Debra Dixon.

Just say  her name and what comes to a romance/women’s fiction writer’s mind? “GMC,” of course! (And we ain’t talkin’ cars here.)




Of all the craft of writing books I’ve had in my clutches over the years, GMC is one of the few I’ve read cover-to-cover. (So shoot me.) And I’ve read it more than once. 🙂

I decided to take yet another look the other day, and guess what. Something new jumped out at me.

GMCPlease note: I added the Susan sticker. The books don’t come from the publisher with your name sparkling on the front.

Before I go on, maybe I should confess something. When I read a book on the craft of writing, I tend scan until I come to what I’m reading to learn. Yes, I’m reading the entire book to learn, but usually there’s something specific I’m trying to glean.

Goal: Read Deb Dixon’s book. Motivation: To learn to use GMC and write a great book. Conflict: I have tunnel-vision.


Just to make sure someone doesn’t mistake my GM&C book for their own.

 So this time, I started reading it just for general knowledge. Not to learn how to fill out the GMC charts. (page 21) Not to figure out how to use GMC to write a synopsis and/or query letter. (page 135-136) Not to learn how to write a tag line.  (page 92)

The most amazing thing happened! The answer to writing the hardest section of the actual book jumped right out at me.

She tells, right there on page 9, what you have to have in a first chapter. Everything! Written down in black and white. All the things Marilyn has reminded me of every time I start a new book. (Okay, she doesn’t actually have to say them each time, I’m not that slow a learner, but I hear the echo of her sweet voice as I work on that hardest of chapters.)

From “Goal, Motivation & Conflict  The Building Blocks of Good Fiction” by Debra Dixon.

The first chapter of a book performs the same function as those first minutes in a movie. The first chapter must establish what’s at stake and make an introduction. You are introducing the reader to their guides for the evening–the hero, villain, and maybe even one or two other characters.

That’s gold! And I missed it all these years. If I were teaching a class on this book, the handouts would read:

First chapters must:

  1. Establish what at stake in the book.
  2. Introduce
  • hero
  • heroine
  • villain

She makes it look so easy, doesn’t she? She also spills more gold on the page when she tells us the reader is supposed to “identify and empathize” with the hero. You’d be amazed at how many newbies miss that! (Yes, I’ve stepped in it a time or two myself.)


Bragging: “My book is autographed by Deb herself!” 🙂

She goes so far as to tell us what the readers want–to experience the struggle for this person’s goal and the conflict that keeps him/her from getting it.

She goes on:

If the hero has a wonderful life and everything he wants, then your book is going to be boring. An editor won’t buy the book. Readers won’t pick it up. And if they do, they won’t finish it. Because you will not have met their expectations of being taken on a journey of uncertainty.

(Emphasis mine.)

Don’t you love that description of writing? “A journey of uncertainty.”

Instead of purple and white, this book’s cover should be gold. And sparkly!

If you don’t own Deb’s book on GMC and you’re an aspiring writer of any kind of fiction, find it and buy it. Now. Don’t wait.

You can order it here for $19.95. (I checked other sites and saw it starting at $88.00.)

Deb’s gold is waiting for you.

If you do own it, get it out and read it again. You’ll be surprised at the new gold you’ll find in there. 😛



5 thoughts on “Expectations

  1. That’s a fantastic book and she’s a wonderful lady.

    Susan, thanks for the reminder (and the page #’s). I need to open mine back up, too.

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