Jilly: Craft Book Squee – Story Genius

story-geniusHave you had enough politics yet? If the answer is no, please check out yesterday’s excellent post by Michaeline, The Election and the Future of the US Writing Market. Plenty of insightful, positive, actionable food for thought there.

If you’re ready for a break from world affairs, let’s discuss creating quality stories to sustain us through the challenging times ahead 😉 .

Last Sunday in Storyteller v Smooth Writer I talked about judging contest entries and understanding the difference between polished writing and addictive storytelling. I said I’d decided not to take any more classes or buy any more writing books until I’d figured out how to make the storyline of my WIP as powerful as it can be.

Yeah, but no. A couple of days after I put up that post I bought a writing book and I’ve been glued to it ever since. I have not been this excited about a craft book, ever.

In one of those sublime moments of serendipity that come around all too rarely, I read a review of Lisa Cron’s Story Genius and realized it could have been written specifically to answer the questions I raised in last week’s post.

Story Genius explains the brain science behind what makes a story addictive and offers a method for creating the blueprint of a powerful book or script – not an outline but a fully realized synthesis of the internal and external layers of your story from beginning to end.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the introduction to Story Genius:

The problem is that most writers mistake story for the things we can see on the page: the stunning prose, the authoritative voice, the intense and exciting plot, the clever structure. Because while no one could deny that all those things are important, they lack the crucial element that gives a story meaning and brings it to life.

And in answer to the question of what drives a story:

…it flows directly from how the protagonist is making sense of what’s happening; how she struggles with, evaluates, and weighs what matters most to her, and then makes hard decisions, moving the action forward. This is not a general struggle, but one based on the protagonist’s impossible goal: to achieve her desire and remain true to the fear that’s keeping her from it… Story is about how the things that happen in the plot affect the protagonist, and how he or she changes internally as a result.

I love the idea that the protagonist’s internal struggle is like the electrified rail on an underground train. Everything in the book – plot, action, detail – must touch the third rail in order to have meaning and emotional impact. If it touches the rail, it powers the story. If it doesn’t, it drags.

That insight alone was worth the price of the book.

I love the premise. I’m not sure how well the process will work for me, but I’m going to give it a try. I’ve had no success with plotting. Pantsing gets me there eventually, but it’s desperately slow going. I need more structure, and this internally-focused, protagonist-driven third way sounds like exactly what I need.

I’ll let you know how I get on!

What do you think? Have you read Story Genius or tried blueprinting?

7 thoughts on “Jilly: Craft Book Squee – Story Genius

  1. I already owned Wired for Story by the same author, and I just plunked down $11.99 US for a Kindle book, which I believe is an all-time record. If this book makes your fiction as persuasive as this blog post, you’ve got a bestseller on your hands.

    I’m still a handful of scenes away from finishing the crappy first draft of Girl’s Best Friend, but once I get it drafted, I’m going to read this book for ideas on how to fix it.

    • Not that I’m excited about this book or anything, but I took it with me when I went to the ballet last night, so I could keep reading in the intervals 😉 . I’m only a quarter of the way through, and I’ve had my money’s worth and more. It’s relatable and actionable. I think you’ll find it well worth the investment of your time and money.

  2. OOOH, sounds like what I need! Actionable. If life settles down this week, I’m going to get the book and read it. For some reason, I didn’t get a damn thing done last week (or so it felt), so this week, I’m going to concentrate on getting the groundwork into actually on words on the page.

  3. I’ve been a Wired for Story fan for months now (before Story Genius was released), and I really feel like it’s changed my writing and the way I approach it. I’ve been absent from the blog (and the internet in general) for the past week because I’ve been at a writers’ conference where I took deep-dive workshops from Donald Maass (Writing the 21st Century Novel) and…wait for it…Lisa Cron! I’ll be talking about this amazing experience this week and next week in my posts. I even have a few pictures with Lisa that I might share :-).

  4. Pingback: Elizabeth: More Gifts for Writers – Eight Ladies Writing

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