This is an outlining style that I recently tried out, and it worked really well. I usually write by the seat of my pants, more of a Gardener than a Pantser, so standard outlines were the worst for me, but doing GMC Cycles made the process feel like writing a “First Draft” that needed to be revised and filled in rather than an outline. It made the whole process go really well.
There are two things I need to address before moving on.
First: what is a GMC? GMC stands for Goal, Motivation and Conflict. These are the keys to keeping your characters and story on track. The Goal is what CHARACTER wants. The Motivation is why CHARACTER wants it. The Conflict is what is stopping CHARACTER from getting it. It’s easy to write a simple GMC for a scene: CHARACTER wants THING because REASON, but PROBLEM.
The other thing I needed to discuss: what is the cycle? Well, the cycle is a try/fail cycle. It’s what CHARACTER goes through to achieve that Goal by overcoming the Conflict. All a try/fail cycle really is though, is just answering the question, “Does CHARACTER get THING?” But the answer is not a simple yes or no. It’s, “Yes, but UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES,” or “No, and PROBLEM GETS WORSE.” With the second part of this, it gives the character a new Goal and a new Motivation, as well as sets up a new Conflict, thus cycling to your next GMC.
So, where do we start?
Well, we need to start with an opening image. What do you want to happen at the very beginning? Write one line of motion, one line of description and one thought by CHARACTER. CHARACTER doesn’t have to be named at his point. Use the tense you will write the story in for this.
Example: CHARACTER rushed out of the subway. People congested the sidewalk, and clangs of construction clouded his senses. The thought of Big Bob’s Bakery, BBB, made his mouth water.
Now we have a starting point.
After writing your opening image, copy and paste the four topic points below. Paste it like a hundred times (or as many as you feel like since you can just paste more later):
Make sure there is at least one line between each of these sets (not between the topic points). From here, we will start to fill these out.
Based on the initial image, what does CHARACTER want? Why? What is stopping CHARACTER? Replace X with a GMC sentence.
Example: CHARACTER wants to make it to BBB before it closes, because he is hungry, but there are too many people in the way.
Where does this GMC take place? Replace Y with the location, don’t be too detailed.
Example: Just outside the subway, on the sidewalk, lots of traffic in the streets.
Who is taking part in this GMC? Replace Z with the characters involved. They don’t need to be named, just categorized: Main, Enemy, Love, Sidekick, elder, etc.
Example: CHARACTER. Faceless crowd. Enemy, but only described.
The final part of the cycle is to answer the try/fail question.
Example: Yes, CHARACTER makes it, but BBB is already closed, early, and it never closed early.
This leads us to our next cycle. We have a new Goal (CHARACTER wants a sandwich), a new motivation (because CHARACTER is still hungry and now he’s also worried) and a new conflict (but the store is already closed).
Now we just repeat the cycle, filling in the location, characters and answering the try/fail question. And again. And again. And again until we reach the ending. At the ending we need to write a final image, which is like the opening image, to show us the last thing the character is doing when the curtain closes. For this, also write three sentences: motion, description and thought.
Example: CHARACTER stuffed a sandwich into his mouth from BBB as he leaped out of the window, running away from the police. The alley behind BBB was full of refuse and wasted meat that should have been thrown away weeks ago. This sandwich tasted so good, it was totally worth being framed for Big Bob’s murder.
Finishing this feels like finishing a first draft in a way. You get a lot of the story out and it feels whole.
The last three steps are pretty simple and standard. Write a GMC for the story as a whole, aka the plot.
Example: CHARACTER wants to eat at BBB because it has the best sandwiches in the city, but Big Bob has been murdered, and the killer is trying to frame CHARACTER.
The second to last step is to revise the GMC Cycles up to this point, then revise the overall GMC.
Finally, put a page break after each GMC Cycle and start writing under each GMC Cycle. When you finish with a GMC Cycle, and are looking to stop for the time being, write at least the first line of the next GMC Cycle.