Back in July I was in San Antonio, Texas attending the Romance Writers of America national conference. The few days I spend at conference are booked solid with appointments and luncheons and meetings with friends. I was only able to attend a handful of workshops, but one in particular impressed me.
After having the privilege of hearing Lisa Cron at RWA, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her book, Wired for Story. If you are a writer, this book is definitely an eye opener, and in case you haven’t guessed, I highly recommend it.
I’ve decided to share my notes because I believe it will entice you to buy and read her book.
Let me preface this by saying that reading her book helped me change the opening sentence from the book I just turned in from: “Ms. Sterling?” The young and attractive medical clinic receptionist called her name as if it was a crowded waiting room.
To: Julie waited to face the guy who’d knocked her up thirteen years ago.
“Ms. Sterling?” Julie flinched. The young and attractive medical clinic receptionist called her name as if it was a crowded waiting room.
Here are my notes on 5 Things the Brain Craves
STORY helps us step out of “now”. It allows us to experience difficult situations that we are afraid of.
- Stories feel good for the same reason food does – both help us survive. If early man didn’t warn others through stories and cautions, more lives would have been lost. Stories – cognitive subconscious – are like angels, they look out for us. i.e. What am I going to learn that will help me make it through life? Story helps us navigate reality. Story releases Dopamine – a good thing!
- We use Story/not facts to make sense of everything. When we try to pay attention, our minds wander to things that matter to us. We only hear what we agree with – confirmation bias. Homeostasis – we like to stay there – comfortable – to stick with the devil we know. Dopamine tells the analytic brain to shut up and listen.
- Reading Fiction enlarges the brain for empathy. There is no such thing as mindless entertainment. Story enters through the gut. It affects others.
4. Emotion – feelings – an irascible scamp! Our ability to think rationally isn’t how we make decisions. It is how we feel that makes decisions. Feelings – Big Box feelings: Love, Hate, Anger, Jealousy etc. – are a chemical reaction to everything we see. So we make decisions on how they make us feel. Good or Bad. Feelings don’t just matter – feelings are WHAT MATTERING MEANS.
5. Story – it’s something that happens or happens to someone, but a story is HOW what happens affects someone in pursuit of a difficult goal and how they change as a result! Story is NOT about THE PLOT. Story is how what happens affects someone – our characters, for instance. Our characters must be uncomfortable and how they change as a result. The plot affects the protagonist. It’s ALL internal conflict. We think in images and narrative. A misbelief. How is what’s going to happen in the plot going to affect the character? Plot and its effect on a character is the third rail – that which supplies the electricity. Story is what goes on beneath the surface: what I’m saying isn’t what I’m thinking and what I’m thinking is juicier.
Stories are about the raging sweat beneath our surface. Wow! Loved that quote.
Where did the character’s misbelief come from? Story creates new eyes for the character by the end. We must know what our character sees the instant he/she walks on the page. Story is all about the Internal Struggle. We must identify where, the specific place (the genesis), that misbelief came from. We must know specific memories that go through our character’s brain. Decisions are based on our specific history.
Take time to write out what INNER CHANGE the character is going to go through, and how did they get there misbelief? The INTERNAL Struggle must be used as a yardstick
These kind of stories will resonate with the reader. The story is the raging mess where readers can feel vulnerable with our characters.So, above are my quickly jotted-down notes from a great workshop presentation, but the book Wired for Story by Lisa Cron is loaded with amazing analysis and information about what we writers do – STORY. I recommend you buy and read this book!
What book would you suggest for me?
I leave you with this single thought: STORY is not about the PLOT, it’s about that raging mess beneath the surface – the most interesting stuff!
Here’s a link to her TED talk: