Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Don't Over-Work Your Plot

Writers are obsessed with the concept of Goal, Motivation and Conflict thanks to Debra Dixon. Now don't get me wrong here. Dixon is right on the money when talking about GMC. The issue stems from writers who seem to go completely over-board with making sure everything has a GMC. The end result is a plot line that is so complicated and convoluted, that the fluency of the story is gone.

What are we talking about? Let's look at each:

GOAL - Writers, in an attempt to make the story interesting and unique have created some pretty outrageous goals for their characters. A good example of this is the far too over-used storyline of a professional from the big city deciding to come "home" to a small town to run a restaurant or other story. The goal is fine, assuming the person has a clue of what they are doing. Far too often, however, the person has absolutely no experience other than remembering the "great times they had with grandma in the kitchen."

The problem now is that the story has to be filled with all of these smaller scenes of the character having to "learn" how to do all of this stuff. We are now off the main idea of the story.

MOTIVATION - I have mentioned this one a lot here on the blog. Authors frequently add so much back story and so many prior issues to give the character a "reason" for not doing something. Pick one thing and stick to it. We don't need to see them sitting down to dinner and she refuses to have the Brussels sprouts because she was force fed them in the boarding school she was sent to by her evil step mother when she was young. As an author, just don't serve the darn things and we ignore the issue.

CONFLICT - This one happens when the story slows down. There is nothing wrong with slower parts of the story, but for some reason, authors think it always has to move at warp speed. So what do they do? Add a new conflict. The poor characters are already over-worked with the main conflict of the central story arc and now you are throwing 5 more things at them. So unfair.

Let's make this short and simple here! Keep your story streamlined and focused. If you do that, you will find you don't spend so many hours trying to work your characters out of the holes you dug for them.


  1. I've just discovered you and your blog. Love your no nonsense advice. I just wish you represented MG!

  2. Thanks for the advice. Reminds me of Stephen King's "just tell the story".