I never was much of a student in science. That was one of the reasons I became a journalism major and a writer. If you’re like me in that respect, don’t be turned off by the title of Lisa Cron’s outstanding craft of fiction book, “Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence.”
Craft of fiction books come and go, but this one’s a keeper. Cron’s premise (backed by neuroscience) is that human beings are hard-wired to read and appreciate stories. She doesn’t stop with that valuable insight, though. She digs deeper to explore the significance of emotion in giving the story meaning. She then shows the reader how to develop protagonists who have deep inner goals. Then she covers story development, stressing that specific details bring a story alive.
Following the chapters about developing protagonists and stories, Cron introduces the subject of conflict, the “agent of change.” Then she covers cause-and-effect. She explains the path from the set up to the payoff and follows that with a chapter on how to weave in back story and flashbacks. The book ends with a chapter about the lengthy amount of time it takes a writer to hone writing skills before she reaches the cognitive unconscious area of the brain.
The chapters begin with a cognitive secret and a story secret that set up the subject matter to follow. For example, Chapter 3, entitled, “I’ll Feel What He’s Feeling,” begins:
Cognitive Secret-Emotion determines the meaning of everything—if we’re not feeling, we’re not conscious.
Story Secret-All story is emotion-based. If we’re not feeling, we’re not reading.
Each chapter ends with a handy checklist that summarizes the major lessons.
In a July 30, 2012 interview on the popular blog Writer Unboxed, Cron discussed why the brain craves stories. “Beginning with the very first sentence, the brain craves a sense of urgency, that instantly makes us want to know what happens next. It’s a visceral feeling, that seduces us into leaving the real world and surrendering to the world of story.”
The bottom-line is that writers should focus on story. It’s the story that will get the attention of an agent or a publisher. And story, Cron concludes, is how what happens affects the protagonists.
There are so many valuable lessons in this book that I could not begin to list them. It is written for writers at all levels, from beginner to seasoned pro. I highly recommend this book.