Friday, April 20, 2007

Debra Dixon: Goal, Motivation Conflict

Almost since the time I started to get serious about my writing and read the e-harlequin boards, I have heard about Debra Dixon and how wonderful her book, Goal Motivation and Conflict is. HOWEVER, if you go on Amazon, it appears to be out of print and only available at an extortionate price. How could such a highly rated book be out of print I wondered? The truth is -- it isn't. You can order it from the publisher Gryphon Books for Writers for $19.95 plus postage and handling. It works out $26.30 or 13.15 British pounds if sent sea mail.
Is it worth it? Now, this is a hard question to answer. Dixon is certainly very good, and easy to follow. She made me think about my current wip. BUT most of what she is saying is not new. It is in most other books about writing. What is new is the way in which she presents the material.

I also wonder if many would be published authors get little bits of her work and read it as gospel. For example the bit about not having misunderstandings. Misunderstandings are fine, if you can see the motivation behind them. There are many reasons WHY people can not simply sit down and talk about things. Or if they tried to sit and talk, they would lie. Easily cleared up misunderstandings are not good, but misunderstandings that play to the heart of the internal conflicts are. Some people appear to go for the broad brush approach. The devil, however, I am pleased to say is in the detail. Dixon is describing what works for her. She does not say that it has to work for everyone. She talks a great deal about rules, but makes the point that understanding the motivation behind the rules is more important than the rules themselves.
Dixon makes the point about degrees of conflict. How heavy do you want to get in your motivation? If the conflict is too heavy, it can sink the story because the HEA is in doubt. One way around is to move out a degree. Dixon uses the example of heavy v light with a hero who wants a large family and a heroine who can't have children. A lighter conflict is a hero who wants a large family and a heroine is bringing up five boys on her own and wants her freedom from parenting. Depending on the sort of story, you may want to increase or decrease the level of conflict. But however you write it, the conflict should be clearly defined.

This book is not a beginner's book. I would call it more an intermediate book. It is best aimed at those writers who struggle with plot and structure. It is very good for those people who want to learn more about the WHY. There is much to like in the book and any book that makes me think is a good book. It addresses a very specific problem -- namely goal, motivation and conflict.

Will I use it? It is another tool in my toolkit for trying to create the best wip possible. What Dixon says is not new or revolutionary. But the way she says it, may appeal to some people. It is easy to understand. The examples are straight forward ( even if I don't agree with all of them). She uses film rather than books.

I would certainly not pay the crazy price on Amazon for it. Go directly to the publisher. If you like writing craft books, it probably worth reading, just to see what the fuss is about.

I had to laugh at the list of recommended books -- Linda Gooodman's Love Signs is there as a book that should be somewhere within your house. She also lists Vogler and Campbell. But I think the list incomplete and a bit facile. My list is somewhat different, but then that is fine. Different wirters work differently.


Jessica Raymond said...

Hi Michelle,

This was a really interesting post -- I've heard so many people talk about this book but didn't know much about it because it's so hard to find.

Also, I've been meaning to let you know that Donald Maass is offering a critique in Brenda Novak's diabetes auction. He'll read a proposal and give a personal response. I though I'd let you know as I know you're a big fan of his book.

Jess x

Michelle Styles said...

Yes, it is hard to find unless you know where to look...

I did know about DOnald Maas's critque BUT he is mainly a mainstream agent. At the moment, I am v happy where I am careerwise. I love working with my editor and cps. Given that I don't want to the moment...there is no point in bidding.

Valerie said...

Happened upon this post as I was searching for a copy of Goal, Motivation. Conflict. Thanks for the review--if most of Dixon's tips have been featured in other books on writing, I probably already own those books, so I won't spend the $26. Or the $79 at Amazon--sheesh!

Michelle Styles said...

Valerie --

I think better books on writing include Manuscript Makeover by ELizabeth Lyon and the Donald maass books -- either writing the breakout novel or Fire in Fiction. I gave away my copy of GMC a few years ago, but have given various writers the Manuscript Makeover book. Does this help?