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It’s All About Your Characters with Robin Gianna

Happy Monday, RU crew! Today, Robin Gianna discusses the importance of GMC in character development. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Robin’s latest book and a tote bag. 

Great to have you back, Robin! 

I’m starting a new book this week! While the first thing I do is come up with a basic story idea, the very next step I’m working on is figuring out the answer to this question:

Robin_GiannaWho’s going to drive the story?

By that I mean, who are my characters? Not what they look like, or where they’re from, or what they do for a living, though those things are important to know, too. But the most essential things to decide from the very beginning are what many craft books talk about – their Goals, Motivation and Conflict.

I believe it was Debra Dixon who coined that actual phrase in her workshops and books titled GMC. But many authors and craft experts have their own spin on it, and once you figure it out, I promise the story and plot will follow.

So, what does your character want to accomplish in this story? The more tangible the better. For example, in my current release, the heroine is an archaeologist, and she wants to find a specific treasure her late parents believed might be found at the dig site where she’s working. That’s her goal.

Why does she want to achieve this goal? Well, sure, it’s what she does for a living, and everyone wants that kind of success, but why else? Here’s where you start to dig deeper. My heroine knows she wants to find this in her parents’ memory, to bring closure to their work and put their names in the archaeological magazines one last time. But she hasn’t yet realized she wants this because of feelings of inadequacy she carries deep inside, not having achieved the career goals they’d pushed her toward and expected of her. Unconsciously, she still wants to ‘show’ her parents she’s not a failure, even though they’re no longer alive.

What obstacles are keeping the character from getting what she wants? Take the time to come up with several answers to this question, and at least one of them should be internal, something that is emotionally scary for them. In my above example, the first external problem the heroine has to deal with is that the team leaders become mysteriously ill. This puts her in charge with new responsibilities, and also leaves the dig team down two workers. The attractive doctor (the hero of this story) who’s taking care of the team leaders wants her to shut down the dig until they find out if there’s a connection between the dig and the illness. But if she does that, they’ll never find the treasure. At the same time, she’s responsible for the young people on the team the same way she’s been responsible for her sisters since their parents’ deaths. She believes she didn’t do a very good job trying to raise her sisters – wouldn’t putting the team at risk make her a poor leader there, too?

Emotional resonance happens in a story when you add this kind of conflict. Find a way for your character to want two mutually exclusive things, and eventually have to choose. She desperately wants to find the treasure, but wants to be a good leader, too.

Figure out the one thing your characters fear, then make them have to face it. Decide how you want the book to end, then think about what’s going to have to happen to your protagonist to bring about that end. How will your protagonist grow from confronting the obstacles he or she has to deal with? How will they have changed from the start of the book to where they are on the last page? What events will make that happen?

Getting these bones in place make fleshing out the story a lot easier. Whenever I find myself stuck about what should happen next, I realize it’s because there’s something I don’t understand about my character and his or her GMC. That’s when I go back, ask myself more of the kinds of questions, and usually find an ah-ha! moment that propels the story forward again.

Do you have any special ways you get to know your characters and who they are?  A questionnaire or character study you particularly like? Chat to me, I will give away a print book and tote to one commenter.


Her Greek Doctors Proposal  [HM&B Medical Romance – June 2015]

The question he thought he’d never ask… 

Archaeologist Laurel Evans put her career on hold to care for her younger sisters. Now, close to achieving her goals, she won’t let anything distract her. Laurel has come to Delphi to dig up ancient treasures, but she finds a modern-day Greek god instead—local doctor Andros Drakoulias!

A devoted single dad, Andros is determined to give his little girl stability. He knows his fling with Laurel can’t last, so why is it so hard to imagine a future without her by his side?


Bio: After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’. She decided she wanted to write the romance novels she’d loved since her teens. Robin embarked on that quest by joining RWA and a local chapter, and working hard at learning the craft of fiction writing.

Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she’s not writing, Robin’s life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat.