Even if you think that you’ve read all the books on writing out there, Story Genius by Lisa Cron might still teach you something new. It taught me to look at my story, or any story for that matter, in a completely different way. Lisa’s book helps writers understand that story isn’t just about what happens. That’s plot. Story is how what happens affects someone who is pursuing a difficult goal, and how they change as a result of that. That idea just clicked for me. I worked through the exercises in Lisa’s book and it really helped me figure out what the story I wanted to tell was about.
I recommend Story Genius to any writer, not just the struggling kind. Here are some tips from the book.
On why you need one protagonist
“Without a main character, the reader has no skin in the game, and everything remains utterly neutral and surprisingly hard to follow. While we might know what is happening, we have no idea why it matters or what the point is. Because the point doesn’t stem from the events; rather, it stems from the struggle they trigger within the protagonist as she tries to figure out what the heck to do about the problem she’s facing.”
On writing the opening scene
“Your goal is to find the tick that catapults your protagonist into unavoidable action. You’ll know it when you get there, because you’ll feel a strong tug of forward momentum – a sense that your protagonist must act and must act now. “
On developing the plot
“Make sure each event causes the next one to happen, in an escalating succession as things go from bad to worse. Tie each event to the internal change it triggers in your protagonist, giving a glimpse of why, and how it then triggers the next thing that happens. This will keep you from ending up with a long list of events that are nothing more than a bunch of things that happen.