Martina Boone: Using GMC to Add Romantic Tension

My guest today, Martina Boone, is a treat for readers and writers alike!  First a little about her new release, a sweet summer read.  Then Martina shares tips on using GMC to add romantic tension to your work!

For writers, Martina is an amazing resource for quality writing craft articles as @4KidLit on Twitter.  She is active in the young adult genre, but also in romance.  And, as I always say, quality craft cuts across all fiction genres.

For readers, Martina has just published a delightful short story in the newly released anthology, SWEETER THAN TEA.  Her work, Bringing Lula Home, is a living example of how quality writing craft not only matters, but brings the story about an artist reclaiming her passion, family secrets and reconciliation, to life.

As an author who has yet to complete a novel under 100k, I was amazed at how seamlessly Martina fashioned such a poignant, compelling story with well-developed characters and even a sweet hook at the end, while still leaving the reader satisfied in so few pages.  Her imagery is clean, crisp and so clear I always knew exactly where I stood in the story.  The way she teases or comforts the reader with dashes of back story throughout the piece is truly masterful.

I enjoyed the characters, cared about them, laughed with them, worried about them.  And in the end, I was hoping for them, which kept me turning pages, thoroughly entertained by each of the rich story threads.  There’s even the hint of a sweet romance within Bringing Lula Home!

Martina and Belle Books is offering 5 print copies of this fabulous anthology for giveaway (US residents only).
Many ways to enter — see the Rafflecopter form below.

SWEETER THAN TEA Family dramas, comic mishaps, sentimental remembrances and poignant choices illuminate these thirteen stories by new and established authors. There’s something for every reader: The gritty realism of a hunt for wild boars, the gentle grieving for a home now filled only with memories, the funny battle between a woman and her recipe for deviled eggs, and much more.

Come sit a spell on the front porch. Prop your feet up, sip a cold glass of sweet iced tea, and lose yourself in a way of life that’s as irresistible as pecan pie and as unforgettable as a chilled slice of watermelon on a hot summer day. Welcome to a place that exists between the pages of How It Was and How It Might Have Been—just a little bit south of the long path home.

Using GMC to Heat Up the Romantic Tension
by Martina Boone

Romance in a novel doesn’t have to be hot or overt to be satisfying, but it does need tension. The romances I love best are the ones that have a compelling pull between the protagonist and the love interest, or between two POV characters who are falling in love while something equally compelling is keeping them apart. I especially love stories where it appears that if one of the lovers will win, the other will lose. Joan Swan sets up conflict like this really well. In her INTIMATE ENEMIES novel, her undercover ICE agent hero, Rio, knows that telling the heroine, Cassie, the truth about who and what he is will jeopardize his mission and cost him any chance he has with her. But if he doesn’t tell her, his lies and deception could cost both of them their lives.

Tension of this kind makes for a fast, page-turning read, but it doesn’t just happen. It has to be built into the story from the beginning. It has to be planned. A great way to do that is to use a technique brilliantly described in Deb Dixon’s book: GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction to put what the characters want into opposition. This book should be on every writer’s bookshelf.

Once you’ve grasped the ideas behind GMC, it makes perfect sense to give each major character their own, and make what they want relate to the major theme, and to use romance to force the lovers to make choices between the relationship and their initial goals. Often, you can set this up in a situation where if one lover wins, the other loses.

  • (G)oal. This is what the character needs or wants, both in the long-term and in the short-term. Goals move the story forward because the desire to achieve a goal forces the characters to act. As they act, of course, the goals have to adapt.Goals are divided into external and internal. The external is the physical thing they need to get, but the internal is what they hope to achieve when they get it. Make achieving the external goal hard or even impossible. Make it rife with obstacles and almost certain failure. Make the relationship between the internal and the external even more fraught with obstacles. Make every small choice the character faces throughout the story push him closer or farther from attaining the external goal as well as the internal one.
  • (M)otivation. This is the logical, believable reason or reasons the character wants what he or she wants, or needs to get what he or she wants to get. The reason has to be compelling. It has to be critical. The character needs to want or need to achieve the goal more than he or she wants or needs anything else in the whole world. That’s why he or she is willing to overcome any hardship and sacrifice almost anything when the obstacles appear insurmountable.
  • (C)onflict. These are the roadblocks or reasons that make achieving what the character wants seemingly impossible. Make these roadblocks hard. You have to keep the character from attaining the goal until he or she has earned the victory and made the sacrifices.

