Reply To: LESSON 3 – External GMC



Hi Emily, comments inserted below…

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, 10:16:00 AM EDT, FTHRW <> wrote:

Emily Marsh wrote:

Hi Emily,

My comments are inserted below….

On Monday, April 19, 2021, 3:29:30 PM EDT, FTHRW <> wrote:

Emily Marsh wrote:

Okay, I am all gnarled up in internal and external plot and motivation and where they are supposed to begin and how all that connects to a single, clear GMC. Which might be why Ch 1 lacks focus? Anyway, here is what I’ve got. This is all for my POV MC — MC 2 (the love interest) has a lot of his own stuff going on, but that’s not on here.

Internal Plot: (Starts in Ch. 1)

Where she is as the book opens: Pretty miserable. She has prioritized her family’s interests/the life she has been brought up to expect to the point that she is about to marry a guy she loves as a friend rather than as a romantic partner and take a job that she’s good at, but that she finds dull and useless at her family’s law firm.

What she thinks she needs: A more positive outlook and specific gestures of commitment to the life she has chosen. Accordingly, she is pushing herself to do the following specific things that have specific stakes:

Set a date with her fiancée
Accept her father/senior law partner’s assignment to take on a major client as her own client rather than his in a move towards becoming a partner.

What she actually needs:

To find a relationship that satisfies her rather than settling for one she thinks SHOULD satisfy her. Once she meets Caleb (MC2), choosing that relationship over the one that seems like it should work is what she needs.
To find a job that allows her to help people while engaging her intellect rather than setting for one she thinks SHOULD satisfy her.

Conflict to getting what she actually needs:

Over-emphasis on pleasing her father because she loves him.
Over-emphasis on fulfilling her responsibility to her fiancée because she loves him.
Over-emphasis on meeting obligations to her family in the ways that she has been taught.
Confusion over what is causing her problems (she thinks she’s being too negative, when actually, she’s putting her own interests at too low a priority)

>>>So it sounds like this might boil down to her suffering from a FEAR of disappointing those she loves by not doing what they expect of her, and ultimately that is probably based on a FEAR that they won’t love her/accept her if she doesn’t do what they expect? Does that sound right?

One way to verify this is to imagine the worst that could happen for her and see what that looks like from her point of view. What does she think will happen if she doesn’t do what is expected?

I think it sounds like her ultimate crutch is that she fears losing the people she loves if she does what SHE wants instead of what they want, but you know more about the characters, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide. 🙂

From this interconnected web of relationship goo, I extrapolate the following internal GMC for my MC at the book’s opening:

Goal: To set a date for her wedding and force herself to accept a professional role she does not want.

>>>Setting a date is more of an external goal, so I would look more at what the emotional motivation behind that desire is to get at the internal goal. It feels after reading on that her internal goal (which at the start of the story is usually a mystery to the character, they don’t know what’s causing their unhappiness) is probably something to do with needing to be loved for herself, not for what she does for other people. Does that make sense? Her deepest fear seems to be tied to disappointing the people she loves, so her internal need is to get over that fear.

Motivation: She thinks it will make her feel less miserable to dive into the commitments she’s made so she won’t keep brooding on them.


She’s wrong about both of these things and part of her knows it, so she’s procrastinating because the idea of doing them makes her miserable.
Her fiancée also knows they shouldn’t marry and is trying to figure out how to break off the engagement without losing the friendship.
As the early part of the book develops, she falls for someone else and keeps putting her energy toward the kind of work she actually wants.

>>>So I think in terms of where the story begins, this moment when she’s given that certain client ask, and discovers it’s different from what she’d been doing (and didn’t like) is what sets her on her path to find a way to keep doing what she likes rather than what’s expected of her. If that work is the part about helping the clients with the scam that you mention in the external goal, then that’s perfect! That’s the start of her journey. 


