A guest post by Harlequin author Danica Favorite
I use the Goal, Motivation, Conflict (GMC) method of storytelling, which is something most romance writers use.
The goal is the story goal, so, in my book, The Cowboy’s Faith, Nicole’s goal of the story is to be able to train her horse well enough to keep it. Her motivation is that she loves her horse. The conflict is that the horse misbehaves and she can’t find a trainer. That’s the external part of the story. Note that none of it has to do with the romance. But that’s how it’s supposed to be. Without this external framework, you don’t have much of a story.
Now, you add the internal. The goal is still about keeping the horse, however, internally, the horse represents security and lasting love. These are all the deeper internal why’s of the importance of her getting to achieve her external goals. When you combine the internal and external, that’s what makes it a strong story. But note, there’s nothing about the romance. So here is where the romance comes in:
The only person who can help her achieve this goal is the person she holds responsible for the pain in her past. Now, we have the romantic set-up. And this is why the romantic conflict is different. Even without adding in the hero, she still has a lot to overcome. But this adds in another layer of complexity, because all these things work with each other to make her journey full of ups and downs necessary to the story.
I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t know what it means when someone says their story is episodic. Typically, that’s the result of not having those conflicts mentioned above solidified. There has to be an external reason (training the horse) for them to be together that is in direct relation to the character’s goal (keeping the horse). Without an internal reason for the goal (a.k.a., who cares if she keeps the horse or not), the story doesn’t mean anything. And then, you have to have a reason why they don’t just get along from page one and end up getting married and living happily ever after.
So that’s why it’s all a separate conflict.