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Goal, Motivation, Conflict: Give Scenes Clear Purpose

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Understanding the critical elements of a scene — its core goal, motivation, and conflict — ensures that every narrative moment brims with purpose, engages readers, and moves the story forward. Plottr’s Goal, Motivation, Conflict Scene Template will help you create purposeful and engaging scenes for a more captivating story. Read on to learn how.

What is the Goal, Conflict Motivation Scene Template?

In her book, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, author and writing instructor Debra Dixon popularized a character-building technique that has become a cornerstone of compelling storytelling. Based on this method, the Goal, Motivation, Conflict scene template provides a simple way for you to create impactful and emotionally resonant scenes.

Parts of the GMC Scene Template

The Goal, Motivation, Conflict scene template consists of three core elements:

Goal (What does the scene need to accomplish?)

What exactly is the scene trying to accomplish? What plot points, clues, information, and reveals need to be defined at this particular point in your story?

Upon diving into any scene, readers should quickly grasp what’s at stake, the character’s wants, why it matters, and the potential consequences.

Motivation (Why is it vital to the story?)

The significance of a scene lies in its motivation. It is the driving force behind a character’s actions and explains the “why” behind their “what.”

As a writer, it’s essential to consider your character’s objectives at a specific moment in the story. Their reactions should move the plot forward, build momentum, and provide valuable insights into what drives them. These motivations can vary from achieving to avoiding or surviving, or many possibilities in between. 

Conflict (What challenges need to be addressed and overcome?)

Conflict is the friction that hinders the achievement of a goal. Obstacles should arise naturally, serving as genuine barriers to what the character is trying to achieve. These barriers can take many forms, such as a physical struggle, unexpected challenges, or even something as mundane as misplacing an item.

What’s important is that it impedes the character’s advancement and creates tension, ensuring that the story maintains momentum and impact.

Three Ways to Use the Goal, Motivation, Conflict Scene Template

Here are some ideas that might help you jump into this scene template to create scenes with stronger purpose driving the action:

Sharpen Scene Clarity

If you’re an outliner or plotter by nature, you can use the Goal, Motivation, Conflict Scene Template to outline a character’s goal, motivation, and potential conflicts at a specific time to help maintain clear purpose. The GMC structure gives you a consistent model to follow throughout your story.

On the other hand, if you’re more of a discovery writer or a pantser, this template is still helpful. Even if you prefer to write without a strict outline, pausing to create a basic understanding of each scene’s goal, motivation, and conflict will provide direction and prevent scenes that wander aimlessly.

Strengthen Character Development

When your characters’ wants, reasons for said wants, and the conflicts they lead to (or could lead to) are clear at each stage, you’ll end up with a stronger sense of character development.

Use the Goal, Motivation, Conflict template to delve deeper into your characters’ “why,” Understanding your cast’s internal conflicts, desires, and fears will result in well-rounded, relatable characters who readers can connect with, because every step will be anchored in psychological and emotional impulses that carry a real sense of cause and effect.

Hone Your Revisions and Editing

When you’re revising and editing a novel, returning to Goal, Motivation, Conflict will help keep your story focused.

As you revise your manuscript, analyze each scene’s goals, motivations, and conflicts. This technique will help you identify weak or aimless scenes that may require improvement. This may significantly enhance the quality of your writing as you polish it to perfection.

Breaking Down Goal, Motivation, Conflict in an Opening Scene

Let’s explore goal, motivation, and conflict in a famous opening scene.

In the opening scene of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Mitchell successfully establishes the action and its underlying goals, motivations and conflicts:

Goal
Pretty immediately, we see the cultural importance of the barbecue at Twelve Oaks, a large plantation in the American South. It is a grand social event, and the characters, including Scarlett O’Hara, are attending to socialize, demonstrate their societal importance, and possibly form romantic connections. Scarlett O’Hara’s mother, Ellen, drives the scene by pushing to find a desirable match for her daughter, Scarlett.

Motivation
Scarlett’s mother wants to secure their family’s social standing (her motivation), so she encourages Scarlett to socialize and make favorable impressions on the eligible bachelors at the barbecue.

Conflict
Throughout Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara’s yearning to win Ashley Wilkes’ affection, despite his engagement to her cousin Melanie, creates a conflict both for her and the situation which is established at the start of the story.

Scarlett’s desire for Ashley contradicts the societal norm that demands she gracefully accept Melanie’s engagement, foretelling the more significant conflicts in the rest of the novel as Scarlett’s motives challenge the rigid expectations of Southern society.

How to Use the Goal, Motivation, Conflict Scene Template in Plottr

Are you ready to make every scene driven by goal, motivation and conflict? Here’s how to use the template in Plottr. First, install Plottr and get started with a free trial (or make sure you have an active Plottr plan).

Follow these five steps to add the Goal, Motivation, Conflict scene template to a scene card:

  • Step 1: Open Plottr and in the Files tab of the dashboard, click Create Blank Project (or open an existing one)
Create a new project in Plottr - Step 1
  • Step 2: Hover over the plotline where you want to add a scene card and click Use Template in the box that appears
Using a scene template in Plottr
  • Step 3: Select Goal, Motivation, Conflict from the list of scene templates and click Choose to add it to your scene card
Using a scene card template in Plottr - Goal Motivation Conflict
  • Step 4: Name the scene card and hit Enter to save it
Naming your scene card in Plottr
  • Step 5: Open the card and start filling out the template!
Adding GMC details in Plottr

You can also add a template to an existing scene card. Simply open that card and click the +Add Template button.

When crafting your story, it’s helpful to consider it as a series of episodes. Each episode should have a solid beginning, middle, and end and ultimately connect to the finale. However, it’s equally important that each episode engages in its own right. To achieve this, each scene within an episode should have something interesting happening, even if it’s not particularly meaningful. 

Treating each scene as a dynamic moment with a clear goal, motivation, and conflict will make your story more engaging and keep readers hooked.

Start Making a Scene

The Goal, Motivation, Conflict Scene Template ensures every moment engages the reader with a driving narrative force that hooks them from one moment to the next, turning your story into an irresistible journey of anticipation.

If you’re ready to get started using the Goal, Motivation, Conflict Scene Template in Plottr, sign up for a free trial or purchase Plottr today and see how it can help you create more complex and compelling scenes.

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