For anyone not familiar with GMC, or perhaps just needing a refresher on it, stick around. We'll break it down together using a simple example.
Let's say a woman named Jill is the heroine of our story. What could the GMC look like for her?
Goal=what Jill wants (say, that nice shop on the corner to start her catering business).
Motivation=why Jill wants what she does, the reasons of which should be rooted in her past (she wants to be her own boss and not be dependent on anyone, because her rocky childhood taught her to trust no one but herself. Her past has also soured her on any potential relationships).
Conflict=why she can't easily have what she wants, which can be due to internal and external forces (Ethan, the hero, owns the building, and when she realizes she's attracted to him, Jill insults him in an effort to distance herself. After antagonizing him, she's too proud to apologize, which leads to trouble for her goal-wise. He refuses to lease her the shop unless she begs for his forgiveness).
Often the best stories have both internal and external conflict. Here, Jill knows she's in the wrong but would rather swallow sewage than admit it. That's the internal conflict--she's been mean-spirited because she's attracted to him but still can't bring herself play nice.
The external conflict centers around the shop she wants but can't have because the hero has become fed up with her and is now threatening to lease the store to somebody else. His likely decision causes her lots of problems because she's banked on having that space, and now she doesn't have anywhere to go. Too bad she got ahead of herself and has events to cater in the next few months!
So how is she going to get out of this dilemma? Maybe she could try to earn his forgiveness by cooking him wonderful food he can't say no to. She drops off lunch daily to his office. After a few times of doing this, he begins inviting her to stay for the meal. Fast foward, she falls for him, but the past remains with her. And she still wants that storefront. So she must struggle with her old motivations and her new ones (not letting anyone in vs. letting letting them near her heart), which are in direct conflict.
Her main goal hasn't changed, but her motivations for spending time with him have. That, in turn, affects her deep-rooted motivation for avoiding emotional entanglements.
See how the internal and external conflicts entwine and reinforce each other? And it's the same for the other letters of GMC. Each element adds multiple overlapping layers to a story, making the characters feel "real."
While Jill's goal stayed constant in the example, in some stories the goal changes but the main motivation does not. In others, both the central goal and motivation change--or at least morph into something different enough that the GMC issue is resolved, and a happily-ever-after prevails.
And that concludes our little GMC post. Any questions or comments? We're always eager to hear with others have to say!