External plot (does not start in chapter one – starts more in chapter 6):

Goal: To get back her clients’ money from scam artists

>>>Think about how this related to the internal. Is this something she feels is EXPECTED of her? Or is this her (even subconsciously) trying to break out and do something on her own that’s important to HER, not a loved one? (Or if it is important to a loved one, is it ultimately more important to her personally — that’s one way you can tie the external in with the internal)

Motivation: She wants to protect them and (as the story progresses) they are important to MC2

>>>Why is protecting her clients important to her? Is this part of the “what’s expected” or is this part of who she ultimately wants to be (even if it’s subconscious a the start of the story.) It could also be a the case that she starts off the story with a task that is “expected of her” but eventually she turns it around to become something SHE wants for herself (and the MC2 might have something to do with that), and that’s okay, too, and ties back in with the internal struggle she has to break free of doing what’s expected for fear of losing people close to her if she doesn’t.

>>>Again, in terms of where the story starts, if this situation with the scammers is the work she discovers she wants to be doing, then the moment she becomes involved in this situation is the start of the story.


She has to prove that they’re being scammed in order to force the scam artists to give back the money.
(as story progresses) Proving they’re being scammed requires her to reveal that her family is in on the scam.

>>>OH! That is a very good external conflict to have! Because it does tie in with the internal in that if she outs her family for their criminal activity, her fear of losing their love could be become reality. Her fear of disappointing them, losing them would be a huge internal piece that holds her back from “doing the right thing.” Great conflict in that!!!!

External Plot — Connection to Internal Plot:

Proximity to someone she actually wants to be in a LTR with helps her realize her mistakes re: fiancée.

>>>That’s good! It’s important in a romance that the MC2 is part of helping her find the realizations in her life that change it for the better (and vice versa her for him).

Doing work she actually cares about (which he brings her into) helps her realize what she actually wants professionally.


When the life she wants/values she embraces comes into direct conflict with the life she has/values she has accepted from others, she confirms her choice of what she wants by choosing according to her own life/values rather than those she has been given.

>>>Excellent! She is on a great character arc here! Your brainstorming is putting all the pieces together, even if it seems a little jumbled at the moment. 🙂

Huh. I have rather a lot going on here, especially since I left out MC2’s stuff. Maybe this is too much/too complicated/the reason the book is too long? Argh. Comments welcome.

>>>No, it’s great that you’re focusing on the heroine for now. Trying to do two at once can make your head spin. 🙂 It’s best to focus on one character at a time, so then you have a place to start from with the second character. Once you understand the GMC of your MC then you can look at ways to make the MC2’s GMC intertwine, escalate conflict, and also help the MC on the journey to realization.

Great work here!

Cathy 🙂

Thanks for your comments! This is super helpful.

Can I ask a follow-up?

>>Of course! 🙂

Quick synopsis: Lise is unhappy at work and with her fiancée because they don’t fulfill her on any level. She is remaining with both job and fiancée out of a sense of responsibility, a desire to protect the feelings of those involved, and a desire not to lose her family’s affection. She mistakenly thinks she is unhappy because she’s waffling/being too negative, so at the beginning of the book, she pushes herself to set a wedding date and take on a work commitment that will solidify her role at her family’s firm. She thinks once it’s all decided, she’ll stop worrying so much.

>>This sounds great as a snapshot of her “present life” when the story opens.

Then she meets Caleb (LI) and, at his request, works to extract clients he cares about from a scam artist. Her friendship with Caleb and her work for these clients help her realize that something is missing from her relationship with her fiancée and at work. She breaks up with her fiancée, starts a relationship with Caleb, and really goes after the scam artists.

>>>This sounds like it could potentially be the “inciting incident” (aka Moment of Change) that takes her life in a new direction, depending on how she meets Caleb and how different the job request he makes of her is compared to what her everyday job is.

Would she have reasons to initially not be so keen to do this job for him? That’s also a sign that this is the “moment of change” for the story that gets it started. Often the main character refuses to take that “leap” into the unknown and start their story journey (because change is scary).

Her choice is tested when she discovers her uncle’s involvement with the scam, which forces her to choose between family loyalty/security in her dad’s affection and her own values/the new life she wants.

>>>This is a perfect dilemma to be dealing with, given her background and what she’s afraid of losing.

