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


If an indicator of a successful work is that your thoughts keep returning to it, or that it stirs much passionate controversy, the wide-ranging comments suggest Cron has hit the mark. As someone wrestling with the complex project of writing a first novel that tells a cohesive, compelling story, I've found the insights, method, and tools in Story Genius exceptionally helpful. By including iterations of a work in progress, it invites you into the kitchen to watch the sausage making. Then the exercises have you get your hands sloppy with your own recipe.

I appreciate the distinction between the broader worlds of literature and sprawling slums of superficial (a bunch of stuff happens) fiction, on one hand, and storytelling that feels psychologically grounded and relatable, on the other. This was intuitive to me before, but Story Genius helped clarify why I already sensed such a distinction. A story, in this context, "is how the things that happen [plot] affect someone in pursuit of a difficult goal, and how that person changes internally as a result." That tracks with my own sense of what a story is. I tend not to finish reading 'stories' that lack this dynamic.

The coverage of neuroscience is thin, as some have complained, but the principles presented are sufficient for the demonstrations and challenges that follow. To reap the considerable practical benefits the book offers, approach it as a guide to specific story-crafting concepts and techniques. It's a workshop.

Having completed NaNoWriMo the past three years, Story Genius has given me specific insights into why those three efforts (while fun) have amounted to lessons in how NOT to effectively create cohesive, logical (cause-and-effect), emotionally compelling stories.

I highly recommend the book and the writing approach for those who want to write stories that will skillfully draw most readers in through emotional resonance with relatable main characters.