Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I’m a TeachingAuthor, right?
So, the Teacher and the Writer in me can combine their high opinions and enthusiastically award Lisa Cron’s WIRED FOR STORY (Ten Speed Press, July, 2012) two Thumbs Up!

Both parts of me were actively, indeed compulsively engaged while I read this book, subtitled “The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence.”

I’m happy to say: the book proved providential. I’d just begun what I hoped would be a final revision of a middle grade novel.  Thanks to the beginning chapters, I instantly saw I still had Back Story to discover.

Maybe that fact explains why my copy of WIRED FOR STORY is now inked and yellow-marker-ed from cover to cover, the “Aha!’s” circled and starred, the turn-me-around explanations of and insights into key story elements underlined at least twice.  Page corners are bent, both top and bottom. 

Just to make sure I truly got these Story Truths - Truths now showcased in a whole new neuroscientific light, Truths I know cold and fervently teach, I first copied them into my Writer’s Notebook, next into my ongoing novel revision, then finally into the body of emails I sent several of my writers and students presently immersed in their storytelling and revisions.

As a teacher, I relentlessly remind my children’s book writers to think about their readers. 
Where are they cognitively, emotionally, chronologically?
What questions are they asking at the end of the chapter?
What keeps them caring and turning the pages?
But now, thanks to Lisa Cron and WIRED FOR STORY, I’ll exhort them to keep in mind their reader’s brain!
It’s wired, it turns out, to grasp the architecture of story; it’s wired to expect its necessary building blocks.

“Fire,” the author reveals, “is crucial to writing; it’s the very first ingredient of every story.  Passion is what drives us to write……but there is an implicit framework that must underlie a story in order for that passion, that fire, to ignite the reader’s brain.”

Lisa Cron is an instructor at the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program.  She’s worked in publishing, as an agent, as a TV producer, as a story consultant for film. 
In other words, she’s a TeachingAuthor too.
And it shows.

The book illuminates “the intricate mesh of interconnected elements that hold a story together," while zeroing in on how the brain works.
Its twelve-chapter organization is pure Show, Don’t Tell, from “How to Hook the Reader” to “What Does Your Protagonist Really Want?” to “Courting Conflict, the Agent of Change” to “Cause and Effect” to “The Road from Setup to Payoff” to “The Writer’s Brain on Story.”

Each chapter begins with a Cognitive Secret and a Story Secret.  For instance, when digging up our protagonist’s inner issue, cognitively we see the world not as it is, but as we believe it to be.  Story-wise, Cron tells us, we must know precisely when, and why, our protagonist’s worldview was knocked out of alignment.
Each chapter ends with a summarizing Checklist usable at any writing stage.
Cron parcels out the techniques and tips in delicious bites that build logically, using familiar examples from literature, movies and television for further concrete explanation.  Within each informational segment, she distinguishes between the Myth and the Reality.
Her tone is warm, friendly, personal, because she too is a writer who knows the challenges of story-telling.
Each chapter’s opening quote, many unknown to me, begs to be copied and shared.

Lisa now contributes to WriterUnboxed, a blog about the craft and business of fiction.
Visit her website to learn more about her and WIRED FOR STORY.

And, Good News:  YOU can enter to win an autographed copy of WIRED FOR STORY.  Be sure to see the details below.

So, thank you twice, Lisa Cron.

The Writer in me now embraces her current revision more confidently, knowing the story parts my reader’s brain expects in order to live and breathe and care (!) inside my novel.

The Teacher in me now has a new gift to bear.

Esther Hershenhorn


You must follow our TeachingAuthors blog to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.  If you're not already a follower, you can sign up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.

There are two ways to enter:
  • by a comment posted below OR
  • by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Just for the fun of it, see if your cortex is working.  Along with your name, share the name of a part of your brain!
Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your name AND tell us how you follow us. If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted like: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment. Contest open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded.
Entry deadline is 11 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 (Central Standard Time). The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and announced on Sept. 26.

Good luck!


Beverly Patt said...

Second try:
I can never have too many writing books!
thanks guys for a great blog!


McDonnellDoodles said...

Sounds like a great book, especially as I struggle with the first line on a story just now! Love this blog. Thanks for being a great resource.

anny said...

I majored in psychobiology in college. A book that shows how our brains react to fiction--story, character etc is a gift indeed! I love the interplay of science and creativity.

By the way, my favorite part of the brain is the corpus callosum. It is the bridge between the left and right hemispheres, so connects language to intuition/creativity. Also it's larger in females than males, so explains our ability to 'multi-task' and their ability to compartmentalize.

Love this blog!
Anny Rusk, follows you via email
annyrusk21 [at] gmail [dot] com

Lori Degman said...

I think the part of my brain that remembers parts of the brain is damaged - sorry! I still love this blog and its teaching authors!!

The book sounds wonderful - if I don't win, I'll be buying it!

I get an email when you have a new post.

Lori Degman
ldegman [at] aol [dot] com

ps. Esther, your presentation at our local meeting was wonderful!!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Oh, I'm so glad readers are entering this Book Giveaway.
I wish you all could win a copy of WIRED FOR STORY!
Love learning about brain parts. (I "earned" a D in college Biology.)
The corpus callosum is a new one for me, Anny! :)

Kirsten Larson said...

Apparently my hippocampus isn't working, as I forgot to enter my email. The email I use to follow you all is klarson13 [at] roadrunner [dot] com.

Mary Jo said...

Wow! Do I need this book right now! Just started working with a new crit partner on my "completed" ms. This book sounds fascinating! I follow Teaching Authors via email subscription. My email is mjcwriter[at]comcast[dot]net

Carl Scott said...

Such a great idea, this book. The union of science and art, so vital in so many creative endeavors.

I know the frontal lobe is part of the brain but I'm damned if I can tell you what it does. Heck, I'm a book guy, I'll just go look it up.

I follow this blog by email: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

Thanks, Carl Scott

Linda B said...

Wow-the book sounds terrific, & that you've already used it is recommendation plus. I guess I would share about the thalamus, which receives sensory information coming from the eyes and ears. I follow you with Google Friend Connect. Thanks for telling about the book.

Nora Lester Murad said...

Here's nora[at]noralestermurad[dot]com having trouble leaving a message proving that I have no brain, though I'd love to read the book.

April Halprin Wayland said...

You are such a great saleswoman, Esther...I think your sheer enthusiasm could sell me on whatever you're eating, watching, reading or whoever you've just met. So now I definitely need this book!

The nucleus accumbens is thought to play an important role in reward, pleasure, laughter, addiction, aggression, fear, and the placebo effect. How's that for a fun part of the brain?