Craft Book Review: Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

by | Apr 30, 2022

This is the first of what will be many book reports, centering on books about the writing craft or, on novels through a particular lens of how they exemplify good (and bad) craft.

And what a book to start with! This, honestly, might be the best craft book I have ever read. By coincidence, I started reading The Anatomy of Story at the same time. The two books have much of the same ideas and information, but what a difference in the telling!

The author of The Anatomy of Story starts by poo-pooing the rarified language of other writers on craft, and then proceeds to launch into his own lexicon, which to me seemed just as complicated. (I’ll let you know what I think when I finish The Anatomy of Story and write a book report.)

Wired for Story is different. By basing her thesis in brain science, Cron tells us, in simple terms, why humans have evolved to find story valuable, and to place a high importance on it. Additionally, as the book goes on she connects the bones of a successful story to our evolutionary need to look for patterns and to anticipate what will happen next.

There’s some familiar territory here, such as determining your characters wants and needs, escalating complications, and the setup/payoff technique, but Cron tells you why those things are important if you want to keep your reader reading. Plus, if these terms are new to you, this book is an accessible way to learn what they mean and how to use them in your book.

Some Takeaways:

  • Myth: The Plot is what the Story is about. Reality: A Story is about how the Plot affects the protagonist.
  • Stories are about people dealing with problems they can’t avoid.
  • We have evolved to want safety, but also, ironically, we have evolved to be risk takers. The story of people, and the heart of story, is the battle between fear and desire.
  • Each scene’s decision point is tested by the next scene’s action. In other words, each scene makes the next scene inevitable.
  • There is a question you must ruthlessly ask about every last scrap of your story: “And so?” Because if you don’t ask it, the reader will.

And many more. In conclusion, a BIG thumbs up for Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, which you can buy on Amazon here, or from an Indie Bookstore here.

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