A review by noiriste
Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, by Lisa Cron


Years after initially reading this and having become a better writer since, I've come to realize this book is good for drilling one essential fact into your brain: good fiction mimics real life in that what happens to people and how they interpret things that happen to them are deeply related to their pasts, their traumas, and the environments they grew up in. A lot of beginning fiction writers don't get this. This book's hack is similar to EMDR, in that it identifies the character's issue and the novel is the conduit for overcoming that issue by reliving the problem with a greater understanding.

The problem is...this is only relevant for a particular kind of novel. There are so many different kinds of novels out there that don't follow this trajectory, that resist traditional narrative arcs, and actively fight against them because they are often aligned with outdated modes of political and social thought.

So while this isn't a bad writing book, you should not see it as the blueprint for all novels, or even most novels. It's a good training manual to get your brain into character writing mode, and not making the mistakes of many amateur writers. This is really a book for the 99% that make it to the slush pile. This is not the book for the 1% who are decent writers and just need to keep chugging ahead to land an agent. It's worth reading for brushing up all the same.

Just keep in mind Cron doesn't even use any recent or classic bestsellers as examples of her blueprint. Instead, she uses her friend, an unpublished writer, and her lousy idea for a novel. I don't like disparaging other people's work, but it really can't go without saying the example she uses throughout the book is an awful, awful idea for a book (a female screenwriter is struggling to finish her show, so she steals a dog as the studio heads threaten to bring in a fan fiction writer to replace her).