Book Review: Goal, Motivation and Conflict

Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon © 1996 Gryphon PressTypically, if a book is not available in Kindle format, I don’t read it, but this book got such rave reviews from my fellow writers in the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writers of America, that I borrowed it from the chapter library to see what all the fuss was about. Two chapters into the book, I knew I had to purchase my own copy. It was so chock full of great information, I was just itching to whip out a highlighter and start underlining.

It took me a while to chase down my own copy.  I found it on Amazon, but it was only available via third party sellers and they were asking $65 when the cover price was $19.95  It finally occurred to me to go directly to the publisher. Bingo! A few clicks, a credit card and five days later I had my very own copy in my hands. I’ve been through college and graduate school and never have I been this excited to mark up a book.

Dixon breaks the plot of a story into three main parts. Goals, are what the characters want. Motivation, is what drives your characters and conflict, is the tension that prevents your characters from achieving their goals. She uses the movie The Wizard of Oz to demonstrate her concepts throughout the book. The common reference point makes it easy to assimilate her points. She gives you concrete structures that you can use to analyze your own work.  There are charts you can recreate and questions to ask that can help you flush out your story’s GMC.

Dixon is a successful romance writer, but the book is not romance focused. Her process is applicable to all fiction. Along with The Wizard of Oz, she cites examples The Fugitive, Star Wars and Casablanca and talks about mysteries and even non-fiction books.

It was an amazing book but I did find, my muse was a tad bit intimidated after I finished reading it.  My brain was all excited to have a logical structure to build, my muse basically stuck her tongue out and walked away.  All is not lost.  We struck a deal where The Muse gets to spill her guts and then she can take a few days rest while The brain organizes everything into the structure.  The Muse really appreciates being first 🙂

The opinions express in this piece are my own and I was not compensated in any way. It is also worth noting that my fellow NHWN writers may or may not agree with me, but I will happy loan them my well marked up book if they want to read it. 🙂

P.S. A little birdie told me that Ms. Dixon might be coming to New England to offer a work shop in the spring of 2014. I’ll share more as I have confirmation of dates and details.

Goal, Motivation and Conflict 

Debra Dixon

Gryphon Books for Writers


Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently at work on her first romantic fiction novel. 

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Goal, Motivation and Conflict

  1. This sounds like a good book to add to my Professional Development library.
    Another book along these lines that is my current fav is HOOKED by Les Edgerton.
    Thanks for the book review and that’d be great if you kept us apprised of her visit in 2014.

  2. This topic is always good to read and study. Thank you for the Dixon reference. I am reminded of the TV sitcom format which is a three act format like plays. Goals, Problems, Solution. One may tweek, add, and work within that framework. The author/acquizitions editor Sunny Frazier has said that editors and publishers are not looking for “different” unusual experimental fiction. They are looking for what sells. They are looking for genre fiction that has been around, and follows the format. Thanks again.

  3. Pingback: Thickening The Plot | Live to Write - Write to Live

  4. Pingback: Debra Dixon’s Book-In-A-Day Workshop | Live to Write - Write to Live

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