Book Review: Goal, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction by Debra Dixon


Vision 8


Book Review:

Goal, Motivation & Conflict:

The Building Blocks of Good Fiction by Debra Dixon


Cassandra Ward

Copyright © 2002, Cassandra Ward, All Rights Reserved


Geared for the writer who is attempting to build their plot out of their characters, Goal, Motivation & Conflict (GMC to its friends) gives a basic structure to follow. GMC is more than just the title of the book; it is the entire process Dixon outlines as well.

Dixon breaks down conflict and plot into these three elements, all of which stem out of the main character(s) of the story. In her introduction, Dixon claims that understanding this principle can assist in developing both major and secondary characters, creating a synopsis, and tightening the middle of the story.

Using classic movies as examples (such as The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca), Dixon goes through and fills in the GMC chart. She outlines both the internal and external flow of the main character(s) in the movies to illustrate how the conflicts and situations of the story grows logically. Her explanations are clear and precise. The chart is simple to use (and to recreate in any word processor with a Table function) and yet presents the author with the opportunity to think about the characters' GMC from different angles. It might look extremely easy to fill in, but forces the writer to go outside their normal thinking to fill in the boxes.

Dixon has taught this as a workshop (and still does) for some time before putting this book together. She uses questions brought up during the workshops as further illustrations of her points and explanations.

I found GMC to be extremely thought-provoking and a good way to look at things to get the mind working. I, personally, have found it to be far more useful in working through individual scenes rather than the book-encompassing structure Dixon uses in her introduction. However, she does note that every writer is different and that this is a universal enough concept that every writer will find a place for it in his process. In this, I tend to agree. GMC is a fundamental principle which is found in every book, used differently by every author. Dixon also is the first author I have seen detail other necessities in fiction (such as "Black Moments" and "Character Turning Points"), which GMC is good at pointing out in clearer detail.

While GMC is a difficult book to locate (I ordered it directly from the publisher), I consider it a great addition to my writing repertoire. It has become a building block that I need no longer consciously consider, but is always there for me as I go through my process. I would strongly recommend that anyone who has challenges with making a character-based story/plot should take a look at this particular book.

Goal, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction

By Debra Dixon

© 1996   Publisher Gryphon Books for Writers (POB 172342; Memphis TN  38187-2342--order from the publisher directly)

ISBN 0-9654371-0-8


Cassandra (Andi) Ward earned her first rejection letter in 1976 and has not let that stop her. She is published in Romance (small press) and unpublished in Fantasy and Mystery as well. She is presently the Features Editor for Visions and is presently working on her eighteenth novel.