In October, I attended Lisa Cron’s talk, “Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius,” hosted by Valley Forge Romance Writers. The workshop was perfect for learning from a master of storytelling, who’s spoken from the TEDx stage, taught at UCLA, and penned several books on the topic. It was an added bonus to share the day with many writer friends – long-time and new. Some of the most salient points were:
- • Human brains are wired for story, as stories feed our “affinity for patternicity” (the unconscious desire to make meaning out of what’s happening).
- • Our characters are, likewise, working to make sense of their worlds. Story is the arc of the difficult experiences that help them recognize and unravel a deep-seated misbelief, one that’s likely formed in childhood. (More precisely, Lisa says “Story is not plot, it’s what happens to affect someone when they are faced with a perceptively difficult goal, and how they change internally as a result”)
- • Story trumps beautiful writing (not to say that we shouldn’t deliver strong craft). Lisa’s point is that it’s rare for meaningful stories to come simply from “writing forward.” Rather, true story relies on the author’s clarity on the point we’re trying to make, the specificity of the protagonist’s misbelief, starting in medias res, crafting relatable characters (as differentiated from “likable”), consistently writing from the character’s world view, and escalating internal and external problems until the hero/heroine earns their “aha” moment, which busts their misbelief. However, she also doesn’t espouse outlining the whole manuscript, as each scene should leave the protagonist changed, so the author can build on that character growth for subsequent scenes/chapters.
I hope to see many of you in the coming months, as I’ll be speaking at some of my favorite venues in 2020. As always, let me know if you know about writers’ events needing speakers. It’s a privilege to share my marketing strategy knowledge with writers like you! .
Carol Van Den Hende, MBA