decisions affect hers, and both of them are clients for my fairy godmother. This chart, and the list of questions that came with my purchase of the book, gave me a system for listening to the character in a way that was most helpful. It gave me a usable system to support my own goal.
This is an affiliate link to this book from Amazon. If you buy a copy at these ridiculous prices, I can pay another month of web hosting. The image at the top goes to http://www.gryphonbooksforwriters.com/ where you can get the 164-page book at a more reasonable price of $20, with no affiliate kick-back for me. Not bad for a hardback that has a good system.