You can (and should) sum up each characters POV in your story by writing out a sentence for them in the following format:

Character A wants GOAL because MOTIVATION but CONFLICT.

Now examine each of these statements and see how you can tweak them to pit the characters more directly against each other.

Whether you are writing a romance or using romance as a subplot, the love between two characters makes for a great way to increase the obstacles they have to overcome. It forces them to choose between what they want—their external goals—and the romance—their internal need. You can also set it up to show how they compromise their ideals or goals for each other. Or how they don’t.

In Running Raw, Susan Sipal’s short story in SWEETER THAN TEA, for example, Susan sets up her Federal Agent to have to sacrifice his professional ideals to keep the heroine out of jail because the heroine has a compelling reason (motivation) to keep breaking the law. That motivation is the key to the success of the story.

Motivation is often the heart of the story. If the goal is the car that transports us across the story landscape, the motivation is the engine that drives us from one page to another. It gives us a way to connect the readers to our characters. To let the reader understand that the action matters.

In and of itself, goal plus motivation with conflict built-in will usually make for a compelling read. But you can use it to create a true page turner. To do that, make it hard for the character and reader to decide not only whether success is possible, but whether achieving success is what they really want to happen. Force them to keep fighting for their goals, but make them question if that is what they want. Keep them physically locked into the struggle so that they can’t evade obstacles thrown at them, and keep their motivation strong enough so that they aren’t willing to give up.

To up the tension even further, consider using romance in one of the following ways:

  • Make a character’s external goal conflict with his or her attraction for another character and force that character to choose between the romance and the goal.
  • Place a character in circumstances that put his or her external goals in conflict with those of the love interest so that if one wins, the other loses.
  • Create a situation where both characters must work together to achieve their goals, but make it impossible for them to succeed without sacrificing their relationship.
  • Set up the turning points of your story with a twist that alters the characters goals so that they are in opposition instead of able to work together.
  • Force the characters to choose between their conscience and their love.

You get the idea. There are countless ways to put goals in opposition. Just be careful to motivate the goals well, and make that motivation compelling and relatable for the reader. Readers need to understand and, most importantly, to believe why opposing characters are thrown together and kept together in a situation of conflict.

About Martina: 

Martina lives in Virginia with her husband, two kids, two cats, a fish, Auggie the Wonder Dog, and a backyard visited by hummingbirds, butterflies, bald eagles, squirrels, deer, and even the occasional curious bear.

Martina lives in Virginia with her husband, two kids, two cats, a fish, Auggie the Wonder Dog, and a backyard visited by hummingbirds, butterflies, bald eagles, squirrels, deer, and even the occasional curious bear.

 

 

You can find Martina online:

Blog: http://childrenspublishing.blogspot.com
Website: http://www.martinaboone.com
Tumbler: http://martinaboone.tumblr.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/4yalit

 

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WOW! Joan here…I just have to say, I’m going to be reading this over several times to grasp all the amazing tips offered within this unique perspective of focusing GMC on one element of craft to heighten that throughout the book!  Powerful stuff, Martina!!  Thank you so much for sharing!

 Okay, time to enter to WIN! Martina and Belle Books is offering 5 print copies of this fabulous anthology for giveaway (US residents only). 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

4 Responses to Martina Boone: Using GMC to Add Romantic Tension

  • I would love to read this book. Please enter me in contest.

  • It took me forever to realize what GMC stood for because at first I wanted to know how an author used a time zone to help write a book, and then realized that I was thinking of GMT. D’oh!

    -Jess

  • I couldn’t even guess what GMC was when I read the post title. It is such a great acronym for writing. I’m a reader, but really appreciate the concept – very interesting post.

  • Nice post. Thanks for sharing your advice.