According to Lisa Cron, stories help to “teach us the way of the world.” She explains and illustrates this throughout Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. Even though Cron introduces the neuroscience of writing, her book will feel comfortable on any writer’s bookshelf (even next to Strunk and White’s Elements of Style or Brooks and Warren’s The Scope of Fiction).
Why? Because it takes a writer back to the basics, while explaining how writing impacts our brains. Cron uses an easy-to-understand, straightforward approach that looks at the tools that a writer uses in building a story, presenting how a reader processes what we put on the page.
“This information is a game changer for writers,” Cron writes in her introduction. She pairs the basics of writing a story with research that underscores what many of us have learned from studying writing (without the added science).
Cron takes on the myths we may have learned and backs up why the myths may not hold steady under the light of our brains’ wiring. In providing these Myths versus Realities, Cron adds a visual break from the rest of the text, breaking out neat subsections from the larger themes. One of the Myths Cron relates is the one we’ve all probably heard: Write what you know. But the Reality is “Write What You Know Emotionally,” according to Cron. Then Cron sets out to explain how the Reality debunks the Myth.
Although Wired for Story was sent to me for reviewing, it is a book that I heard about and was excited to read. Science behind literature is intriguing. Some of what Cron writes may seem familiar to writers as Cron explains themes and tones, protagonists and goals, plots and cause-and-effects. But Cron’s endnotes back up her statements marrying the literary science to the neuroscience.
Cron lays out her book in twelve chapters, with each chapter focused on thematic Cognitive Secrets and Story Secrets. Because Cron establishes that our minds are “hardwired to respond to story,” each chapter explains some neuroscience and then provides a condensed writer’s workshop to help with a writer’s ability to transform and deliver the element of discussion. Along the way, Cron provides case studies from published works and quotations from famous writers. And though she steers you away from myths, Cron does provide rules and recommendations. Then, at the end of each chapter, Cron conveniently provides a checklist for you to compare and question your own work.
Wired for Story’s goal is to get your story to engage your readers from the first sentence. It’s an admirable goal and well-presented. Now, if only our brains won’t get in the way.
Elizabeth King Humphrey writes and edits from her home in Wilmington, N.C. She is a regular contributor to Women on Writing's The Muffin.
Writers, you are in for a treat! We are giving away a copy of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence (Ten Speed Press, July 2012; paperback, 272 pages; list price $14.99) to one lucky reader. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win. Open to US and Canada.
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