My confusion is about what part of all this is her boiled-down GMC. Is her goal what she actually wants (her need to find a job and relationship that fulfill her)? That seems vague, but it’s what the book wants for her, if that makes sense.

>>>A “job and relationship that fulfill her” feel like her rewards at the end of the story, but not something she would know about to be actively seeking at the start of the story. It’s like she would know something isn’t “right” at the start of the story because she doesn’t feel completely happy, but she wouldn’t have the knowledge at that point to know what it is that would make it right (yet), if that makes sense. A lot of the internal struggle in a character is subconscious (which is why they often lie to themselves trying to figure it out).

It’s like when I say about the external goal that it’s not about love, but love is what happens on the way to something else. The more fulfilling job and relationship are physical symbols of an emotional need she has–so that’s why it’s important to find out what emotional missing piece they would fill inside her (that missing piece is where the internal GMC comes in), and while going after the external goal she’ll come to learn more about what’s missing and be subconsciously going after the internal goal as well.

I think you expressed the internal part of the GMC very well in the previous post, but boiling it down to one sentence might be what you’re struggling with? Based on what I’ve learned from your descriptions, it sounds like her internal goal is to be loved for herself, not for what she can do or simply because of family ties/loyalty; her motivation behind that could possibly be that she’s never felt valued for herself or not “seen” by her family for who she really is; her conflict is fear of losing her family if they don’t accept her. It’s easier to continue pleasing others than to risk upsetting them and being cut off.

But you know your character best, so just look at her emotional attachments to the people she’s pleasing (because that does seem to be her “flaw”) and what she fears will happen if she stops doing what everyone expects of her (because ultimately it’s a fear that’s holding her back–what does she see as the worst that could happen and why it feels like the ultimate disaster to her).

Her external GMC seems like it would start with, as you stated, wanting to do this job for Caleb. This goal originates (it seems) from the “moment of change” in her every day life (which we’ll be getting into more in Lesson 5, but you’re already on your way there, so we might as well discuss it. 🙂 ).

So, because the external story goal (or the decision to act on it) comes from that “moment of change” it seems logical that her external goal would have to do with the scam artists. So, what does she want to do to solve the problem? Does she want to bring the scammers to justice or is her goal more focused on helping the clients? (or is it something else slight different: she wants this job to be a success because….?).

I know the two things I listed as possiblities sound the same, but when you dig deeper into the goal to get the other pieces for the chart (motivation and conflict), the answers to “Why does she want to help these clients” vs. “Why does she want to bring the scammers to justice”, could be different depending on her character traits, so it helps to be very specific so you get very specific answers to the WHY, and then to the next piece is “What stands in the way?” So, helping the clients — what stands in the way to that? vs. Bringing the scammers to justice, what stands in the way of that?”

It’s a subtle difference, but it can have an impact on how it relates to the internal GMC, and later on how your heroine behaves in the story and the types of scenes you craft to show that.

Her uncle’s involvement is definitely a big part of the conflict either way, as I see it, because that creates a wonderful dilemma for her to deal with (wonderful in the sense, that we need to torture our characters before they find happiness, so in terms of strength, and stakes in the story, that’s a pretty good dilemma for her to be dealing with!).

Any of this help? 🙂


ps: I just had another thought… if she starts the story with idea at the back of her mind about a job change (thinking that’s what she needs to be happy, but we know it really goes deeper than that–a new job is just a Bandaid on the emotional issue behind her desire), then that might affect how she reacts to Caleb’s offer–if it seems to her it might be that change she’s looking for she’d be tempted, but then her fear of wanting to do something for herself would be what gives her hesitation in agreeing to Caleb’s offer at first, so she proceeds with caution, because this exacerbates the internal GMC battle inside her of doing what’s expected vs. doing for herself.

Caleb’s offer sets up her external GMC (overall story goal involving the scammers, etc.) that helps her continually face her internal struggle of doing what’s expected/family loyalty vs. what she wants/what is right to find the strength and knowledge to face her fears of losing the people close to her and finally be her own person by the end of the story; and bonus, she gets the fulfilling relationship that was missing before. 🙂

Catherine Chant,
Rock 'n' Roll Time Travel Romance for Young Adults
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