For this month’s contribution to #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop, I’m reviewing Story Genius by Lisa Cron. A member of one of my Facebook groups recommended it to me.
Story Genius’ Core Message
Story Genius’ core message is to know your character’s why. The author emphasizes the importance of you knowing the origin of your main character’s world viewpoint. What specific event happened before the story started that has significantly driven all of her life decisions?
The “Know Your Why” concept is something I explored in my book, The Plot Thickens:21 Ways to Plot Your Novel, in the chapter “5 Whys”. A member of my former writing group, Lisa, always drilled down to the character’s motivation. She force me to answer why they make current decisions based on a specific turning point in their early life.
For example, in an unpublished work of mine, the main character, Naomi, is fiercely loyal to her adopted family. She makes wrong and unethical decisions to salvage her brother’s reputation. Her “Why”? Peeling through the layers of her past, at age eight, she witnessed her birth parents’ murder/suicide. She vowed to do anything necessary to thank her adoptive family for taking her in. She validated their decision with her loyalty. This causes multiple problems from the start of the story, pushing her through the rabbit hole of bad decisions. Ultimately, she has to question her misbelief to attain her true goal.
Questions the author asks you to ask your characters
My very first, official writing conference I attended was Deb Dixon’s, based on her book, GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction. Since then, I’ve always looked at my character’s motivation, but Story Genius, asks you to look further and question more.
- What early event changed your character’s view on the world?
- How did it form a false belief that has stopped him from getting what he really wants?
- What inciting event at the story’s start pushes against his misbelief and causes him to make more and more wrong decisions as the story progresses?
- What ultimately forces him to confront his misbelief and allows him to reach his goal?
Story Genius, the Subtitle:
How to Use brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel
The book’s subtitle is misleading. While the author touches on how humans are hardwired for story, she did not delve deep enough into the biology of explaining how our beliefs affect our behavior. For the best, in-depth explanation on that theory, pick up a copy of The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton.
Story Genius reinforces a story tool I’ve used since the beginning: the character’s “Why” matters and drives the plot. I have not sharpened this tool lately, as I tend to gallop from one plot point to another. I now have to step back, ask questions, and make it clear to myself and my readers why my character makes the decisions she does. If I can bring her “Why” to the forefront, I’ll have a realistic, flawed character the reader can identify with.
What do you think?
Do you explore your character’s background before writing? How deep do you go? I hate character interviews. Who cares if she hated chocolate milk in the second grade? (unless her classmates teased her, warping her sense of friendship that carries on into adulthood, and clouds her view of society). See, that’s what I’m talking about.
Please comment if an event in your character’s past (B.S., before story) shapes the decisions he makes A.S. (after story).
More about #AuthorToolboxBlogHop
#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop is a monthly blog hop for authors who want to learn more about being authors. Held the third Wednesday of the month, the members participate with “posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.” If you would like to learn more or become a member, go here.
I’ll be back in July with another AuthorToolBoxBlogHop tip, and twice a week (fingers crossed) with other writing information and happenings in my life.